Television profits at UTV plunge by 61%


TELEVISION PROFITS at Belfast-based multimedia group UTV plunged 61 per cent in the first half of this year due to a slump in TV advertising.

UTV, which operates the ITV franchise in the North, said TV operating profits fell to £1.8 million over the six months to June, down from £4.7 million in the corresponding period last year.

It suffered its biggest decline in TV advertising revenue from the Republic, where profits fell 40 per cent. UTV also reported a fall in TV advertising revenue in Britain but said profits remained “relatively resilient” in the North.

Overall, the group’s revenues fell in the first half of the year by 10 per cent to £54.5 million reflecting what group chief executive John McCann has described as “a challenging six months”.

The latest interim results for UTV, which owns more than 20 radio stations in Britain and Ireland, a new media division and a sports magazine, show a decline in revenues from its core television and radio operations.

UTV’s pretax profits, before exceptional items, slumped 30 per cent to £7.8 million, while group operating profit fell by 29 per cent to £11 million. UTV, which divides its radio operations into two divisions, UTV Radio GB and UTV Radio Ireland, said its radio portfolio delivered 74 per cent of total interim operating profit this year.

Its Irish radio division which includes Dublin’s FM104, Cork’s 96FM and Belfast’s U105, saw an 8 per cent increase in revenue to £12.3 million, but on a like-by-like basis Irish radio revenue fell by 21 per in the six months to June.

UTV’s GB operations saw an overall 13 per cent reduction in revenues in the same period. Total revenue from its radio operations fell by £2.1 million to £33.1 million in the first half of this year.

The latest results show its new media division has continued to perform well despite the impact of the downturn on other divisions. It delivered revenues of £5.9 million and a 9 per cent increase in operating profits hitting the £1 million mark for the first time.

UTV will not pay shareholders an interim dividend due to the “inherent uncertainty as to the depth and duration of the recession”, but intends to review the full-year dividend payout for 2009. UTV’s chairman John B McGuckian said the group is “fundamentally, a strong business with excellent assets”.