Virgin Media turns to OFT


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May 24, 2005
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Virgin Media turns to OFT

Pressure mounts on BSkyB in row over new contract

Virgin Media is to make a fresh complaint to the Office of Fair Trading after last week's bruising row with arch-rival BSkyB.

The group is to tell both the OFT and Ofcom, the regulator, that BSkyB's refusal to drop the price for some of its channels is further evidence of its dominance of the market.

The complaint will pile more pressure on BSkyB after the Government last week ordered Ofcom to investigate its controversial purchase of a 17.9 per cent stake in rival broadcaster ITV.

Virgin Media's television viewers have been without basic Sky channels since Thursday because the two companies failed to renegotiate their contract.

Virgin Media has accused BSkyB of doubling the cost of its package of basic channels, even though viewing figures for these have fallen. It claims BSkyB's approach is particularly inflexible, given that the broadcaster forced it to accept a 75 per cent price cut for Virgin's own Flextech channels, including Living TV, despite their rising audience share.

Ernie Cormier, Virgin Media's chief commercial officer, said: "We could have walked away and not done a deal. But that would have destroyed the business."

A BSkyB spokesman said: "Running a successful pay-TV business means offering content your customers really care about."

By Tim Webb
Published: 04 March 2007
© 2007 Independent News and Media Limited