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Sky Channels Ad threat for Virgin Media

# 12 February 2007, 18:50 by Cable Forum

The heat between BSkyB and Virgin Media, over Sky channels, got turned up a notch today. According to The Guardian, Sky have began broadcasting their own ads on channels such as Sky One, warning Virgin Media punters that Sky’s basic channels could be revoked from the cable network. In an advert aired on Sky One last night, the ad apparently advises the rebranded cable groups customers to call its customer service line to lobby against Sky’s withdrawal of its basic channels.

Sky’s basic channels are Sky One, Sky Two, Sky Three (Even though Sky Three isn’t actually on the cable platform), Sky News, Sky Sports News, Artsworld and Sky Travel.

The move by BSkyb, has left ‘Virgin Media’ shocked according to an insider. The cable company appeared not be aware of BSkyb’s plans to show these Ads and Sky was able to show them without the cable groups permission, through the feed for Sky One that it provides for cable tv.

Negotiations have become locked between Sky and Virgin over carriage of each others channels over the last few weeks. It was earlier last month that BSkyB boss, Murdoch, had instructed negotiators to ‘take off their gloves’ when it comes to dealing with the newly merged cable company.

BSkyb have become very fierce over the last few months, first it bought a 17.9% stake in ITV which effectively blocked Virgin Media’s (ntl:Telewest as it was at the time) attempt to aquire the channel. Virgin Media has since made complaints to regulators about Sky’s stake in ITV.

BSkyb then started to buy up advertising space in an attempt to scupper Virgin Media’s plans to mass promote their rebrand.

Sky have defended this latest stunt according to The Guardian, a Sky Spokesman had said to the paper:

“It is a call to action on behalf of Virgin Media customers. We need to build up some support. We feel these channels are valuable to Virgin Media customers and we have invested a lot of money in them. We need to install in viewers the danger of them potentially being pulled.

“We feel an obligation to let cable customers know there is a very real danger these channels could be pulled.”

A Virgin Media spokeswoman refused to comment on the negotiations when pressed by The Guardian but had said:-

“We are negotiating in good faith to ensure these channels are available to Virgin Media customers. We have no idea why Sky are saying we are doubting the value of these channels.”

Sky is demanding a fair price for carriage of its channels on the cable platform and it would seem it is calling on cable customers to call up Virgin Media and request them to pay what Sky are asking, “or else”.

In a recent Cable Forum members poll, it asked what cable customers would do if Sky pulled its channels from the cable platform. Out of 100 members which took part in the poll, 81 vowed to stay with Virgin Media.

One Virgin Media customer who took part in the poll said:

“there’s no way I’d go over to sky – there’s only a few programmes on Sky One I watch & I’m sure I can find other ways of seeing them”

News Source:- The Guardian.

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