Sky calls for consumer support in Virgin Media tussle

BSkyB has launched an advertising campaign urging cable customers to encourage Virgin Media to carry its channels. It follows a breakdown in negotiations between the satellite broadcaster and its cable rival.

The campaign will run across Sky channels and encourage viewers to contact Virgin Media, which rebranded from NTL-Telewest last week, directly.

A Sky spokesman says: “We want our basic channels to remain available to NTL-Virgin customers and we’re working towards a new agreement that will keep them on air.

“We want to avoid disruption for customers who enjoy these channels but, ultimately, it is NTL-Virgin’s choice. We’d urge cable customers who feel strongly about this situation to tell Virgin what they think.”

It follows reports that relations between Sky and Virgin Media have hit an all-time low over Sky’s carriage deal with Virgin. Under the previous deal Sky paid Flextech (which has been rebranded Virgin Media Television) just under 40p per subscriber a month for Living TV, Bravo, Challenge and Trouble, although under new agreements this could be reduced to less than 10p per subscriber. Sky is also understood to be preparing to pull its basic channels unless it gets “a respectable price” per subscriber from Virgin.

The spokesman says discussions “are continuing” over a new agreement for distribution of Sky’s basic channel portfolio to TV viewers. It says last week’s announcement that Sky’s Freeview channels, including Sky News, would be pulled from the platform, made them “even more valuable” to the cable company. It adds that it is offering a larger package of channels than is currently available.

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