Distribution, Digital, Delivery
In 2020, the 700MHz Migration campaign, in response to the Government decision to allocate part of the UHF TV broadcast spectrum to future 5G usage, targeted some 50% of Saorview homes, which required a retune or change of equipment in order to continue to receive Saorview. The campaign ensured minimum disruption to reception for Saorview viewers.
By the end of 2020 Saorview was reaching 655,000 TV homes, representing 38% of the total TV audience in the Irish Republic. Of these, 201,000 or 12% of homes chose Saorview as their sole means of broadcast TV reception (Nielsen 2021). Thus, Saorview remained a key viewing choice for Irish TV households, despite the marketing challenges posed by the pandemic and the reported growth in online viewing. Saorview engaged in extensive brand awareness campaigning in 2020, solidifying its strong market position.
2rn, a wholly owned subsidiary of RTÉ, maintains, manages and develops Ireland’s broadcast transmission network for all broadcasters on the island, and provides infrastructure services to the telecommunications industry. As custodian of Ireland’s national broadcast transmission network, 2rn makes sure that the nation is always switched on. It achieved 99.99% reliability across television and radio transmission services in 2020.
In early 2017, 2rn finalised an agreement with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment in relation to migrating broadcast services out of the 700MHz frequency band by 2020. This necessitated changes at several 2rn transmission sites and the construction of two new transmission sites. The migration works were completed in 2019 and, after a period of simulcast and viewer engagement, took effect in March 2020.
The Saorview and Saorsat services transmitted by 2rn continued to make public-service television and radio services available free to every home in the State, offering high-quality video and audio. Of the 1.68 million television viewing homes in Ireland, 655,000 had Saorview in 2020. In 201,000 homes, Saorview was the only means of watching broadcast television.
In 2020 the emergence of Covid-19 necessitated changes to work practices and processes as well as enhanced staff training to safely undertake the works necessary to maintain the reliability of services, and to interact with suppliers and customers. As a result of these changes, there was no material impact on 2rn’s overall performance in the year.
2rn generated revenue of €26.5 million in 2020, a small decrease on 2019, attributable to a decrease in the regulated revenue from national broadcast services. Overall, the year-on-year performance reflects the stability of the broadcast market and a solid performance of the mast and tower rental market.
There were no significant changes in the local and regional radio market, as available spectrum capacity in the FM band is almost fully utilised. Consolidation of the mobile phone networks has matured, however, and achieving year-on-year revenue stability in the telecommunication business remained challenging.
The RTÉ Guide remained Ireland’s best-selling magazine and fifth largest publication in 2020. Continued focus on editorial content ensured that the magazine remained a revenue generator for RTÉ, helping to engage younger audiences as well as maintaining its core base.
A marginal decline of 2.9% in circulation income versus 2019 was in line with yearly declines in the print market overall, exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19 on retail footfall. However, the RTÉ Guide bumper Christmas issue continued to be an Irish publishing phenomenon, bucking trends to deliver a 4% increase year on year.