22/07/2018 10:19 BST | Updated 22/07/2018 10:25 BST

Backlash After Virgin Media 'Wipes' Popular Channels Amid Business Dispute

Both sides in dispute seek to harness customer support.

Virgin Media marketing
Virgin Media and network UKTV, which owns the Dave comedy channel among others, are engaged in a remarkable business dispute.

Virgin Media customers have been left outraged after UKTV channels including Dave and Gold were wiped from “around four million” boxes due to a business dispute.

Some viewers declared they were cancelling their subscriptions, while others threatened to abandon the digital cable TV provider if the popular channels were not restored.

Talks between the firms failed to solve an impasse over fees and 10 channels, including five which are free-to-air, disappeared from subscribers’ televisions at midnight on Saturday.

Bosses have taken to exchanging a remarkable war of words over the situation, with Virgin Media alleging UKTV was unable to provide on-demand programming of the kind “expected of a modern day broadcaster”.

UKTV hit back, saying it “just can’t accept” Virgin’s drastic price cuts.

Meanwhile viewers were also left unable to access UKTV on-demand services via their Virgin Media sets.

Customers vented their frustration on social media, as both companies sought to harness support online.

Virgin Media’s Twitter account on Sunday posted a plea directly to UKTV to ”#SaveDave”. 

While UKTV hit back with its own social message, saying “we are still available on Sky”.

Free-to-air channels Dave, Drama, Home, Really and Yesterday, along with paid-for channels Gold, Alibi, Eden, Good Food and W were replaced on Sunday morning.

It leaves fans of shows including Taskmaster, Judge Romesh, Harrow and Red Dwarf unable to watch some of their favourite programmes as a result of the dispute.

Virgin Media has accused the broadcaster of seeking “inflated sums” to provide its paid channels.

David Bouchier, the cable TV firm’s chief digital entertainment officer, said they were ready to restore UKTV’s free channels, like Dave, “immediately” with its permission.

“We have been in extensive discussions with UKTV but we have not been able to reach an agreement which reflects the reality of how people are watching television in the 21st Century.

“UKTV is insisting on holding back its channels, like Dave, which are freely available over the air and online, unless we pay inflated sums of money for its paid channels like Gold.

“On top of this, UKTV is unable to provide the extensive on-demand programming which is expected of a modern day broadcaster.”

UKTV chief executive Darren Childs said it could not accept the “drastic” cut in price that Virgin was seeking to show the paid channels on its pay-to-view service.

“We’re hugely disappointed for the many customers who are losing out because our channels are no longer available through Virgin Media,” he said.

“We completely understand their frustration and would love to continue to bring them the shows and channels that they’re so passionate about, but we need a fair price to support our growing investment in programmes.

“The reality is that we just can’t accept the drastic price cut that Virgin wants.”

According to UKTV, “around four million households” were no longer able to access the channels after the midnight deadline passed.

The 10 channels are still available on other TV platforms including Sky, BT, Talk Talk, as well as Freeview and Freesat.

Viewers can also watch them online via UKTV Play.

With reporting from the Press Association.