Virgin Media Customers Are Losing Access to All 10 UKTV Channels

By Tom Pritchard on at

If there's one thing people can usually rely on, it's that the Dave channel will be around to broadcast old episodes of Top GearRed Dwarf, and other programming you probably saw on the BBC years ago but decided to watch again because you were bored. It's even available on Freeview, so there's always something going on. Unfortunately rights issues mean anyone who pays for a Virgin Media TV package may lose access to Dave and the other UKTV channels.

Virgin has been in the middle of negotiations with the broadcaster, which is jointly owned by the BBC and US media company Discovery, and it all comes down to streaming rights. The BBC likes to hold onto the streaming rights to its programming, so instead of making them freely available on UKTV Play they're sold off to other streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. Virgin says this isn't ok, because customers expect to be able to watch programmes on-demand. David Bouchier, Virgin Media’s chief digital entertainment officer, said:

“The problem is the BBC does not grant the UKTV digital rights with its TV shows which leaves it somewhat stranded as a linear dinosaur in an on-demand modern world.

“Part of a commitment to audiences has to be allowing them to watch what they want, when they want and that also means being able to watch those programmes on demand. From US studios to small programme-makers, that is how it is done. The BBC puts UKTV in a very difficult position and we have been unable to come to terms and will replace the channels.”

Darren Childs, Chief Executive of UKTV, said:

"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.”

Virgin started informing customers of this development last night, with the existing agreement set to end at midnight tomorrow night (21st July). Unless a last minute deal is made, Virgin is planning on replacing UKTV channels with new channels offering shows like Suits, Designated Survivor, Britain’s Next Top Model, Deadliest Catch, plus sport. As for anyone wanting to watch UKTV, you're just going to have to use your TV's Freeview tuner. Assuming you don't want one of the channels that isn't available. [The Guardian]