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It's war... UTV to take on RTE and TV3 with new channel


 Minister for Communication, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte. Picture: Frank McGrath

Minister for Communication, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte. Picture: Frank McGrath

Minister for Communication, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte. Picture: Frank McGrath

UTV has stepped up the TV wars by announcing plans to switch on a new channel in Ireland.

The broadcaster will now be in direct competition to RTE and TV3 when it rolls out the station in 2015.

The move will mean a major scramble for key audiences in the areas of current affairs and regional reporting - which are currently dominated by RTE.

It revealed it will air a nightly one hour news and current affairs programme, which suggests it is willing to compete against RTE's 'Primetime' and TV3's 'Tonight with Vincent Browne'.

However, the big draw will be popular soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale, currently aired on TV3.



David McRedmond, CEO of TV3, revealed that the two soaps plus Jeremy Kyle had become "loss-making for TV3".

"They were once 35pc of our audience share but in the past few years that has gone down to 20pc – while at the same time the cost to air them as gone up," he said.

"I would stress that the ITV shows affected by this are Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Jeremy Kyle. This does not include The X Factor made by Freemantle or Downtown Abbey made by NBC.

"The three shows we would lose are only 20pc of our share and we could get 5pc of that back immediately," he added.

"We would only feel the impact of the 15pc lost if we weren't going to reinvest. We have built a massive new studio, we are planning big co-productions and that's the direction we are going in."

The Northern-Ireland based broadcaster revealed today that it has signed an agreement to air major ITV programming including the soaps.

Station bosses will now be concerned about losing rights to air ITV shows as well as the coverage of regional news and current affairs in Ireland.

UTV's entry into the Irish television market as a major player to rival others has taken experts by surprise and is sure to come as a blow to broadcasters here.

The station has pledged to create 100 jobs when it begins broadcasting in 2015.

It will be based in Dublin but it said that there will be bases in Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick.

UTV today formally applied to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) for a license to broadcast here in 2015.

UTV is the first broadcaster to launch on the Irish market since TV3 was established in 1998.

Speaking today, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said additional competition in the marketplace should be welcomed. He added that he would be holding talks with UTV bosses later today about their plans.

"I do welcome it. It's more competition in the marketplace," he said.



The broadcaster outlined that it intends to adopt "UTV's existing winning formula of combining high quality news, current affairs, entertainment and drama".

According to UTV Chief Executive, John McCann, the station will represent a "new dedicated channel for viewers in the Republic of Ireland".

And he added that today's announcement represents a "strong voice of confidence in Irish broadcasting and our investment in the Irish economy".

The station's headquarters will be based in Dublin, however UTV expects to have a "newsgathering and reporting presence in Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick".

According to Mr McCann, UTV expects to break even in 2015 before turning a profit the following year.