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The impact of UKTV channels being removed from Virgin Media

As of 22nd July, Virgin Media customers have found that they can no longer access UKTV’s suite of channels following a pricing dispute between the companies.

In what has broken out into a very public negotiation battle, Virgin Media has said that UKTV’s asking price was too high – and it wouldn’t open up its content to on-demand viewing. Meanwhile, UKTV has hit out at what it claims is a drastic price reduction from the Pay TV provider.

This type of public fallout is relatively unprecedented in recent times, in January 2017 the Discovery-branded channels were very close to being pulled from Sky until an 11th-hour deal saved the day. The UKTV dispute currently shows no signs of abating, Steve North (General Manager for UK TV) ran a promoted video on Twitter urging Virgin customers to contact them requesting they reinstate UK TV channels. Whilst Virgin released a statement calling out the lack of on-demand offering for Virgin customers, with UKTV keeping their Play service exclusive.

So what impact do we believe this will have on the delivery of our campaigns? The official line from our C4 sales director is that Virgin represents 15% of UK TV impacts and whilst this will undoubtedly cause delivery issues they will be doing all they can to mitigate these. Looking at TGI does appear to validate the impact figure, as of the Q2 TGI 2018 survey, 15% of households were reportd as using Virgin to access TV services. Although it is worth noting that Virgin households are 10% more likely than the national average to have watched UK TV channels in the past week.

Looking at over-night data, we can see that the removal of these stations from Virgin is having a varying impact on TVRs:

Other factors, such as school holidays are in play here, but the week on week for Monday 23rd July, we are seeing variability of between 20-40% in drop in ratings on key performance stations. Dave being the outlier.

This is a concern; across varying campaigns, clients and target audiences we have seen the UKTV portfolio generally perform well in driving response. Looking at a retail client at All Response Media who uses the C4 Dig portfolio extensively we can see that the UKTV stations bring a blend of volume and efficiency drivers from our bespoke analysis tool RAPSURE ™:

So how will we be managing the situation at All Response Media?

  1.  As always teams will be pulling through spot times on a daily basis to monitor overnights and over/under-deliveries. Whilst UKTV are likely to have delivery issues, our TV buyers will be engaging in daily calls with C4 to push for value
  2.  As the situation stabilises and we get a clearer view of average ratings, your account team will be assessing August schedules and expectations for delivery on UKTV. If issues are expected, using insight from RAPSURE the team will plan and agree with you on the best placement for the residual UKTV budget
  3.  Moving forward, planning teams will ensure that the reduction in ratings for UKTV stations is implemented into planning forecasts and budget distributed into the next strongest performing lines on your plan

All Response Media will be hoping for a quick resolution to the fallout, but as always, we will be reactive, and results focussed to ensure our clients’ campaigns are managed as effectively as possible.