Discovery: Sky carriage deal ‘impasse’

Negotiations between Discovery and Sky over a new carriage deal have reached an impasse, according to Discovery, who claim that Sky is refusing to pay a fair price for Discovery’s portfolio of channels, forcing it to go public in what it describes as an “historic move”, suggesting that its “much-loved” channels and programmes could disappear from Sky and NOW TV households after January 31st.

Discovery has announced that ‘enough is enough’ over Sky’s retail platform strategy, a strategy that Discovery fears is limiting consumer choice and hurting independent broadcasters like itself.

“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,” declared Susanna Dinnage, Managing Director, Discovery Networks UK and Ireland. “Our portfolio of channels caters to a wide range of personal tastes and interests from adventure, natural history, science and sports to extraordinary people, families, weddings, and true crime. From Racing Extinction, Gold Rush, Say Yes to the Dress UK to Cake Boss and Warrior Apes which is launching later this year, we create shows that make people’s worlds bigger,” she added.

“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,” she stated.

Discovery says it is now paid less by Sky than it was 10 years ago, while Sky households are paying “so much more” than they did in 2007. This is despite Discovery having increased its share of viewing on the Sky platform by more than 20 per cent. Discovery has also increased investment in original content by more than 30 per cent since 2010, adding new channels to its portfolio including Eurosport, TLC and Investigation Discovery.

If an agreement is not reached, Discovery’s says that its “much-loved” channels and programmes which make up 50 per cent of all viewing to the factual category on Sky could disappear from Sky and NOW TV households after January 31st.

“Somebody has to stand up for consumers, because consumers believe they are paying for choice and diversity – they deserve better,” continued Dinnage. “Discovery is prepared to take that stand. Pay television needs to be about more than just films and football. The consumer can’t be expected to fund all of Sky’s investments and get less and less choice in return. We are also concerned that with the recently announced Fox transaction, Sky’s market strength and incentive to disadvantage independent TV content providers will only increase.”

“All we ask is that Sky recognise the value we bring to customers and remunerate us fairly so we can continue creating content that inspires and entertains the world,” she concluded.

All 12 channels in the Discovery portfolio would disappear from Sky and NOW TV if the dispute is not resolved, leaving more than 5.5 million people who tune in each month without the channels and shows they value and pay for with their Sky subscription. Discovery first launched in the UK in 1989. Discovery Channel, TLC, ID, Eurosport, Discovery History, Animal Planet, Discovery Shed, Home and Health, DMAX, Discovery Science and Discovery Turbo are all affected.

An on-air information message is running on all Discovery channels to communicate this news to Sky customers with effect from 8pm on Wednesday 25th January. Further information can be found at discoveryuk.com.

There are no changes to BT and Virgin Media customers, with whom Discovery has separate long-term agreements in place.

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