September 20 1998 saw the launch of Ireland's third terrestrial TV network, TV Three. The launch was a long time in coming: the licence for a third Irish national TV network was first granted by the Independent Radio and Television Commission in 1990 to a group consisting of members of the U2 band, James Norris of Windmill Lane recording studios and accountant, Ossie Kilkenny. Due to delays in getting the channel up-and-running, the IRTC revoked the licence. Both sides subsequently ended up in court; after a lengthy battle, the TV Three consortium eventually got their licence back in 1993.
However, the problems continued. The consortium required a considerable cash injection. 49% of the company was sold to the Northern Ireland ITV franchise-holder, Ulster Television. In the background, however, some of the original consortium members were attempting to convince cable and MMDS providers to drop Ulster Television from their packages and replace it with TV Three. The cable/MMDS operators refused.
Ulster Television pulled out of the TV Three venture in 1995, selling its share back to TV Three. However, Canadian broadcaster, CanWest, came to the rescue of the troubled TV Three in 1997, buying a majority stake in the company. The channel was on air by autumn the following year.
TV Three is funded largely by advertising revenue. The channel launched with a programme line-up consisting mainly of foreign imports. Other than news and sports news programmes, there were very few home-produced offerings in the schedules.