UTV Reports Falling Profits

The Northern TV company that has significant broadcast and revenue overlap into the Irish Republic is fighting the recession.

Despite intense cost-cutting - with several programmes and staff dropped - the Belfast-based media company Ulster Television (UTV) has reported a £2.6m fall in pretax profit.

It posted an £18.1m profit for 2009, compared to £20.7m the previous year.

However, while it controls the ITV franchise in Northern Ireland, more than 60% of the company's turnover and the majority of its profit is now being made from its radio businesses.

UTV's revenue from its radio operations was £68m, which represented more than 60% of the group's turnover.

Despite the overll fall, Chief Executive John McCann said the performance demonstrated the "robustness" of UTV against the backdrop of the economic downturn and the UTV Chairman John B McGuckian said trading in the first few weeks of 2010 had been "encouraging" with the UK television market, in particular, showing some signs of improvement.

Mr McGuickian said that revenue forecasts for its talkSPORT radio operation were confident for 2010 because of the World Cup.

"Already, talkSPORT appears to be gaining some advertising and sponsorship traction and in the first four months of 2010 is expected to achieve revenue growth of 16%," he said.

The fall was in the company's television division where profits were down by £5.5m to £32.5m in 2009.

In comparision, its new media operation profit levels stayed the same as in 2008, with both turnover and operating profit maintained at £11.5m and £2m respectively.

Concluding, Mr McGuickian said the severity of the recession had put the company under "enormous pressure".

"Redundancies, pay freezes and general cost cutting have been painful and it is to the credit of all concerned that the group has weathered the economic storm so well," he added.

Earlier this year, John McCann, Group Chief Executive and Executive Director of UTV Media plc, was announced as the winner of a prestigious 2010 Institute of Directors Lunn's Award of Excellence.

The judges said that as well as being responsible for developing UTV into a multimedia group, he has also led it into being a TV provider to television, radio and new media.

But, over the same period at the Belfast broadcaster, numerous well-known front-of-camera staff have been leaving the rapidly-changing business.

Three flagship shows - Insight, UTV Life and Late and Live - were axed and the station's top team of news journalists, features and sports reporters was also significantly reduced.

UTV programming requirements changed following the regulator Ofcom's announcement on national news content.

See: Boss Wins Accolade As UTV Cuts Back

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