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UTV Ireland set to lose €8m this year as slow audience build blamed on channel position

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News anchor Alison Comyn, who was among the line-up of UTV Ireland hosts when it launched on January 1

News anchor Alison Comyn, who was among the line-up of UTV Ireland hosts when it launched on January 1

News anchor Alison Comyn, who was among the line-up of UTV Ireland hosts when it launched on January 1

UTV has insisted thats its new channel in Ireland remains on track to be the most watched TV station here after RTE 1 as it confirmed the venture will lose £6m (€8.3m) this year - double the amount it previously forecast.

Releasing full-year financial results, UTV said that the channel - UTV Ireland - hadn't secured as many viewers as expected since its January launch. It blamed that on a delay in optimising the channel's positioning in electronic programming guides (EPG) used by viewers to station surf.

UTV said the channel's performance had also been negatively impacted by delays in ad agency negotiations.

"We had very little time before the launch date for engagement with our prospective audience about EPG positions and, where necessary, retuning of [digital terrestrial television] DTT boxes," said chairman Richard Huntingford.

"In turn, this delayed meaningful negotiations with advertising agencies. As a consequence, our initial audience levels and advertising revenues have been lower than planned."

However, he said that audience share has been climbing.

The station launched to huge fanfare on January 1, with UTV having drafted in veteran broadcaster Pat Kenny to help front the line-up. He's also been joined by other hosts such as Alison Comyn. She anchors the station's weekly news show.

UTV group chief executive John McCann said he remains confident that the new station will "emulate its older siblings and, over time, build a stronger audience base".

UTV is aiming to make the station the most-watched channel in Ireland after RTE 1 by January 2017.

The company also owns a number of radio stations in Ireland and the UK. In Ireland, its portfolio includes FM104, Q102, LMFM, and 96FM in Cork.

Its radio stations in Ireland delivered flat revenue during 2014, which was down 10pc on currency translations due to the surge in the strength of sterling over the past number of months.

Mr Huntingford said UTV's Irish radio stations had continued to deliver "impressive audience performances" in 2014.

"This strong audience delivery mitigated the worst effects of the extremely deep advertising recession which Ireland experienced over the past few years," he said.

"The recovery in the Irish radio advertising market now seems to be under way although growth is, as yet, reasonably modest," he added.

UTV also owns radio stations in the UK such as Talksport, which delivered a strong performance during the year.

On a group basis, revenue at UTV rose 8.2pc to £116m (€160.3m) last year, while pre-tax profits nudged slightly higher to £17.2m (€23.8m) from £17m a year earlier.

Analysts said the results were in line with expectations.

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