LONDON — Discovery has threatened to remove its channels from Sky at the end of this month in an unprecedented disagreement between the two television companies.
In a highly unusual move on Wednesday night, Discovery sent out a press release on the dispute. It has also hijacked its own website with the news, warning viewers “you may lose your favourite Discovery programmes.”
The argument boils down to this: Discovery does not believe that Sky is willing to pay a “fair price” to carry its channels. Sky, on the other hand, thinks Discovery’s price demands are “completely unrealistic.”
Discovery said “enough is enough” and claimed that Sky is paying less for its channels, which include Eurosport and TLC, than it was a decade ago. In that time, Discovery said its share of viewing on the Sky platform has grown more than 20%.
Discovery Networks UK managing director Susanna Dinnage explained in the release: “We believe Sky is using what we consider to be its dominant market position to further its own commercial interest over those of viewers and independent broadcasters. The vitality of independent broadcasters like Discovery and plurality in TV is under threat.”
But Sky does not seem in any mood to back down, with a spokeswoman claiming that it has been “overpaying Discovery for years.”
She added: “Despite our best efforts to reach a sensible agreement, we, like many other platforms and broadcasters across Europe, have found the price expectations for the Discovery portfolio to be completely unrealistic. Discovery’s portfolio of channels includes many which are linear-only where viewing is falling.”
If the dispute is not resolved, it will mean that Sky customers would be without Discovery’s portfolio of channels and exclusive content, including new series “Idris Elba: Fighter,” which follows the actor’s gruelling challenge to become a professional fighter in just 12 months. Discovery also has rights to the Olympics from 2022.
But Sky is attempting to cut its bill for the Discovery channels after shelling out £4.2 billion ($5.3 billion) on Premier League rights for the next three seasons. Sky blamed the increased football costs for a 9% drop in profit on Thursday. Operating profits fell to £679 million ($860 million) for the six months to 31 December. Revenue rose 12% to £6.41 billion ($8.1 billion) over the same period.
Chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: “In a year in which we are absorbing significantly higher programming costs, as a result of the step-up in Premier League costs, our financial performance has been good.”