UTV Media has said it expects losses at its newest TV channel, UTV Ireland, to hit £6 million (€8.3m) this year, double its original forecast.
The company, which also owns TalkSport and the ITV franchise in Northern Ireland, said that ‘a number of unforeseen circumstances’ had beset the new entertainment channel since it was launched in the Republic of Ireland on January 1st.
“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 electronic programme guide positions,” said UTV chairman Richard Huntingford.
“In turn, this delayed meaningful negotiations with advertising agencies. As a consequence, our initial audience levels and advertising revenues have been lower than planned. I am confident that our ambition for UTV Ireland to be the second most watched channel after state broadcaster, RTE 1, within a two-year timeframe will be achieved.”
UTV Media saw operating profits across its TV operations fall by a third to £6.5 million. UTV Ireland aside, the company enjoyed a strong year with total revenues up 8 per cent to £116 million and pre-tax profits broadly flat at £17.2 million. This was largely due to a very strong performance at TalkSport in World Cup year which helped the Radio GB division to grow revenues by 13 per cent to £56 million and drive operating profits by 45 per cent to £11.3 million.