LONDON, March 1 LawFuel – Media & Entertainment Law News — Sky’s basic channels stopped airing on Virgin Media at midnight on the 28th of February following Sky’s failure to renew its carriage agreement. Sky had demanded that the fees for these channels be nearly doubled, despite the fact that the popularity of
their basic channels has declined by 20 per cent in the last three years.
The withdrawal is limited to Sky’s basic channels: their sport and
movies channels are unaffected and will continue to be available to Virgin Media’s customers.
Moving forward Virgin Media will focus on providing its TV customers
with the most comprehensive range of programming available. The money saved due to Sky’s withdrawal of its basic channels will be used to build on a series of major programming acquisitions over recent months. This includes a wide range of hit movies and shows, ranging from The Sopranos and Nip/Tuck to Lost and the OC. The 2,700 hours of programming currently available through its unique video-on-demand service will be extended to over 6,000 hours by the end of this year.
Virgin Media’s TV service includes Virgin Central, the innovative new
channel that provides viewers with instant access to their favourite shows.
Throughout the dispute, Virgin Media has made continued efforts to
reach an agreement with Sky. On Tuesday evening, after a breakdown in
discussions, we offered to let an independent expert that both sides could
trust take a dispassionate look at the facts and decide what was fair and
reasonable. Sky formally rejected this offer on Wednesday morning and again
on Wednesday afternoon following a personal call to James Murdoch,
instigated by Virgin Media’s Chairman Jim Mooney and CEO Steve Burch.
Commenting on the dispute, Steve Burch, said: “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. 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.”
Richard Branson said: “We’re sorry that Sky have pulled their basic
channels from our service. These however do not include their sports and
movie channels, which will continue to be available to Virgin Media’s
customers. When Virgin Media launched last month, we promised to put the
power of the entertainment industry back in the hands of UK consumers,
giving them the service they deserve and the value they’d expect. Consumers
have my whole-hearted assurance that Virgin Media will not allow this
dispute to prevent us from giving them the freshest and most exciting TV
service in the UK. With Virgin Central and our massive library of
on-demand, programming, there’s a lot to look forward to.”
M: Communications, Nick Fox and Lisa Gordon +44-(0)-207-153-1540/1548
John Moorwood, Virgin Media, +44-(0)1256-752-670 or
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