Virgin Media in the UK has announced plans to cut UKTV channels such as Dave, Yesterday and Gold from its service on Sunday (July 22) in a disagreement that it says concerns VOD rights for BBC content.
The dispute, according to a statement to customers issued by Virgin Media, hinges on “restrictions put on UKTV by the BBC” — specifically, VOD rights to such BBC archive content as Top Gear being held back and sold to other platforms such as Netflix.
UKTV is a joint venture of BBC Studios and Discovery. All told, 10 UKTV channels are set to be taken off Virgin TV on Sunday.
“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,” the statement continued.
In a statement issued to the Guardian and other UK publications, David Bouchier, Virgin Media’s chief digital entertainment officer said: “”The problem is the BBC does not grant UKTV digital rights with its TV shows which leaves it somewhat stranded as a linear dinosaur in an on-demand modern world.”
However, UKTV is countering Virgin’s argument, saying the dispute is centered on a cut in fees Virgin is offering for UKTV channels.
“UKTV has had a partnership with Virgin Media for more than 10 years and we’d love to continue serving their customers,” reads a statement from UKTV on its corporate site. “Sadly, Virgin now says it wants to make a huge cut in the fees that it pays so we’ve been unable to agree a new deal.”
UKTV’s response includes a video message to Virgin Media customers from Steve North, genre general manager for comedy and entertainment, in which the executive says, “Sadly, Virgin Media have asked if they can pay us significantly less, and while we massively love what we do, the money we receive from our partners allows us to invest in the shows and channels that you love.” The video message also implores customers to share their disappointment over the dispute with Virgin Media via phone calls or tweets.
Virgin Media, in its statement to customers, said that while it is still in discussions with UKTV, “we have already invested in an extensive collection of new and high-quality programming for our customers to enjoy (depending on the TV bundle taken).” Those channels include Paramount Network, Love Nature, YourTV, and Vice.