ITV agrees to buy UTV in £100 million deal

Northern Ireland’s most watched TV channel could soon be under new ownership. ITV has just agreed a £100 million deal for the UTV brand, a move that it hopes will expand its “free to air business”.

UTV was launched way back in 1959, becoming Northern Ireland's first commercial TV channel. It produces some of the country's most popular TV and is already home to shows like The X-Factor, Coronation Street, and Downton Abbey.

In January, it launched a TV channel for the Republic of Ireland, but it hasn't been as successful as hoped. UTV is set to lose almost £12 million this year as a result.

ITV's previously talked about shifting its focus from reality and entertainment shows back towards the drama and factual programming that used to be its forte, and the acquisition reinforces that strategy. If the sale is approved, ITV will own 13 of the 15 regional licenses for the channel 3 spot across the UK.

The deal has yet to be approved by TV regulator Ofcom and the Irish authorities, but if it is, ITV will get all UTV's TV assets. It will not, however, get UTV's radio stations UTV Radio GB and UTV Radio Ireland, or digital media arms Simply Zest and Tibus Digital.

If you're worried about UTV changing its name to ITV Northern Ireland or something equally unimaginative… well, don't be. ITV's confirmed that it has no plans to change the UTV name. However, the parts of UTV not being sold will have to rebrand.

Adam Crozier, chief executive of ITV, said: "We are pleased that they are joining the ITV family. 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".

Source: BBC News

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