Virgin Media to dump Sky channels?

Virgin Media launched on 8 February

Virgin Media believes it will no longer air Sky 's basic channels this month, the company said today. The service currently has a deal to carry Sky One, Sky Two, Sky Three, Sky News and Sky Sports News in a deal carried over from part of the company's previous incarnation, NTL. The contract ran out at the end of this month.

Sky has doubled its fee for allowing Virgin to air its channels, despite the popularity of the channels dropping every year, according to Virgin Media.

In a frank statement, the communications company said it believed Sky had engineered the withdrawal of the channels to quash competition in the market, and persuade Virgin's viewers to switch to Sky. Sky is now airing adverts informing viewers that its channels will no longer be available with Virgin; although the company will still provide Sky's premium sports and movie subscription channels.

Virgin said it was "a heavy-handed attempt to exert undue influence on the two company's negotiations." Cable and TV chat forums have begun discussing the Sky adverts, with some posters surprised at Sky's decision.

Earlier this month, Sky announced it was removing its only channel from Freeview to replace it with a number of subscription channels.

Virgin Media is the result of a merger between cable operators NTL and Telewest plus the subsequent rebrand by Richard Branson. The company a 'quad play' of phone, cable TV, internet and IPTV services.