Sky vs Discovery row: Who is right?
Last week, it was announced Discovery Communications’ portfolio of channels would be removed from the Sky platform after negotiations broke down over a pay dispute.
Discovery Communications has thirteen channels available on Sky and NOW TV, including Discovery Channel, TLC, ID, Eurosport 1, Eurosport 2, Quest, Discovery History, Animal Planet, Discovery Shed, Home and Health, DMax, Discovery Science and Discovery Turbo.
If Discovery Communications and Sky don’t reach an agreement, the above channels will be pulled from Sky from tomorrow, February 1.
What’s the row about?
Discovery say that they are not receiving a “fair price” from Sky for their content. Susanna Dinnage, MD of Discovery Networks UK, has suggested the media giant is using “its dominant market position to further its own commercial interest over those of viewers and independent broadcasters.”
“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.”
The implication is that Sky are looking for a way to cut costs after agreeing a new deal for Premier League rights that will increase costs by some £314m.
Sky say they are prepared to pay a “fair price” for Discovery’s portfolio, but must also account for the long-term fall in Discovery ratings.
In a statement, Sky said: “We were prepared to pay a fair price for the Discovery and Eurosport channels and invest more in those channels to make them even better for our customers.
“We have offered hundreds of millions of pounds to Discovery, a US$12bn American business, but that wasn’t enough. They asked the Sky Group to pay close to £1bn for their portfolio of channels, many of which are in decline.
“Sky doesn’t boot channels off our platform. If Discovery don’t want their channels to disappear, as their public campaign suggests, they could have made arrangement to stay on Sky, including free to air with advertising funding or with their own subscription, but they’ve chosen not to do so.”
Who is right?
There is some disagreement over the change in Discovery’s viewership over the last few years. In Discovery’s official portfolio, they claim that their viewings share has increased by more than 20% since 2010. According to Discovery, 5.5 million people watch their channels on Sky or streaming service NOW TV.
However, Sky claim that Discovery’s linear viewings are down by 15% in the last year and its share of viewing is down 20% compared to 2006. Discovery has not denied this but has pointed out Sky’s overall viewing ratings have declined by 22%.
The question is whether this possible decline in ratings is worth a huge reduction in choice for Sky customers. Discovery’s argument that Sky is choosing mainstream entertainment over specialist individual stories remains. Their channels offer many shows unavailable elsewhere, including Cake Boss and Say Yes to the Dress on TLC, Gold Rush and Idris Elba: Fighter on Discovery and the US Open on Eurosport.
It could be asked if the money is really an issue, given the average Sky Entertainment bundle including Discovery Channels has increased in price by 50% since 2006.
We are living in a golden age of television, but this did not come about in a vacuum. A phenomenal increase in channels over the last decade has led to an enormous increase in competition for viewers. In order to attract viewers, channels must put more imagination, effort and resources into their programming than ever before.
In 2017, television fans are watching some of the highest quality programming in decades. It has happened because of an increase in consumer choice. Any moves to inhibit and damage this progress must thus be seen as a move to damage the customer experience. And that is not okay.
For information on how you can help #KeepDiscovery on Sky, please visit http://www.keepdiscovery.co.uk/.