Discovery threatens to pull 12 channels from Sky in war over independence

Discovery owns popular show formats such as Man vs Wild with Bear Grylls

Discovery has declared war on Sky following a dispute over fair pricing that could see 12 channels pulled from the pay-TV provider at the end of the month.

The owner of channels including Discovery, TLC and Eurosport has called Sky’s buying strategy a “threat to the future and vitality of independent broadcasters”.

It comes after the two broadcasters failed to reach an agreement over a new carriage deal, as Sky “refuses to pay a fair price” for Discovery’s portfolio of channels. The independent broadcaster claims it is paid less now for its channels than it was in 2006, despite a rise in the price of Sky subscriptions.

Discovery is also disputing a hike in prices after it has increased its share of viewing on the Sky platform by more than 20%, and increased investment in original content by more than 30% since 2010, adding new channels Eurosport, TLC and Investigation Discovery to its portfolio.

Sky has called the price expectations for the Discovery portfolio "completely unrealistic".

A sky spokesperson added: "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."

"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," said Susanna Dinnage, managing director of Discovery Networks UK and Ireland.

"Somebody has to stand up for consumers, because consumers believe they are paying for choice and diversity – they deserve better."

The broadcaster has asserted that it will pull its 12 channels from Sky and NowTV services after 31 January if a fair agreement is not reached. Other channels in its portfolio include ID, Discovery History, Animal Planet, Discovery Shed, Home and Health, DMAX, Discovery Science and Discovery Turbo.

"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," said Dinnage.

“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 added.

Discovery ran an on-air message to Sky customers last night (25 January), informing viewers of the dispute and the looming threat of a channel blackout.

Jessica Goodfellow

The Drum's media reporter covering everything from publishing, TV, social media, radio and technology.

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