Discovery, Sky trade barbs as channel deadline looms

Discovery series Gold Rush

Discovery series Gold Rush

Discovery and Sky have both upped the ante in the bitter carriage dispute that will see twelve Discovery nets pulled from the pay TV platform this week unless a last-minute deal can be reached.

Sky said over the weekend that Discovery has demanded almost £1 billion (US$1.25 billion) for its portfolio of channels. Discovery, meanwhile, continued its on air, online and media assault, and accused Sky of using ‘alternative facts’ in its messaging.

The Discovery channels will go dark from Wednesday on Sky in the UK and in Germany if an eleventh-hour deal isn’t agreed. Discovery told TBI it has never walked away from negotiations and remains hopeful a deal can be reached.

The two sides dispute the value of the carriage deal. On its Twitter feed Sky accused Discovery of asking for too great an increase in its deal. “The US$12 billion American business asked the Sky Group to pay close to £1 billion [US$1.3 billion],” it wrote. “They don’t believe hundreds of millions are enough.”

Discovery disputes this, saying it is being paid 2006 rates and has asked for a ‘few pennies’ more per subscriber than in its previous deal.

Amid claims that Sky is prioritising spending on football rights, the pay TV platform said that it will reallocate the Discovery fees on content from around the world, original programming, and home-grown docs. It added that it had tried for over a year to strike a new deal with Discovery and was “disappointed with their misleading claims and aggressive actions”.

A Discovery spokesman said the channels provider did not recognise the US$1 billion figure referenced.

The company has also been on the offensive on social media claiming the internet has been set alight by a social media storm as a result of consumers realising they might lose the Discovery channels. It said the #keepdiscovery hashtag had a reach of almost 50 million on Twitter.

A countdown clock on the Keep Discovery website is running down the hours until the channels are pulled from Sky.

Discovery has also mobilised support from talent across its nets including Katie Hopkins, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Gold Rush’s Parker Schnabel and Todd Hoffman, adventurer Ed Stafford, and Eurosport presenter Jonathan Edwards.

“We at Discovery are hugely humbled by the public support for our channels,” the company said. “The reaction from viewers and celebrities is staggering and we are really grateful.”

In a rare conciliatory note in the increasingly acrimonious dispute, Sky said on Twitter that “despite our differences, we love Discovery too”.