4 million Virgin TV customers to lose access to 10 channels from Sunday

Four million Virgin TV customers are to lose access to 10 channels from Sunday because of a disagreement between the firm and UKTV.

It means households will be stripped of access to popular shows such as Top Gear, Red Dwarf, One Born Every Minute and Only Fools and Horses.

In total 10 channels will be pulled in a dispute over video on demand between UKTV, which is owned by Discovery and the BBC and Virgin Media.

The BBC currently holds the rights to watch its shows on demand and sells those on to services such as Netflix.

However, Virgin Media wants to get the rights alongside the broadcast channels.

David Bouchier, Chief Digital Entertainment Officer at Virgin Media said: “From Sunday all UKTV channels and programmes will be replaced on Virgin TV.

“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. 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.

“We are still in discussions with UKTV but we have already invested in an extensive collection of replacement high-quality programming for our customers to enjoy. In addition, we continue to expand our range of on-demand and 4K Ultra HD TV with more coming this year.”

Darren Childs, chief executive of UKTV, said the channels will be axed if the two companies fail to reach agreement over a new distribution contract.

“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.

“The money we receive from platforms helps to pay for our record investment in high-quality programmes, which we increased to more than £150 million in the last year.

“If our 10 channels, including Dave, W, Gold and Alibi, are no longer available through Virgin, we will be hugely disappointed for the millions of customers who will lose out.

“We’ll keep working with other platforms to bring viewers the drama, comedy and documentaries they love.”

Customers are bow being informed of the plan to pull the channels this weekend, however Virgin says it will replace them with newer ones.

What channels are going – and which are coming?

It means customers will lose Watch, Dave, Alibi, Really, Drama, Good Food, Home, Yesterday, Eden and Gold.

Replacement channels include the Paramount Network in HD with shows like Suits and Designated Survivor; YourTV, a new channel which is home to Castle, Bones and Body of Proof; Love Nature, which is exclusive to Virgin TV and has nature programmes such as Africa’s Wildest Horizon’s and Great Wild Blue; IQTV, which contains quiz shows like Mastermind and The Weakest Link; and new box sets such as Shades of Blue, Supergirl and Madam Secretary.

Virgin will also be making the Premier Sports HD channel available to all TV customers initially for two months with no additional subscription required (usually £9.99 per month).

A Virgin spokesman said: "This will mean our customers can enjoy all of the football matches from the International Champions Cup, which features the best six teams in the English Premier League and many of the top European teams. This weekend both Manchester City and Liverpool will face Dortmund and Bayern Munich will take on Paris Saint-Germain. Alongside the football many other gripping sporting events are available on Premier Sports – from every Pro 14 Rugby game to NHL ice hockey matches."

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