'Only Fools and Horses' with David Jason (Del Boy) and Roger Lloyd Pack (Boycie)
Switching off: classic programmes such as 'Only Fools and Horses'

Virgin Media will stop offering channels run by UKTV, a joint venture owned by the BBC that broadcasts the popular Dave and Gold channels, after talks over a new deal broke down.

The UKTV channels, which also include Good Food, Eden and Alibi, will disappear from Virgin Media’s TV service on Sunday unless a last-minute agreement is reached.

Virgin Media’s move has been caused by a dispute over rights to show certain programmes in the BBC archive.

UKTV includes “on demand” rights to series such as science fiction comedy Red Dwarf. But others such as Sherlock and Only Fools and Horses are not included because the BBC’s commercial division, BBC Studios (formerly BBC Worldwide), sells them separately to streaming services including Netflix and Amazon.

David Bouchier, Virgin Media’s head of entertainment, said that the BBC’s decision to sell the streaming rights to some of its most popular shows separately hurt UKTV. “It is increasingly an out of date and linear channel in an on-demand environment,” he said.

“It is a very strange and inconsistent environment that the BBC has created for itself in the secondary market. UKTV is collateral damage,” he said.

Mr Bouchier said that the archive BBC shows available on channels like Gold are the “bedrock and backbone of volume” for TV audiences. The decision to hold back streaming rights to those shows was “outrageous”, he said, and frustrating given modern viewing habits where fans “binge” on box sets and stream TV shows to their tablets and mobile phones.

UKTV meanwhile said that Virgin Media had requested a “significant cut in the fees that it pays” to carry the channels. Darren Childs, UKTV chief executive, said: “We want to continue to provide our channels to Virgin Media, but the huge cut in fees that Virgin has requested doesn’t reflect the value we bring to customers.

“The money we receive from platforms helps to pay for our record investment in high-quality programmes . . . If our 10 channels, including Dave, W, Gold and Alibi, are no longer available through Virgin, we will be hugely disappointed for the millions of customers who will lose out.”

UKTV channels account for more than a third of Virgin Media’s basic entertainment viewing but Mr Bouchier said he is confident that the new channels that will be offered instead — including Vice’s TV channel, Paramount and Premier Sports — will help attract younger viewers.

BBC Studios, which jointly owns UKTV with US company Discovery and has been linked with a buy out of the venture, said: “This is clearly an attempt to negotiate through the press. We are fully supportive of the approach taken by UKTV management, who are leading discussions.”

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