Chances of UKTV’s channels returning to Virgin Media have receded after the cable firm “backed out” of a deal which would’ve ended a two week carriage dispute between the firms.
The entire portfolio of 10 channels, including Dave, Drama, Yesterday, W, Alibi, and GOLD were removed from Virgin Media’s TV packages 2 weeks ago with the firm accused of wanting “a significant cut” in the fees it pays UKTV for channels and catch-up content.
For its part Virgin Media claimed the broadcaster was unable to offer the on-demand content it wanted and accused the BBC, a 50% shareholder in UKTV, of withholding key content from the venture in order to sell it to Netflix and other premium services.
It also disputed why it should have to carry UKTV’s pay-TV channels as a condition of receiving the five free to air channels the broadcaster makes available on Freesat and Freeview.
This stance was attacked repeatedly by Virgin Media customers who pointed out they had to pay to receive those channels, unlike users of other platforms, and so the cable firm should not expect to get them for nothing.
Since the initial removal of the channels both firms have been involved in a terse and increasingly hostile media and social media row.
At one stage UKTV’s twitter account appeared to be encouraging disgruntled Virgin Media customers to look at rival providers Sky, BT and TalkTalk which offer its entire portfolio.
Rumours of a potential deal were sparked when the social media row between the brands appeared to die down.
But on Friday evening UKTV announced the channels would not be returning after all.
In a statement the firm said: “After holding talks to create a resolution for our viewers, Virgin Media backed out of a new deal we verbally agreed yesterday.
“Sadly, we can’t, at the current time, see an end date for an agreement to be reached that pays UKTV a fair price for our ongoing services to their business.
“We are sincerely sorry to all of our viewers who have been affected by this.
“We’ve really learned over the past two weeks just how much our channels mean to people, and we are overwhelmed by your support.
“We have tried to be as helpful as possible to our channels’ fans during this time of disruption.
“However, in line with guidance from OFCOM, we would advise that customers who have concerns with their television service contact their provider in the first instance.”
In response, a Virgin Media spokesperson said: “We have held constructive talks with UKTV and plan to continue these discussions. We won’t negotiate in public and our door remains open.”