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Why Irish TV Broadcasters will feel the Pressure in 2015 & into the future

Irish TV broadcasters have not future proofed themselves. Over the last 10 years all broadcasters have been put through the mill. In 2006, Irish TV broadcasters had the best year in a decade. 55% of the audience watched some type of TV from an Irish broadcaster. In the 7 years since Irish broadcasters have seen their audience fall to 45%. This doesn’t take into consideration on-demand viewing but it remains a huge drop in terms of audience share, regardless if more people are watching later. The economic downturn is a possible reason for the fall of, but at the end of the day this excuse is used far too much. If the downturn was the case more and more people would be turning to Free-to-air satellite and Saorview, meaning that only Irish broadcasters can sell advertising into the Irish market, in the downturn Irish people held on to their Pay TV services and the Digital Switchover actually a gave Pay TV providers a bounce. Though more and more people may seek to drop their TV altogether in the future in preference for Broadband but that question is better debated elsewhere, but clearly should not be ignored.

Irish broadcasters since 2004 and Irish broadcast policy has buried its head. No new channel has been set up in Ireland since Channel 6, now 3e. In 2015 UTV Ireland will be the first new channel to appear in nearly 9 years. Saorview is a wasteland and a badly delivered service by all involved. Little though was given to new Irish services to help protect a market that was been eaten into by foreign multinational and wealthier TV companies. The short-sightedness of the broadcasters, caused more and more people to move to alternative TV services, unfortunately they may have seen those same viewers move to extra Irish channels had they had some vision of the future of Irish TV, Instead BskyB has 15% of the Irish TV advertising market. In 2013 that market was worth just €203million. RTÉ has about 50% of the market, leaving just €67million to TV3, TG4, Setanta and opt-out services. According to Doughty Hanson TV3 had turnover of €56million in 2013.

• RTÉ - €101.5 million (RTÉ Annual Report 2013)
• TV3 - €56 million (Doughty Hanson Annual Report 2013)
• TG4 - €1.7 million (TG4 Annual Report 2013)
• Sky - €30 million (Estimated, sources The Sunday Business Post/TAM Ireland)
• Other - €11million (including UTV ~ €5m)

Had each of the Irish channels faced up to their responsibilities in the intervening years they could have protected some of their ad revenue from out-outs instead since 2006 as ad revenue began to decline and audience also declined for Irish TV services. The lost ad revenue both from the economic downturn and the entry of new opt-outs to the market, and even with the entry of UTV Ireland it is unlike to see a falloff in the number of opt-out services selling advertising in the market.

It is unlikely that UTV Ireland will help Irish TV broadcasters regain any lost ground. In 2013 49% of Irish viewers watch Irish TV channels (including UTV and Setanta). TV3 and UTV combined have an average audience share of 14 – 16%, in 2015 it is likely to remain around that level with both channels seeing a slight increase with the novelty factor of TV3’s new soap and UTV Ireland but slowly they will both fall back. Indeed the entry of UTV Ireland is unlikely to affect any of the other TV stations. RTÉ ONE has a loyal audience and TG4 is clearly a niche audience with a clear Irish stable of television programmes. RTÉ TWO and 3e are both aimed at a youth market and they are more susceptible to online and foreign TV services such as Netflix and the UKTV brand of channels such as Dave and Gold.

So where does that leave each of the individual channels in 2015. We explore their options and plans over the next few days.