ITV could ‘go dark’ on Virgin Media unless an £80 million bill is settled

The X Factor
ITV show ‘The X Factor.’ ITV/Fremantle
  • ITV has an £80 million commercial disagreement with Virgin Media.
  • It could pull its main chain nel from the cable service unless it’s resolved.
  • ITV wants payment after a recent change in copyright law.
  • Virgin said it will not be “paying for channels that are meant to be free.”
  • Negotiations will come to a head early next year.

ITV could pull its flagship channel from Virgin Media unless the cable TV company pays it up to £80 million ($US105 million).

The two media companies have been locked in a stand-off for months over the bill. If unresolved, the dispute could lead to ITV depriving 3.7 million Virgin subscribers of its main channel, home to shows like “The X Factor.”

The negotiations were set to come to a head in September, when ITV’s existing channel deal with Virgin expired, but the broadcaster extended the agreement until early next year.

ITV is demanding payment of up to £80 million from Virgin, according to The Daily Telegraph, which is double an estimate analysts Liberum gave earlier this year.

The channel can demand payment for the first time, after the introduction of the new Digital Economy Act in April.

The legislation abolished a copyright exemption which cable TV platforms like Virgin had enjoyed since 1988, allowing them to carrying channels like ITV without paying a penny.

ITV has so far stopped short of threatening to remove its main channel from Virgin, but insiders admit that it is an option available to the company if talks do not progress.

An ITV spokesman said: “Our position is very straightforward: ITV, and other public service broadcasters, should be paid fairly by pay-TV platforms that make money from our multi-billion pound investment in original UK content so that we can continue to invest in the programmes, particularly drama and entertainment, that our viewers enjoy.”

Virgin admits ITV could “go dark”

Virgin disagrees, and has itself admitted that ITV could “go dark” on its platform unless some common ground is agreed.

A spokesman told Business Insider: “Neither Virgin Media nor our customers will be paying for channels that are meant to be free.”

He added: “The UK government has been very clear and consistent — no fees for public service channels like ITV1… ITV is already fully compensated for this through its prominent position, with the audience reach and additional advertising revenue this delivers.”

A similar dispute erupted in the UK only this year. Discovery threatened to remove its channels from Sky, claiming the pay-TV company was not prepared to pay a “fair price” to carry the stations.

The matter was only resolved in an eleventh-hour deal between the two companies.