Virgin Media and Sky have agreed a new multi-year agreement for the distribution of Sky’s content to Virgin Media’s cable TV customers, including the full line-up of Sky Sports’ high-defintion channels for the first time.
Through the five-year plus agreement, Virgin Media will continue to offer its customers the full range of Sky’s entertainment channels, including all Sky Sports channels and Sky Movies, though the deal excludes the carriage of Sky Atlantic.
Having previously offered subscribers only Sky Sports 1 HD and Sky Sports 2 HD as part of its TV service, Virgin customers will now get the chance to watch the full Sky Sports HD package, including Sky Sports 3 HD and Sky Sports 4 HD, the broadcaster’s home for live tennis and golf.
Sky Sports’ dedicated Formula 1 channel – Sky Sports F1 HD – will also be made available to Virgin cable subscribers for the first time, as will Sky Sports News HD and Sky News HD.
Virgin and Sky’s new deal is a significant extension of the existing three-year deal between the UK’s two biggest TV service companies, with both battling against BT TV and its new sports network BT Sport, launched in August 2013.
The new deal means that Virgin Media is the only UK TV service that is able to offer all of Sky Sports and BT Sport channels without the need for separate contracts with the two sports broadcasters.
At present, Sky customers need to sign a separate deal with BT to receive BT Sport, whereas Virgin Media’s top level TV packages now includes access to all nine channels in both standard and high-deinition.
BT’s own TV service is currently unable to offer all Sky Sports channels, but the telecoms giant won a court battle in February to force the competition tribunal to re-examine its decision to stop BSkyB being forced to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 to rivals at a discount.
The addition of the four remaining Sky Sports HD channels to the Virgin TV service is to come at no extra cost to customers with the existing Premium HD bundle, which is currently at £7 extra a month.
In addition to access to HD channels, Virgin TV customers will be able to access their Sky channels on multiple devices, including computers and, for the first time, selected tablets and mobiles via the Virgin TV Anywhere app.
From the summer, those TV customers with subscriptions to Sky Sports and Sky Movies will also be able to access live and on demand content on the go through Sky Sports and Sky Movies apps.
The carriage deal between Virgin Media and BSkyB has been struck just days after rival BT disclosed plans to continue offering its BT Sport channels for free to its broadband customers for the next Premier League season.
Jeremy Darroch, Chief Executive, Sky, comments: “We’re pleased to have extended our partnership with Virgin Media, which increases the reach of our content and reinforces our broadly-based approach to growth.
“This agreement builds on our long-standing relationship with Virgin Media, enabling us to deliver our great channels to even more homes across the UK and opening up additional sources of revenue.”
Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are excited our customers will be able to watch even more great TV from Sky on more devices as a result of the most extensive agreement ever signed between Virgin Media and Sky.
“This promises to be a fantastic summer of entertainment and our customers, whether at home or on the go, will get to enjoy Sky’s range of channels for years to come as a result of our investment.”