Saturday, August 31, 2019

Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central Could Be Pulled Virgin Media in the UK as Carriage Deadline Looms

Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central could be pulled from British pay-TV service Virgin Media as the deadline for carriage negotiations between Viacom and the Liberty Global-owned platform approaches.

Update (31/8) - Viacom has been displaying on-screen messages to Virgin Media UK customers on numerous channels, directing viewers to a website - - to find out more information and to register their protest using hashtags on social media. According to messages being sent to customers, the channels were due to be axed at midnight on 31st August 2019 if a deal couldn't be reached.

The channels, as well as a number of Channel 5 spin-offs including 5Star, as well as Nicktoons, Nick Jr., VH1 and Paramount, could go black on the service as soon as this weekend if the two companies do not reach an agreement. “We are in ongoing negotiations with Virgin Media,” a Viacom spokesman told Deadline.

The move could lead to the loss of shows such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Impractical Jokers, Peppa Pig, PAW Patrol, The Loud House, Friends and Peppa Pig but Viacom’s free-to-air network Channel 5 is not affected.

It is the latest carriage concern for Viacom internationally; the company struck a last minute carriage deal with AT&T in the U.S, which avoided the blackout of channels including MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and the Paramount Network will on AT&T’s DirecTV, Watch TV and U-Verse services.

Carriage is becoming an increasingly fraught issue both in the U.S. and in the UK in the last twelve months. CBS had a carriage dispute with AT&T which saw stations in New York City, Los Angeles and across the nation go dark on DirecTV, DirecTV Now and U-verse cable systems for a couple of weeks before a deal was signed.

In the UK, Virgin Media subscribers were left without UKTV channels including Taskmaster network Dave and Flack broadcaster W after the two companies warred for weeks. Discovery and Sky also had a public carriage row in 2017 that saw the factual broadcaster call out the pay-TV broadcaster, then backed by the Murdochs, for “refusing to pay a fair price”.

There was a similar dispute in the UK nearly 15 years ago, when Telewest Broadband's cable service dropped Nickelodeon channels on December 17th, 2004. They were re-added to the service on February 12th 2005. Telewest later merged with NTL, which later renamed itself to Virgin Media. Leading up to the blackout, Nickelodeon's channels in the UK aired promos advising viewers to ring up Telewest and ask them to keep Nickelodeon, Nicktoons and Nick Jr.

A Virgin Media spokesman told Deadline, “All of these channels remain on Virgin TV and we continue to have positive and constructive discussions with Viacom.”

Which channels would be affected by a dispute with Viacom?

5 Star
5 Spike
5 Select
Nick Jr.
Nick Jr. Too
Comedy Central
Comedy Central Extra
MTV Music
MTV Rocks
MTV Base
MTV Hits
Club MTV

More Nick: Nicktoons UK to Premiere New Episodes of 'SpongeBob SquarePants' from Monday 2nd September 2019!

Originally published: Friday, August 30, 2019 at 19:06 BST.

Update H/T: Special thanks to RegularCapital for the update!
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