O'Brien-backed consortium wins digital TV licence

Lucy Gaffney

Lucy Gaffney

Media king Denis O’Brien is to expand his influence even further after his bid for a lucrative licence to launch commercial Digital Terrestrial TV (DTT ) in Ireland proved successful this week.

The consortium brings together O'Brien's Communicorp and Swedish digital terrestrial television operator Boxer TV Access. The Boxer consortium also has BT Ireland as a partner.

It will invest €165m in Ireland's paid-for TV market after it was awarded the three national Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT ) multiplex contracts by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI ).

Lucy Gaffney, Chairperson of Boxer DTT, said the company is delighted to have been awarded the licence and looks forward to rolling out a world-class broadcast network in Ireland over the coming months.

DTT will come into effect from 2009 and is set to replace the existing analogue signal, which will be turned off around 2012. Irish homes can currently get terrestrial TV stations via an analogue signal through an aerial.

Under the DTT regime, home owners must have a set-top box to receive free-to-air terrestrial TV.

Boxer has said it expects to attract 215,000 customers and achieve revenues of €50m by 2013. It plans to launch in the first quarter of 2009, and break even by year five.

Three consortia had vied for the 12-year contract to rival existing cable and satellite providers. They were Boxer, Easy TV and One Vision.

Easy TV involves RTE and UPC, while One Vision includes TV3, Setanta and Eircom.

Recently, Boxer urged the BCI to award it the licences on the basis that it was the only applicant with no conflict of interest because it doesn't have interest in either satellite or cable.

A statement from BCI said that the Commission considered the applications received from three consortia and has awarded the contracts in principle to Boxer DTT Limited.

“The award of the contracts is subject to clarifications and the successful outcome of contract negotiations, which will take place in the coming months."

Boxer has said it will offer basic subscription prices that will be below €10 a month for the DTT service to consumers and will allow viewers to top up their channel selections 'a la carte'. It says there will also be a 'pay as you go' option for its pay channels.

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