Belfast Telegraph

UTV to reveal new company name and radio presenters

By Margaret Canning

UTV will unveil a fresh company name and presenters for its newest radio channels next month as the deal to offload its TV assets draws closer.

The media giant said in a trading update that the sale of its television division ­- including UTV Ireland - to ITV will complete by the end of March, with a windfall of £55m to shareholders.

And the radio and digital company which will remain is set to be boosted by the launch of three new digital channels - talkRADIO, talkSPORT2 and Virgin Radio.

The three stations are to be launched before the end of March this year.

UTV Media plc already has 13 radio stations in Great Britain and nine on the island of Ireland, including U105 in Belfast.

Radio station talkSPORT - whose presenters include Northern Ireland's Colin Murray, and Andy Gray and Richard Keys - has been the cash cow of UTV Media plc's radio operation.

But UTV is to lose the use of the name as part of the deal with ITV - and a spokeswoman for the Belfast-based firm said it hoped to reveal a new name in February.

And Don Anderson, the author of 50 Years of UTV, said the new label was unlikely to reference its Northern Ireland heritage.

"Really, the majority of its radio stations and therefore its revenues are in Great Britain, so that is what the new name is likely to reflect," he said.

"There are two parts to the present name that aren't quite right. What was a TV business is now transformed into a media company, mainly in radio. And secondly, there's not going to be much of the business left in Ulster after the TV is sold - there will be U105, and that's pretty much it.

"Their main income will be derived from Great Britain, a second layer will be from the Republic and what remain will be in Ulster.

"What I think they will do is go for a name which will be an identifier, which will allow them to spread into many, many areas.

"For example, Amazon started off selling books, but having a name which didn't refer just to books allowed them to spread into many different areas."

And the fact that most shareholders were institutions based in London made it even more likely that its name will not contain a local reference, he said. In its update to the stock exchange yesterday, UTV said that after-disposal, "UTV will be a focused radio group with highly attractive, market-leading assets".

But it said it would be making £3m of cuts, with £1.9m in savings to be found this year, and the remainder "by 2017".

The decision to sell its TV assets comes after the costly launch at the beginning of last year of UTV television channel, UTV Ireland. The Dublin-based channel has cost the Belfast-based parent company £13m in losses in its first year.

The trading update also revealed that UTV would receive net proceeds of £98m from the sale, which would pay off its bank facilities.

Its liability for the UTV pension scheme would also cease as pensions move over to ITV as part of the sale.

UTV now has new banking arrangements of £30m for the next four years, the update said.


Belfast Telegraph