The UK arm of Discovery Networks has declined to comment on speculation that it’s considering partnering with BT to sell its channels directly to Sky households.
On Wednesday evening the company, which operates a range of popular factual brands as well as the Eurosport channels, announced it had failed to agree terms with Sky on a new carriage deal.
Discovery accuses the UK’s largest pay-TV provider of using its dominant position in the market to squeeze content providers, implying that it and other channel owners were indirectly being asked to subsidise Sky’s £4.1bn renewal of its premier league football rights.
Sky has denied the claims and says the channels are no longer as popular with viewers as they used to be and that it had been “overpaying” for them in recent years.
Unless a deal is reached the channels look set to vanish from Sky’s EPG next week.
While many viewers will be hoping a deal is struck, Sky has removed Discovery’s channels from its website:
Meanwhile rumours have begun to circulate that Discovery could extend its current wholesale deal with BT and allow it to offer the channels to Sky homes.
BT has its own pay-TV platform, which includes Discovery’s line-up of channels, but also sells its sports channels directly to Sky customers to maximise their potential audience.
It does this by taking advantage of a regulatory ruling which requires Sky to allow other providers to charge customers direct for channels while using their Sky viewing card to decode them.
In addition to its sports channels, BT also bundles its exclusive AMC channel which offers a selection of first-run US dramas, including Fear The Walking Dead, and is soon to add BoxNation to its line-up.
Overnight rumours have suggested that Discovery could extend its deal with BT to allow the broadband giant to add its channels to the pack it offers to Sky households.
Such a move would further boost the appeal of BT’s bundle and make it a more potent rival on Sky’s own platform.
Other options potentially available to Discovery include making its channels subscription-free on satellite and using any increase in viewing figures to raise prices to advertisers and sponsors.
Discovery declined to comment on the rumours.