In a message released on Thursday evening, Virgin said while it was still in discussions with the BBC-Discovery-backed network it had already lined up a slate of replacement channels and on demand content. UKTV said Virgin Media was seeking a significant reduction in the amount paid for its channels.
“Virgin Media has had a long relationship with UKTV, but viewing behaviours amongst our customers are changing and we are committed to investing in the kind of programming they want to watch, whenever and however they want to watch it,” said David Bouchier, Chief Digital Entertainment Officer, Virgin Media “Unfortunately, due to the restrictions put on UKTV by the BBC, UKTV is not able to provide the significant on-demand programming that we know our customers want.”
At issue is UKTV’s content supply agreement with the BBC. While the linear channels feature a mix of recent and classic BBC shows and an increasing number of popular original productions, BBC content is absent from on demand service UKTV Play. Instead the BBC sells the rights directly to streaming services Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Darren Childs, Chief Executive of UKTV, said: “We want to continue to provide our channels to Virgin Media, but the huge cut in fees that Virgin has requested doesn’t reflect the value we bring to customers.
“UKTV’s channels account for over a quarter of pay entertainment channel viewing within Virgin Media’s basic subscription pack, while our on demand viewing has grown by over a third in the last year.”
As part of a new deal, UKTV is proposing to offer Virgin Media an increased range of on demand catch-up and boxsets, enhanced distribution rights, and an additional channel, Gold HD.
The existing agreement will expire at midnight on Saturday 21 July.
Virgin in touting new launch the Paramount Network as well as new Fox launch Your TV and quiz network IQTV.
It’s not the first time that Virgin has been involved in a row with a major channel supplier. In March 2007 it began an 18 month dispute that saw the loss of Sky basic channels including Sky News and Sky One.