UTV Media, owner of Northern Irish broadcaster UTV, said it expects its new channel UTV Ireland to make losses in the region of £6 million (€8.4 million) in 2015.
The channel launched successfully on January 1 2015 across the Republic of Ireland, but faced a “number of challenges” in the run-up to this, UTV Media said in its full year 2014 earnings announcement.
“It took us substantially longer than we had anticipated to receive the designation of the channel’s ‘public service’ character which meant that we had very little time before the launch date for engagement with our prospective audience about EPG positions and, where necessary, retuning of DTT boxes,” said UTV Media.
“In turn, this delayed meaningful negotiations with advertising agencies. As a consequence, our initial audience levels and advertising revenues have been lower than planned.”
UTV Media said that these delays had caused a “change in assumption” for the financial performance of the new channel, but added that two months after launch UTV Ireland was the second most watched channel in peaktime and audience share is starting to grow.
For the year, UTV Media reported group operating profit of £19.7m. This was down from £20.1m a year earlier but included UTV Ireland start-up costs of £3 million.
Group revenue for 2014 was £116.0 million, up from £107.2 million a year earlier, with revenues at radio station talkSPORT up year-on-year to £29.7 million, boosted by the World Cup. Pre-tax profits stood at £17.2 million, compared to 17.0 million a year earlier.
“Record audiences for talkSPORT and market leading audiences in both Irish Radio and Television underpin these results, providing confidence that our new venture UTV Ireland, will emulate its older siblings and over time, build a stronger audience base,” said John McCann, group CEO, UTV Media.