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From the Irish Independent

By Laura Noonan

Tuesday April 21 2009

A CONSORTIUM lead by tv3, Eircom and Setanta was yesterday offered the licence to lead the next generation of paid-TV in Ireland, after the Communicorp/Boxer grouping dramatically handed back the contract they had promised to invest €165m in.

But the tv3 consortium -- known collectively as One Vision -- was conspicuously silent, prompting speculation that they are no longer eager to embark on the multi-million euro project which Communicorp's group said it was walking away from due to "economic circumstances".

The venture between Denis O'Brien's Communicorp and Swedish TV giant Boxer -- dubbed Boxer DTT -- last July won the contract to launch the commercial wing of the digital network (DTT) which will replace analogue TV by 2012.


The commercial side was originally due to be on air by February, with viewers offered free Boxer DTT boxes that could pick up Boxer's paid-for stations and would also be able to pick up RTE1, RTE2, TV3 and TG4 once public service DTT was launched later in the year.

More recently, both public service DTT and commercial DTT were due to launch around September, after Communications Minister Eamon Ryan said that it would be better if the entire DTT service was launched at the same time.

A spokeswoman for the minister last night insisted Mr Ryan still expected RTE to push on with the launch of public service DTT later this year, even if commercial DTT would not be ready in the same timeframe.

But informed sources dismissed that scenario as "impossible".

"It's so far behind schedule that it's hard to see how you could do it this year. Boxer was going to provide the set top boxes, so where are people going to get those now?" asked one. "And it's even harder to see why you would do public service DTT this year if commercial won't be available until later."

Responding to the comments, the minister's spokeswoman said the provision of set top boxes "wasn't solely dependent on Boxer".

In a short statement, Boxer said they had handed back the contract because the venture was "no longer viable" because the "changed" economic environment meant a crucial contract with RTE's networks division could not be agreed.

The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland yesterday said it had offered the contract to the One Vision consortium, which came second in the original contest.

If One Vision does not want to provide DTT on the terms they outlined last year, the contract will then fall to the third consortium which includes RTE and NTL/Chorus owner Liberty Global. If neither party wants to take it up under the terms proposed, a new tender could then be run.

- Laura Noonan
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DTT in reland Latest. Updated

OneVision sets sights on paid-for TV project

By Laura Noonan

Saturday May 02 2009

A CONSORTIUM backed by TV3, Setanta and Eircom is set to meet the broadcasting regulator "early next week" after the group took the surprise decision to begin talks on rolling Ireland's next generation of paid-for TV.

The trio's 'OneVision' originally came in second place in last July's high-stakes battle for the TV contract.

But the group was given another shot at the project after the first-placed contender handed back the contract almost two weeks ago, citing the changed "economic circumstances".

The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) has made it clear to OneVision that they can only go ahead with the project on the basis they originally proposed in July.

Ahead of this week's meeting, several sources close to the consortium indicated that OneVision was "unlikely" to go ahead on the July basis, given the changes in the commercial environment since then.

But the group yesterday surprised observers by issuing a statement declaring it had decided to begin "negotiations" with the BCI on the launch of the new paid-for TV platform, known as DTT.

"While recognising that the timelines for the DTT project have shifted and the economic environment has deteriorated the consortium remains positive about DTT and is ready to engage with the BCI to move the project forward," the statement said.

"All recognise the strategic importance of the DTT project to Irish broadcasting and to ensuring diversity of choice and content to Irish television viewers."

Sources at the BCI said the commission was "quietly optimistic" for OneVision to take over the tender. The two sides will have their first face-to-face meeting "early next week".

- Laura Noonan
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