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August 15, 2018

What does the UKTV and Virgin Media spat tell us about the future of TV relationships?

By GlobalData Technology

The three-week saga between UKTV and Virgin Media has ended. UKTV on Virgin Media is available again to the provider’s 4.1 million customers after a skirmish between the two companies saw 10 TV channels and a whole library of on-demand content removed from Virgin Media’s platform.

The saga does raise significant questions and concerns for consumers. How volatile are broadcaster-telco relationships? Will their favourite channels suddenly leave their TV platforms again? Is there value for money in a TV subscription with an incomplete range of channels?

Consumers can rest-assured for now that this situation is a bit of an anomaly. For the most part (particularly in the age of Netflix), telcos understand how important TV channels and on-demand content is to their customers, and will strive to make deals that will keep their content offerings diverse and customer-focused.

However, with so many routes of content delivery available, a bit of platform volatility – particularly when it comes to on-demand content – doesn’t come as a surprise.

Because of the sheer number of video platforms, the market is poised for a content reshuffle. It is likely that such a shake-up will be more of a slow burn than an immediate sweep, allowing time for content providers and broadcasters to re-evaluate their content strategies.

A potential slow burn could see content providers and broadcasters looking for alternative routes to air their content in order to reach as wide of an audience as possible, either through their own on-demand platforms, or through pre-existing ones, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

TV Operators should ensure that their TV strategies are kept in-line with this change in the market, with on-demand content easily and readily available, while curating a vast library of content and TV channels.

Effective immediately, the 10 previously removed UKTV channels are once again be available to Virgin Media customers.

Two new channels – Dave HD and Gold HD – and over five times the previous amount of UKTV on-demand content will also join Virgin Media’s TV platform.

The additional HD channels and on-demand content should help repair Virgin Media’s reputation. In a report following the initial split, UKTV claimed that its channels were highly valued by Virgin Media customers, and that customers were more likely to quit Virgin Media after losing UKTV.