A resolution to the carriage dispute which saw all ten of UKTV’s channel brands removed from the Virgin Media platform on July 22nd does not appear to be on the horizon.
After multiple volleys on social media from both sides over the past week or so, the two companies had re-engaged in talks in hopes of finding a solution. But now UKTV claims that, when a deal was in sight, Virgin Media backed out of a verbal agreement.
Virgin did not go so far as to dispute UKTV’s version of events, but told TVWise that they “won’t negotiate in public and our door remains open.” I hear that Virgin’s previous position remains unchanged and they are prepared to restore the FTA channels immediately while commercial discussions over the pay channels continue.
For those not following along, the dispute can be boiled down to two key point. 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. Virgin Media had made the case that UKTV should at least offer their FTA channels for free. UKTV countered 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.
Here is UKTV’s full statement accusing Virgin Media of withdrawing from their verbal agreement:
“After holding talks to create a resolution for our viewers, Virgin Media backed out of a new deal we verbally agreed yesterday. Sadly, we can’t, at the current time, see an end date for an agreement to be reached that pays UKTV a fair price for our ongoing services to their business”, a UKTV representative said in a statement. “We are sincerely sorry to all of our viewers who have been affected by this. We’ve really learned over the past two weeks just how much our channels mean to people, and we are overwhelmed by your support. We have tried to be as helpful as possible to our channels’ fans during this time of disruption. However, in line with guidance from OFCOM, we would advise that customers who have concerns with their television service contact their provider in the first instance.”