Monday, 19 October 2015

UTV: UTV Television channels sold to ITV in £100m deal

News from UTV:

ITV is to acquire regional broadcaster UTV and its sister channel UTV Ireland in a takeover deal worth £100m, it has been announced.

Richard Huntingford, Chairman of UTV Media, said the £100m price tag “reflects the inherent value within the UTV Television business”.

As part of the deal ITV is acquiring the UTV brand.

Mr Huntingford said: “The last few years have seen increasing consolidation in the global television sector, creating media companies that span content, broadcast and platform ownership.

“Having successfully extended the reach of our television business with the launch of UTV Ireland, I believe that shareholder value can be maximised through our television interests becoming part of ITV’s global broadcast and content business.”

“I want to thank all the UTV Television staff for their outstanding service to UTV over many years, and I wish them every success in the future,” he said, adding he believes ITV will be a good owner for UTV.

John McCann, Group Chief Executive of UTV Media plc, said becoming part of the ITV family is “by far the best way to take UTV's Television business forward with an ongoing focus to provide brilliant television to viewers right across Ireland."

He added: "The market leading success of our television business has been built over many years on the well-established formula of high quality local programming packaged around an attractive network schedule."

The completion of the takeover deal is subject to shareholder approval and regulatory approval by Ofcom, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the Irish Minister for Communications.

ITV Chief Executive Adam Crozier said ITV and UTV have "a long-standing relationship".

"We have a long-standing relationship with UTV, which has been the leading commercial broadcaster in Northern Ireland for many years thanks to its strong regional identity and blend of excellent local programming and strong network shows," said Mr Crozier.

UTV in Northern Ireland was launched in 1959, broadcasting many of the region’s most watched programmes - including its flagship news programme UTV Live - and launching the careers of many household names, such as Gloria Hunniford and Eamonn Holmes.

It employs over 140 staff.

ITV's move to snap up UTV is part of a process of consolidating the Channel 3 network across the UK under a single owner, which was started in the 1990s.

It is the first time the Northern Irish broadcaster is set to pass out of local control since it was created 55 years ago.

After the UTV deal, only STV which holds two licences to broadcast ITV1 in Scotland will remain independent.

UTV Ireland was created in January 2015. It has become the second most watched channel in peak time in Ireland but has struggled to attract advertising revenue.

It is expected to lose almost £12m this year. ITV said it intended to "strengthen the channel further with high-quality ITV programming at its core”.

UTV Media, which confirmed it was in talks to sell its television assets two months ago, also owns radio stations in Great Britain and Ireland, including talkSPORT, and digital media businesses Simply Zesty and Tibus Digital.

It says the sale of its TV business will enable the continuing group - which as part of the deal will no longer use the name UTV - to focus on opportunities within radio and online.

The announcement of the takeover deal comes after UTV Media reported a 90% fall in pre-tax profits in the first half of the year, as a result of losses incurred by its new channel in Ireland.

The sale is expected to be completed early next year.