Sky’s basic channels from Virgin Media cable systems at midnight on Thursday (March 1). Whether Sky ceased the delivery of the channels or Virgin pulled the plug is a matter of conjecture with both sides claiming the other to be responsible. The action follows the failure of the two companies to reach agreement on their continued carriage. The channels concerned are Sky One, Sky Two, Sky News, Sky Sports News and Sky Travel. Sky’s premium channels, Sky Sports and Sky Movies, continue as normal.
“We’ve made repeated efforts to reach an agreement but Virgin Media has rejected all of our proposals – including our latest offer of just 3p per customer per day,” said a Sky spokesman. “Six frustrating days have passed since Virgin Media last put forward financial terms for a proposed agreement to Sky. As late as yesterday, Virgin Media declined to re-enter negotiations of financial terms and confirmed that it did not intend to make a new offer of financial terms to Sky.” Virgin paints a different version of events, pointing to its offer of independent arbitration, and the formal rejection of this on Wednesday evening in a conversation between Virgin Media chairman James Mooney and CEO Steve Burch and Sky chief executive James Murdoch.
“We’re disappointed but not surprised by this outcome: nothing Sky have said or done in the course of the negotiation indicates they had the slightest interest in doing a commercially viable deal,” said Burch. “Their action here is consistent with their plans to withdraw their free channels from Freeview and, in our view, reflects their desire to limit consumer choice.”
Virgin maintains that Sky has been playing with the figures and has continued to demand that minimum guarantees be paid. The cable company argues that the Sky channels are losing value, despite audience figures showing that all of cable’s Top 25 entertainment shows this year are on Sky One. (JC)