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Discovery channels yanked from Russian platform

Discovery’s channels have been pulled from Russian pay TV platform Tricolor in argument over pricing.

The US-listed channel operator distributes a portfolio of eleven channels in Russia through Media Alliance, a new business it formed with Russia’s National Media Group last year, and which ensured compliance with amended local media laws.

Media Alliance has now suspended its carriage deal with Tricolor, Russia’s largest pay TV operator, amid the dispute over fees. The Hollywood Reporter was the first to cover the news.

Discovery confirmed the channels has been taken down. The company runs channels including Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, lifestyle channel TLC, as well as sports network Eurosport in Russia.

The Discovery HD, Eurosport HD and TLC HD are carried on Tricolor. Discovery maintains it wants a fair price for its content.

“Tricolor TV has put forward an offer that does not reflect the investment we are constantly making in content,” Media Alliance said in a statement issued to TBI.

“Moreover, the proposal of the operator would put them in a privileged position relative to the entire market. Our goal is to assure fair and equal conditions for each participant in the market.”

Discovery has been pushing for higher affiliate fees from platforms in recent times. Media Alliance said today that high quality content requires investment, and well-known programmes and channels drive the pay TV business.

“When consumers use pay-tv services, they pay not for equipment set but for content first and foremost,” it said.

“Consumers pick an operator or specific bundle based on the channels they want to watch. We know Russian viewers love Discovery Channel, TLC, Eurosport…and our goal is to make our content available to all, while being able to continuously invest in new, high quality programming.”

Media Alliance was formed after Russia amended its law on mass media at the end of 2014, limiting foreign ownership of media companies in Russia to 20%, down from 50%. The new rules came into effect on January 1, 2016.

Broadcast groups such as Modern Times Group chose to withdraw from the market, but Discovery remained firmly committed.