Last night Virgin's carriage deal with Sky ended with a bump. Rather than stump up the extra money Sky demanded -- rumoured to be nearly double the amount Virgin was previously paying -- the cable company decided to ditch Sky's non-premium channels, yanking them from its programme listings.
While we have no doubt this is a stunt by Virgin to turn punters against Sky, and establish itself as a martyr in the entertainment industry, we can see why. Sky One is going to be the channel most people are going to miss. But many of the shows on that channel either end up being broadcast elsewhere, or are available via a video-on-demand service. If Crave was sceptical, we'd suggest the more Virgin makes its customers think it's all Murdoch's fault, the less likely they are to ask for refunds.
Those who love 24, Lost, Battlestar Galactica and Stargate will be gutted they can no longer watch those shows, but Virgin has already announced that its on-demand service Virgin Central will be offering episodes of Lost seasons one, two and three as well as The OC, Nip/Tuck and Alias. If they could add some of the other favourites, and classic episodes of The Simpsons, we think the pain would be significantly less.
Perhaps, like the Cylons, Virgin has a master plan. It's possible the company will launch its own general entertainment channel and try and poach some of Sky's biggest shows. Or perhaps it will try to show all of the biggest Sky One programmes on its Virgin Central on-demand service and try to cut out Sky entirely.
However you look at it, this isn't great news for the companies who make the programmes, who need broadcasting to work so they can earn money on their product. Virgin, like many others, offers super-fast broadband. It's increasingly easy for people to go to BitTorrent sites to get their American drama fix. The TV gods may squabble, but the great Internet god drives around them.
In addition to Sky One, Sky News and Sky Sports News, Virgin subscribers have also lost Sky Travel, but Crave is glad to see the back of that particular infomercial extravaganza -- perhaps one of the worst televisual offerings in the history of broadcasting. -IM