Belfast Telegraph

Former UTV Ireland channel to be rebranded as Virgin in second overhaul since €10m sale

By Mark Edwards

The chief executive of parent company Liberty Global has revealed that the former UTV Ireland channel will be rebranded as Virgin.

Liberty, the parent of cable operator Virgin Media, snapped up UTV Ireland for €10m last year, with the channel since being rebranded as be3.

The Sunday Times reported that Mike Fries, chief executive of Liberty Global, told a media conference in New York that be3, TV3 and 3e will all be rebranded as Virgin, most likely next year.

Liberty bought TV3 and 3e for €80m in July 2015 from Doughty Hanson.

"We will rebrand those broadcast networks in Ireland as Virgin and we'll see how that works," Fries told the UBS Global Media and Communications conference in New York.

He added: "When you have a broadcast asset in a small market like that, you have a great reach, a great voice, and you're able to find opportunities to both acquire and develop content together, and promote the brand."

UTV Ireland was launched by then UTV Media executives in January 2015 - but disappointing audience figures led to it costing UTV Media £13m, four times the original estimate.

UTV Ireland was then part of a £100m deal by ITV to acquire the television assets of UTV Media plc in Belfast.

The channel was then sold for a second time to Liberty in July 2016.

The agreement with ITV saw Liberty take over a 10-year supply deal for ITV-produced programmes including soap operas Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

Meanwhile, UTV is due to move into waterside offices and studios at City Quays in February after more than 59 years at Havelock House.

UTV Media's former radio assets are now part of News Corp.

Belfast Telegraph

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