It’s happened. The carriage dispute between UKTV and Virgin Media has reached a head. There was no last minute deal between the two companies and as a result UKTV has gone dark on the platform. Their ten channels – including Alibi, Dave and W – have already been replaced by such channels as Paramount Network, YourTV and Premier Sports.
There are two key points preventing a deal. Firstly, Virgin Media wants VOD rights to BBC shows that air on a repeat window on UKTV’s channels – something UKTV is unable to do as those rights are controlled not by them but by BBC Studios. The other issue is that, alongside that, Virgin is asking for a cut in the fees they pay UKTV for their suite of channels.
UKTV says that they have supplied thousands of hours of on demand programming to the platform and offered to increase volume under a new agreement. The broadcaster also points out that their channels are hugely popular with Virgin’s customers. Virgin counters that while UKTV’s FTA channels perform well, the pay channels audience share has dropped. One talking point that has emerged in recent days is that UKTV should at least offer their FTA channels for free. UKTV counters that they will not do so as Virgin does not offer a free package and as such would make money off of UKTV content while not paying for it. The FTA channels are available on Freeview, Freesat and UKTV Play. TVWise understands that the two sides are still talking, but it is not clear if a resolution is on the horizon
“We’re hugely disappointed for the many customers who are losing out because our channels are no longer available through Virgin Media”, UKTV CEO Darren Childs said in a statement. “We completely understand their frustration and would love to continue to bring them the shows and channels that they’re so passionate about, but we need a fair price to support our growing investment in programmes. The reality is that we just can’t accept the drastic price cut that Virgin wants. We remain completely committed to our viewers and appreciate the thousands of messages of support that we have received. We will continue to serve our viewers through our many platform partners.”
While David Bouchier, Virgin Media’s Chief Digital Entertainment Officer, added: “We are as disappointed as our customers that we have had to replace UKTV’s channels. To be clear: we are ready to restore UKTV’s free channels for our customers immediately with UKTV’s permission. “We have been in extensive discussions with UKTV but we have not been able to reach an agreement which reflects the reality of how people are watching television in the 21st Century. UKTV is insisting on holding back its channels, like Dave, which are freely available over the air and online, unless we pay inflated sums of money for its paid channels like Gold. On top of this, UKTV is unable to provide the extensive on-demand programming which is expected of a modern day broadcaster”.
— Official UKTV (@UKTV) July 23, 2018