At the beginning of 2017, Sky almost lost the rights to broadcast several Discovery Communications channels, including Eurosport and Animal Planet. Thankfully for Sky customers, an agreement was reached in the nick of time. Here’s all you need to know about the spat between Sky and Discovery, including which channels were under threat and how the bad feelings went public.
In January 2017, Sky and Discovery Communications Inc. viciously negotiated terms to keep Discovery's free-to-air and pay TV channels available to Sky and Now TV customers. Negotiations proved less than fruitful however, with the companies trading some rather harsh words in the press. Luckily Sky and Discovery finally reached an agreement on deadline day (January 31), so the channels will be staying after all.
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Why did talks break down between Sky and Discovery?
Discovery is enjoying increased viewership in Europe at the moment, but in America it's suffering from a drop in subscriber numbers. Advertising revenue has also been less strong than hoped, so the company tried to fill the hole by demanding a larger cut from pay TV services like Sky.
Relationships between Discovery and Sky were also frayed thanks to the recent acquisition of Sky by Fox. Some of Discovery's biggest rival channels such as National Geographic are owned by Fox, which certainly won't help to relieve any tension in the ongoing talks.
In fact, Discovery directly referenced the deal between Sky and Fox in its official statement:
“We are concerned that with the recently announced Fox transaction, Sky’s market strength and incentive to disadvantage independent TV content providers will only increase.”
Sky responded by knocking Discovery for providing mostly live content rather than on demand shows, which it provides through its Catch Up and Sky Box Sets services. Sky also pointed out that viewers for the flagship Discovery Channel had dropped significantly in the past decade, but Discovery claims that this channel has twice the viewership of National Geographic.
Negotiations faltered, despite Sky offering hundreds of millions of pounds to keep the channels. Discovery demanded almost £1 billion however, according to Sky, which the broadcasting company told us was too much.
Sky said: “We have worked really hard for more than a year to get a deal done for our customers with Discovery, so we are disappointed with their misleading claims and aggressive actions.
"Sadly, we have now had to prepare for Discovery to take their channels away from Sky customers, as they have threatened to do. It is Discovery’s choice to do this, not ours. We never left the negotiating table and they haven’t come back to it since they made their threats public this week."
How was an agreement gr aed between Sky and Discovery?
The companies had until January 31 to reach an agreement, and it was on this day that they managed to secure a deal to keep the channels broadcasting on Sky TV. In the end, it was Discovery who caved and agreed to Sky's original offer.
Stephen van Rooyen, the CEO of Sky in the UK, said: “We are pleased that we will continue to carry the Discovery and Eurosport channels on Sky. The deal has been concluded on the right terms after Discovery accepted the proposal we gave them over a week ago. This is a good outcome for all Sky customers.
"We are also delighted to be announcing today a new deal with PBS America that will bring the best of PBS's factual programming to Sky, covering history, science, current affairs, arts and culture. We are also adding over 1,000 hours of programming to our On Demand service from channels like History and National Geographic. This means ours customers can enjoy the very best factual programming available.”
Which channels have been saved by the Sky Discovery negotiations?
The following Discovery Communications channels were under threat, along with their +1 and HD versions.