UTV trebles its loss estimate as new Irish channel struggles for viewers
UTV Media plc has tripled estimated losses at newest channel UTV Ireland to £11.5m for its first year in business.
The channel has been dogged by low ratings, particularly for its flagship news programmes, since its launch in January.
The presence of schedule stalwarts such as Coronation Street has helped maintain peak-time figures.
The firm said its lenders had agreed to ease borrowing terms after weaker audience figures.
In an update on the new channel yesterday, UTV said there were signs of audience growth in January to March this year which stalled between April and June.
That demonstrated "the difficulty of predicting audiences for a start-up channel in a competitive market", UTV's statement said.
UTV Ireland shifted its news bulletin - presented by Alison Comyn - from 6.30pm to 5.30pm last month, achieving average viewership of around 17,500 a day. In comparison, rival channel TV3 was drawing 108,000 people to its bulletin at the same time.
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UTV Media said it had approved an action plan to improve audience share but said it would take time to improve viewer numbers. The board said it was not expecting any great improvement in the second half of the year so would expect UTV Ireland to incur losses of £11.5m in 2015.
The trading update said: "After 26 weeks, audience performance for the channel therefore remains volatile. Whilst weekday peak time has performed well, with viewership almost 40% greater than both RTE2 and TV3, day-time and weekend viewing has been disappointing. Overall share of commercial impacts is therefore around 11% which is lower than the target set for the channel's first year."
The company statement said it was still aiming to be the second most-watched channel in the Republic of Ireland by 2017 but added: "It is clear, however, that the channel will take longer than originally anticipated to become profitable."