ITV to Acquire Northern Ireland Partner's TV Business for $155M

ITV CEO Adam Crozier

UTV Media owns the ITV franchise for Northern Ireland and has also launched a network in the Republic of Ireland.

U.K. TV giant ITV said Monday that it has agreed to acquire the TV assets of Northern Ireland broadcaster UTV Media for $155 million.

Reports emerged over the summer that UTV was planning to sell its TV division. The company, which owns the ITV franchise for Northern Ireland and also has radio stations across the U.K., later said that discussions were "ongoing."

Earlier this year, UTV launched a channel in the Republic of Ireland, UTV Ireland, but has struggled to build audiences and has revealed it expects the channel's 2015 losses to hit $13.4 million.

"The deal further strengthens ITV’s free to air business and enables it to run a more efficient network," ITV said. "On completion of the acquisition ITV will own 13 of the 15 regional licenses for the Channel 3 network and the combined business will benefit from ITV’s continued investment in content, its advertising sales team and broadcast infrastructure."

UTV will retain its radio businesses UTV Radio GB and UTV Radio Ireland, and its digital media businesses, Simply Zesty and Tibus Digital.

UTV Ireland is already the second-most watched channel in primetime in Ireland, "and ITV intends to strengthen the channel further with high-quality ITV programming at its core," the companies said Monday.
"We have a long-standing relationship with UTV, which has been the leading commercial broadcaster in Northern Ireland for many years thanks to its strong regional identity and blend of excellent local programming and strong network shows," said ITV CEO Adam Crozier. "UTV Television’s strategic objectives are closely aligned with our own and we are very pleased that they are joining the ITV family."

Said John McCann, group CEO of UTV Media: "The market-leading success of our television business has been built over many years on the well-established formula of high-quality local programming packaged around an attractive network schedule. Becoming part of the ITV family is by far the best way to take UTV’s Television business forward with an ongoing focus to provide brilliant television to viewers right across Ireland."

Liberum Capital analyst Ian Whittaker said in a first reaction: "We see the deal as a strategic plus, especially if ITV can charge retransmission fees for the main channel." U.K. regulators have been reviewing possible retransmission fee payments from pay TV companies to broadcasters just like the ones in the U.S.