ITV, Virgin Move on From Dispute With Broadcast Content Deal

(Bloomberg) -- Britain’s biggest free-to-air commercial broadcaster ITV Plc agreed to a three-year content deal with cable-TV provider Virgin Media, moving on from a dispute over payments.

ITV demanded for years that Virgin, a unit of John Malone’s Liberty Global Plc, pay a so-called retransmission fee to show its main channel ITV1. The agreement comes as new ITV Chief Executive Officer Carolyn McCall stamps her mark on the company she joined in January.

“This exciting new commercial partnership has many benefits for both our businesses and for consumers,” McCall said in a statement on Friday.

Virgin subscribers will be able to access all ITV channels live and on demand under the deal, with Virgin agreeing to expand advertising and marketing of ITV programming, the companies said.

ITV shows include reality-TV hit “Love Island,” period drama “Downton Abbey” and the world’s longest running TV soap opera, “Coronation Street.”

ITV and Virgin did not disclose commercial terms, saying only that the deal “maintains both parties’ respective long-held positions on the issue of retransmission fees for the future.”

Retransmission payments from Virgin for ITV1 could be worth about 40 million pounds ($52 million) to ITV, giving a 4 percent boost to its annual profits, Liberum media analyst Ian Whittaker said in September. Virgin might bundle the payments into a wider deal with ITV without making them explicit, he added.

Virgin is locked in a separate dispute with multichannel broadcaster UKTV over fee payments, leading to UKTV channels such as Dave and Gold not being available for Virgin’s 4 million pay-TV customers since last week.

“This deal with ITV is fundamentally important for Virgin given how the UKTV saga has played out in the public eye,” said Paolo Pescatore, an independent media and telecom analyst. “ITV still holds a lot of weight in the U.K. in terms of its channels.”

ITV’s shares were up 0.6 percent to 166.25 pence at 4:19 p.m. in London.

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