Virgin Media Buys UTV Ireland

$11.1M deal includes 10-year output deal with ITV
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Virgin Media, the U.K.-based arm of cable conglomerate Liberty Global, said it has agreed to purchase UTV Ireland in an $11.1 million deal that also gives the cable company access to content from UTV Ireland's former parent, British broadcaster ITV.

The deal follows Virgin’s purchase of TV3 Group last year.

UTV Ireland, which launched in January 2015, is a free to air general entertainment channel available on Virgin Media, eir Vision, Vodafone, Sky and Saorview. Programming includes popular soap operas  Emmerdale and Coronation Street as well as live streaming and catch-up services and its UTV Player streaming service is available across a number of devices.

According to reports, UTV Ireland has had a rough go recently – it was bought by ITV last year as part of its overall purchase of UTV Media’s television assets for $149.5 million. But the Irish operation, once expected to break even in its first year under its new owners, instead is predicted to lose about $17.3 million. 

“Launching UTV Ireland last year represented a significant achievement by the teams in Dublin and Belfast in challenging circumstances,” said ITV director, broadcast and finance Christy Swords in a statement. “ITV took over the business a few months ago and we've concluded that bringing TV3 and UTV Ireland together under common ownership offers the best prospect of delivering a strong and sustainable Irish commercial broadcaster, underpinned by a long-term programming agreement with ITV.

“We recognise that this has been an uncertain period for the staff of UTV and UTV Ireland and we have been determined to reach a speedy resolution,” Swords continued. “We believe that the decision we have made represents an important step forward for the future of the channel.”

As part of the deal, Virgin Media will also take over a 10-year program supply agreement with ITV Global Entertainment. 

In a statement, Virgin Media chief digital entertainment  officer David Bouchier said the deal, and its combination with Irish broadcaster TV3, could give the combined entities an opportunity “to buy and make exclusive programs for our Virgin Media customers in both the Republic of Ireland and the U.K.”

The deal also will solidify Virgin media’s commitment to locally produced programming.

“This investment demonstrates our commitment to provide great entertainment for Irish viewers and adds Ireland newest TV channel to our existing portfolio which includes TV3 and 3e,” said Virgin Media Ireland CEO Tony Hanway in a statement. “This is a very positive development for Irish broadcasting and ensures Virgin Media’s continued investment in top quality programming and local production.”    

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