Tuesday 20 November 2018

UTV Ireland losses mount, weaker viewership figures

Alison Comyn. Photo: Jason Clarke Photography
Alison Comyn. Photo: Jason Clarke Photography

Donal O’Donovan

Broadcaster UTV’s lenders have agreed to ease borrowing terms after weaker than expected audience figures for its new Republic of Ireland station.

UTV Ireland’s viewing figures stalled in the last month, the company said in a stock market announcement.

As a result the company revised its guidance for the full year and now expects UTV Ireland to incur losses of £11.5m in 2015.

Shares in UTV fell sharply after the news, down 2pc in London.

“Having seen signs of audience growth in Q1, this has stalled in the last month, demonstrating the difficulty of predicting audiences for a start-up channel in a competitive market,” UTV said.

The company said viewership figures remain volatile, especially away from its imported prime time shows such as Coronation Street.

“Whilst weekday peak time has performed well, with viewership almost 40pc greater than both RTE2 and TV3, day-time and weekend viewing has been disappointing.”

UTV said its board has approved an “action plan” to address the problems but said it will take time deliver improvements in viewership.

Despite the latest setback UTV said its strategic objective is still for UTV Ireland to be the second most watched channel in the Republic by 2017.

In the light of the latest developments UTV’s lenders have agreed to ease the terms on its company debt by allowing net debt/ebitda covenants on its facilities to be raised from 3.5:1 to 4.5:1 for a period of one year.

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