According to a report in The Telegraph on Sunday, the UK and Ireland pay TV operator is poised to buy the channel from UK broadcaster ITV, which took control of UTV Ireland after it agreed to buy the television assets of Northern Irish-based broadcasting group UTV Media last October.
Through this £100 million (€136 million) deal, ITV took ownership of 13 of the 15 regional licences for the Channel 3 network, Northern Irish channel UTV, and UTV Ireland – UTV Media’s 2015-launched Republic of Ireland network.
A Virgin Media buyout of UTV Ireland would give the company a larger foothold in the country. Liberty Global’s UPC Ireland, which was re-branded to Virgin Media last year, agreed to buy rival Irish commercial broadcaster TV3 for €80 million in July 2015.
TV3 operates two free-to-air channels – flagship network TV3 and the youth-oriented 3e – along with a time-shifted TV3+1 feed on Virgin and Sky. It also owns video-on-demand platform 3Player.
Liberty Global is also a minority stakeholder in ITV and last year upped its stake in the business to 9.9%, having first acquired a 6.4% stake for £481 million (€685 million) in 2014.
This weekend’s Telegraph report claimed that Virgin Media’s UTV Ireland takeover plans marked a “renewed ambition in television” by the company.
The paper said Virgin also plans to expand into programme making and will soon announce a joint drama commissioning deal with production company All3Media.