UTV to launch new Dublin-based TV channel by 2015

Station will have Irish rights to Corrie and Emmerdale in possible blow to TV3

John McCann, group chief executive of UTV Media, said the move was a strong vote of confidence in Irish broadcasting and the Irish economy.

John McCann, group chief executive of UTV Media, said the move was a strong vote of confidence in Irish broadcasting and the Irish economy.

 

More than 50 years after it became the first commercial television station in Ireland, UTV is launching a new Dublin-based television channel directly targeting viewers in the Republic.

A nightly hour-long news and current affairs programme placed “at the heart of the schedule” will report “from all corners of the country” when the channel goes on air from early 2015, UTV Media said today.

The company’s executives declined to give any further details of its in-house production plans earlier today, but the popularity of the channel with audiences will be underpinned by its signing of a content deal with ITV Studios that will give it the exclusive rights to show programmes such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale in the Irish market.

The advent of the channel, which is expected to create at least 100 jobs, is subject to the regulatory go-ahead. UTV Media said it had “dropped off” a Content Provision Contract, as required by Section 71 of the Broadcasting Act, to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland this morning.

“We believe that shortly after Christmas we will find out whether or not we have been successful,” said Michael Wilson, managing director of UTV Television. The media group is committed to the Irish television market, he said. “We have been here since 1959. We intend to be here in 2059, and beyond.”

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Its submission to the BAI says that “for clarity, the proposed new UTV Ireland Ltd service will be a separate channel to UTV Ltd”. However, group chief executive John McCann said the channel would “be known simply as UTV” on air.

“It’s a very straightforward, simple concept and that is to provide the ITV schedule customised to meet the needs and preferences of Irish viewers,” he said.

To make the new channel work, UTV Media believes it must be available on all platforms. The station is not currently available on the Saorview digital terrestrial television service operated by RTÉ NL and in the Republic it must be tuned in via the “other channels” section of Sky’s electronic programme guide. “We have not had any conversations with platform providers yet,” Mr Wilson said.

The UTV deal with ITV Studios means TV3 will be obliged to stop broadcasting schedule staples Coronation Street, Emmerdale and The Jeremy Kyle Show from early 2015. I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! will also be among the casualties, but it had already moved this to its second station, 3e.

TV3 chief executive David McRedmond played down the loss of the shows today, saying it was “almost inevitable” that its arrangement to broadcast the two soaps, which account for around 15 per cent of total viewing to TV3, would come to an end.

The rising price tags for the rights, despite a 20 per cent drop in their viewing figures over the past five years, had made the deal a loss-maker for TV3, he said. “Each year there was a ratcheting up in the price and it just became unaffordable.”