Recently Virgin Media and Sky have been having an ongoing disagreement about the amount that Sky want to charge Virgin Media for receiving the standard Sky TV channels such as Sky One, Sky Two etc. It’s basically now come to a head and Virgin have refused to pay what they perceive as the excessive amount that Sky want to charge for these channels. As of midnight on the 28th of February, Sky’s basic channels stopped airing on Virgin Media.
Between a rock and a hard place…
I’ve been aware of this impending stalemate over the last few weeks. From my point of view as a consumer I feel like I’ve been used like a pawn in a big power game. On one side there were the ads on the Sky channels saying that Virgin Media (or Telewest/NTL as they were still known at the time) were threatening to allow the removal of all Sky channels, they were asking for people to call and petition Virgin Media not to get rid of the channels. On the other side there was Virgin Media saying that they want ‘Fair play’ and that the reason these channels have gone is because Sky wanted too much money for these channels.
Now, I’ve no doubt that Sky by doubling the amount of money they wanted for these channels was imposing a pretty big price hike, no one likes raises in prices. However, there’s one very big, important fact that Virgin seem to have overlooked here:
The Sky channels were one of the few that actually contained anything worthwhile watching. Period. End of story.
I’m of course not including the standard terrestrial channels here, BBC etc. If you’re not familiar with the offerings on Cable TV then perhaps these lyrics of the Bruce Springsteen song (n.b. I’m not a Springsteen fan, I just remembered this song and thought it appropriate) will help:
“Man came by to hook up my cable TV
We settled in for the night my baby and me
We switched ’round and ’round ’til half-past dawn
There was fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on…”
Basically most of it is just rubbish, really terrible rubbish, repeated frequently. If you’ve got 57 channels of mostly rubbish and you take away the ones that are at least half decent, what do you have left? Not much of value.
Virgin Media, why the free TV then?
What I can’t understand is that Virgin Media actually offer a free TV package, as long as you have broadband and phone then you can get a basic package for free. I basically have this free TV package as the only other non-standard terrestrial channel on it that I watch was included with this package. Which channel was that? Sky One. And what was so special about Sky One? It is the channel that is now showing Series 3 of Lost, 24 as well as Battlestar Galactica and the Simpsons!
I think that Virgin are grossly undervaluing two things here: the value of these programmes to their customers, and the value of their customers themselves. These four shows above represent some of the most sought after shows on TV, regardless of the channel. They’re just pretty hot property in many people’s eyes. I think this is what Sky realises and this is what they’re wanting to be paid for.
All is not Lost?
Forgive the bad pun. Sky plan to drop their basic channels from the terrestrial Freeview service as well, but with this there’s a faint glimmer of hope as the end of the article talks about Sky’s plans to potentially offer subscription channels over Freeview from this Summer. Although there is no indication as to whether they would include Sky One and the aforementioned shows at all. There’s only one problem with that for me. I can’t get Freeview where I live, despite it being a highly populated area. Don’t get me started on that issue either! It’s one of the other reasons I went with Virgin in the first place as I had no other choice, it was either them or Sky, and at the time they were cheaper!
End of Transmission
There’s an article on the BBC News website ‘BSkyB channels taken off Virgin’ where another Virgin user echoes my own thoughts:
…I’m really angry about the whole situation. I signed up with NTL for the package, largely based on Sky One because I’m a big fan of all the American shows…
That kind of sums it up, I signed up for the service based on the shows I could get, I wanted to get the various channels I couldn’t get for free due to the lack of Freeview coverage and there was the added channels such as Sky One that were of interest. Since Sky picked up Lost Series 3 instead of Channel 4 it just made it all the more an essential channel for me to watch.
Virgin Media, I’m afraid I think you’ve underestimated the value of these shows to your customers. I think this is now a dealbreaker since Sky are offering a good deal, and I’m probably going to take them up on it.
End of rant.