Virgin Media has entered into an agreement with ITV to purchase Northern Ireland free-to-air commercial broadcaster UTV for US$11.05 million (€10 million).
The deal, which will be funded through existing liquidity, will include a comprehensive 10-year program supply agreement with ITV Global Entertainment for Ireland.
The purchase is subject to competition and regulatory approval from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, as well as a separate media plurality test by the Government of Ireland. It is expected to clear in the coming months.
The proposed transaction follows ITV’s purchase of the dedicated channel for the Republic of Ireland in February in a deal worth US$154 million (£100 million).
Launched in January 2015, UTV Ireland serves as a free-to-air channel offering scripted and unscripted content through traditional linear, live streaming and catch-up services, including UTV Player. The channel is available on Virgin Media, eir Vision, Vodafone, Sky and Saorview.
“Launching UTV Ireland last year represented a significant achievement by the teams in Dublin and Belfast in challenging circumstances,” said Christy Swords, director of broadcast finance and operations for ITV, in a statement. “ITV took over the business a few months ago and we’ve concluded that bringing TV3 and UTV Ireland together under common ownership offers the best prospect of delivering a strong and sustainable Irish commercial broadcaster, underpinned by a long-term programming agreement with ITV.”
“This investment demonstrates our commitment to provide great entertainment for Irish viewers and adds Ireland’s newest TV channel to our existing portfolio which includes TV3 and 3e,” added Virgin Media CEO Tony Hanway. “This is a very positive development for Irish broadcasting and ensures Virgin Media’s continued investment in top quality programming and local production.”
“Virgin Media’s investment in TV3 has already supported the expansion of our studio facilities and increased production of originated content,” said TV3 MD Pat Kiely in a statement. “The proposed acquisition of UTV Ireland will ensure further investment in the independent Irish television sector as we continue to compete head on against significant local and international competition.”