Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

UTV encouraged by radio trend

UTV media today saw encouraging signs for its UK radio business despite continued caution over prospects this year.

The media firm behind talkSPORT said UK radio revenues fell 15% in the year to the end of April - beating an 18% fall in the wider market - but forecasts a lower 9% decline in May and June "in line with somewhat improved market conditions".

Alongside talkSPORT, the firm's local stations include Wire FM in Warrington, Widnes and Runcorn, as well as Peak FM in north Derbyshire.

UTV cautioned that "airtime bookings are extremely short term, thereby offering limited forward visibility".

But like-for-like sales across the overall group were down 14% - in line with the company's hopes - while UTV also achieved its budgeted operating profit in the first four months of the year.

Television revenues from the UTV regional broadcaster fell 19%, and are likely to be down 20% across the first half of the year in line with the wider ITV network.

Revenues from UTV's Irish radio stations were helped by acquisitions and the strength of the euro, but like-for-like sales are down 17% so far this year and expected to fall at the same rate in May and June as the Irish economy wrestles with a deep recession.

UTV added that cost-cutting measures - which include the closure of loss-making stations in Stockport, Edinburgh and Dundee - were on track. The moves should add £5 million to profits this year.

Numis Securities analyst Lorna Tilbian said: "We retain our view that free-to-air broadcasters are better positioned structurally than consumer publishers and therefore view them as more attractive recovery plays."

UTV's pre-tax profits fell 2% to £20.3 million last year.

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