Original Article – January 25th at 20:00 – Discovery Networks portfolio of channels, including the Eurosport arm, is set to disappear from Sky’s UK platform next week if a new carriage deal is not reached. As the current agreement only runs until January 31st, Discovery are free to pull their channels from Sky any time from February 1st onwards.
In a press release issued tonight, Discovery said that Sky’s strategy is “limiting customer choice and hurting independent broadcasters.” The dispute for Discovery is that Sky are paying Discovery less than what they were ten years ago, despite Sky’s customers paying progressively more for watching their content, as this website has demonstrated.
Susanna Dinnage, the Managing Director for Discovery Networks UK and Ireland, said: “We are proud to be an independent network of channels that works hard to bring real-world first class channels and programmes to viewers in the UK for nearly 30 years, offering quality and variety to pay television. 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.”
If the Eurosport channels are pulled from Sky, it means that Sky viewers in the UK will not have access to the British and World Superbikes, as well as the World Touring Car Championship. Longer term, it means that a large proportion of viewers may not have access to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Quest TV is also affected. As noted earlier this month, Discovery Communications has a working relationship with John Malone’s Liberty Global. Malone’s portfolio includes Liberty Media, which of course will soon be renamed the Formula One Group.
This will be one to watch closely in the forthcoming days. My suspicion is that this will be resolved quickly, but there is a possibility that will not happen. This scenario has happened before; readers may remember when Sky1 and a host of other Sky channels were removed from the Virgin Media platform for 18 months is a similar carriage dispute.
Update on January 25th at 20:35 – ITV News’ Consumer Editor Chris Choi says that Sky will be dropping Discovery’s portfolio from next Tuesday.
Update on January 25th at 21:30 – Sky’s statement, via the Telegraph website: “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.”
The statement continued, “Sky has a strong track record of understanding the value of the content we acquire on behalf of our customers, and as a result we’ve taken the decision not to renew this contract on the terms offered. We have been overpaying Discovery for years and are not going to anymore. We will now move to redeploy the same amount of money into content we know our customers value.”
Update on January 26th at 20:30 – No further update beyond what was reported yesterday, with a “wait and see” approach being taken by stakeholders in the British Superbikes series. A #KeepDiscovery campaign is in full flow on social media, bike stars and pundits such as former MotoGP commentator for Eurosport Toby Moody and current British Superbikes presenter Matt Roberts getting behind the cause.
I should note that the issue does not just affect the UK: Discovery’s deal with Sky affects Germany as well, so there are wider ramifications for both corporations if the issue is not resolved.
Update on January 27th at 21:15 – Follow-up story now online here.