Following the sale of its TV business to ITV for £100m, the Belfast based media company, UTV Media will step up its focus on the radio business as well as seek out potential acquisitions in both the radio and digital sectors. The group is also planning to change its name.
Earlier this week the group announced that it was withdrawing from the TV market in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, having only entered the latter at the start of 2015. For the six month period ending 30 June 2015, UTV Television had revenues of £21.6 million out of total revenues of £58.3m with losses before tax and finance costs amounting to £3.9m. The losses are largely attributable to UTV Ireland which is expected to turn in a loss of €11.2m in 2015.
With net proceeds from the sale of €98m, the group will use the cash to pay down debt, return some of the proceeds to shareholders while it is expected to seek out a number of acquisitions. A large part of the focus will be on the UK where it owns talkSPORT and 12 local radio stations.
talkSPORT, is part of a consortium with Arqiva and Bauer Media, which won the licence to operate the second national radio multiplex, D2. As part of the new services on that multiplex, talkSPORT will be launching three new national radio stations, talkRADIO, talkSPORT 2, and, under a 12 year licence agreement between Virgin Group and UTV, Virgin Radio. The launch of these three new digital stations will be a strategic priority for the group.
talkSPORT is also focusing on its international operations which currently provides football commentary in six languages in 52 territories around the world and according to the group it will seek to further monetise its Premier League worldwide audio rights by expanding its geographic footprint, by broadening its broadcaster base and by creating attractive packages for sponsors and advertisers.
A renewed focus on its Irish radio stations is also likely. In Ireland, UTV is the largest local radio operator with seven stations broadcasting from Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Drogheda and a national advertising sales house based in Dublin. Between them they command strong positions in the key urban areas in which they operate and are well positioned to participate in any consolidation of the radio sector that may take place over the next few years.