As Virgin Media pulls the plug on UKTV’s channels, it isn’t the first time it has happened.
Virgin Media, the defacto monopolistic cable operator in the UK, seems to like throwing the rattle out of the pram every few years. Whether the cable operator thinks it can emulate similar operators over in the United States, where carriage deals and brinkmanship is commonplace, I don’t know, but the certainly the UK market is not set up for such battles.
This current battle with UKTV has all the hallmarks of 2007, when Virgin Media pulled the plug on Sky One and Sky News amongst other Sky-owned channels, over a similar carriage deal disagreement.
Back then, Virgin Media eventually climbed down and agreed to a deal which restored Sky News and Sky One some nine months after they were first removed.
Virgin Media were also petulant during the 2007 disagreement with Sky, re-branding Sky News on it’s EPG to “Sky Snooze” and pointing viewers to what was then BBC News 24. On that occasion, it took an intervention from Virgin Group boss Sir Richard Branson to end Virgin Media’s petulance.
The issue Virgin Media has now, and it is quite a dangerous game that they are playing, is that UKTV could just walk away completely, and signpost viewers to the numerous other outlets for their services, including Sky UK – who will surely be rubbing their hands with glee. In fact don’t be surprised if Sky UK swiftly hammer out advertising campaigns to attract Virgin Media customers to their services.
The way I see it is that this can only end badly for Virgin Media. They risk losing customers who will go over to other platforms – and thus into new contracts of at least 12 months.
The point that Virgin Media seem to have missed here, is that the general public really don’t care about politics and disagreements between companies – all they care about is getting the services they desire.