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UKTV-Virgin dispute: no end in sight

The ongoing dispute between Virgin Media and UKTV over carriage fees has hit another impasse.

UKTV has issued a statement to clarify the latest following reports that a deal to restore five popular UKTV channels to Virgin was imminent. It turns out that a solution has yet to be reached, with UKTV claiming the Virgin had scuppered a settlement that would have put the channels back on Virgin.

“After holding talks to create a resolution for our viewers, Virgin Media backed out of a new deal we verbally agreed yesterday,” Kerry Goode, head of Network Communications at UKTV, said on Friday. “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.”

The dispute – which has seen 4 million Virgin viewers lose access to UKTV’s five free channels Dave, Drama, Home, Really and Yesterday – has thrown up an interesting side effect, with Freeview reporting a big spike in viewing figures. Freeview offers all five of the channels, and according to reports “Is preparing a TV advert targeting Virgin Media customers that will run as part of its £15m campaign to woo more customers to the free TV service.”

Sky, too, is ramping up its efforts to woo customers away from Virgin, with anecdotal evidence of increased sign ups. Officially, however, Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch, has said that overall it had yet to see a significant increase in new customer signings.