Iconic TV shows such as Call the Midwife, Top Gear and Taskmaster are being pulled from Virgin Media’s television packages after negotiations with British broadcaster UKTV went sour.
UKTV is half-owned by the BBC, who insisted on retaining on-demand rights to UKTV’s portfolio of comedy, drama, and lifestyle programming – which it prefers to stream through iPlayer or sell to similar platforms like Netflix.
After negotiations fell through, Virgin Media’s four million pay-TV subscribers will now lose access to the popular comedy channels Dave (Taskmaster, Red Dwarf) and Gold (Vicar of Dibley, Only Fools and Horses) as well as the nature channel Eden (Planet Earth). Alongside flagship shows such as Top Gear and Call the Midwife, UKTV also owns channels hosting the likes of Man v Food, Embarrassing Bodies, and Homes Under the Hammer.
Virgin Media criticised “the restrictions put on UKTV by the BBC”, meaning they were “not able to provide the significant on-demand programming that we know our customers want”.
Virgin Media’s Chief Digital Entertainment Officer, David Bouchier, criticised the outcome, saying that “viewing behaviours amongst our customers are changing and we are committed to investing in the kind of programming they want to watch, whenever and however they want to watch it.
“Unfortunately, due to the restrictions put on UKTV by the BBC, UKTV is not able to provide the significant on-demand programming that we know our customers want.”
So what the hell do we watch?
Despite the concerning quantity of programming leaving Virgin Media, it is naturally being replaced, and Virgin Media has begun notifying customers about the changes. From Sunday 22 July, viewers will find a host of new drama, sports and lifestyle channels to flick through.
Notable additions include Paramount Network HD (CSI: Miami, Designated Survivor), your TV (Castle, Bones), and History HD (Vikings). There’s not much in the way of comedy, which may be the main loss to Virgin Media’s current subscribers. But any sporting fans will find they’re well catered for with Sky Sports Mix, Freesports (NASCAR), and Quest HD (Deadliest Catch), while they’ll also be able to access Premier Sports HD for the next two months – without an additional subscription.
Discussions are technically still ongoing, but the fact that the channels were actually pulled means an amiable reconciliation isn’t assured.
But as long as you’re happy with the stand-ins, there’s no need to reschedule your time on the sofa.