- 12 Jul 16
Details are emerging of the deal, concluded yesterday, which saw Virgin Media – owners of TV3 – buy UTV Ireland
Virgin Media, who yesterday bought UTV Ireland for a reported €10 million, have secured the rights to ITV’s two major soaps, Coronation Street and Emmerdale for 10 years. It is a major component in the new deal, which confirms Virgin Media’s commitment to creating a serious TV rival to the dominant Irish television player, RTE.
Virgin Media paid €80 million for TV3 in July of 2015. Assuming that it is approved by the BAI (Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the new acquisition makes the Liberty Global group – who own Virgin Media – one of the most important media interests in Ireland. The deal will also have to pass a new “media plurality test” carried out by the Department of Communications.
TV3 boss Pat Kiely (pictured) hailed the deal as opening up an exciting new chapter for the Irish television industry.
It certainly represents a different level of competition for RTÉ. Over the past two years, TV3 has matured considerably as broadcaster, focussing on Irish productions to a far greater extent and launching the new home-grown soap Red Rock. It was telling that the purchase of UTV was announced on the day that Red Rock was shown for the first time on BBC – and initial reports are that the production went down well with its UK audience.
There has already been speculation about the extent to which Virgin Media might rationalise operations between TV3, 3e and UTV Ireland. The immediate focus is on the likelihood that one news room might service both channels – though combining the two would certainly enable the channels to compete more effectively with RTE.
“I am sure there is a plan,” an industry insider told Hot Press. “They’ll have worked the numbers out in fine detail, before parting with €10 million, that’s for sure. But the whole process will take a bit of time, with the regulatory hurdles to be cleared first."
The TV consolidation comes against the background of Rupert Murdoch's entry into the Irish radio market via the purchase of UTV's radio holdings – which include top Dublin stations FM104 and Q102, as well as 96FM in Cork and Live 95 in Limerick.