Loss-making new channel in Republic proves a switch-off for viewers
With UTV's television interests being sold, it's likely that the Belfast station's most recent TV offspring, UTV Ireland in Dublin, is going to be disposed of.
The Dublin channel started in brand new custom-built studios in Dublin's dockland on January 1 this year, but since its launch, it has proved an unmitigated disaster, with poor ratings for most of its shows and a struggle for advertising revenues. The most recent estimate said that UTV Ireland' s losses this year will be €16.2m (£12m), perhaps even closer to €20m (£15m), with little sign of improvement next year. On present performance, by the end of 2016, UTV Ireland could lose close to €40m (£29m).
The ITV shows it screens, such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale, have had better ratings than when they were on rival station TV3, according to Michael Wilson, the station's managing director. But otherwise, its daytime and weekend ratings have been very poor.
Some of its early evening news bulletins have attracted audiences of only around 5,000, whereas RTE's flagship Six One news programme every weekday evening gets more than 500,000 viewers. Even UTV Ireland's commitment to more regional news coverage, with offices in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, has failed to pull in viewers.
Pat Kenny, who used to pull in record ratings when he fronted RTE television shows, has failed to replicate his audience success. Many viewers in the Republic have complained that many shows they previously watched on UTV Northern Ireland are no longer available.
Ironically, UTV Ireland' s head of channel, Mary Curtis, was in charge of RTE's digital development before she changed channels. It's also ironic that UTV has seven radio stations in the Republic, all trading well, yet this radio success hasn't been replicated in television.
- Hugh Oram is a Dublin-based media commentator