Sky agree to new broadcast deal with Discovery

2 February 2017, 13:50   By Samantha Smith

SKY and Discovery have agreed to a new broadcast deal, after conflicts between the two over terms and fees threatened to take Discovery's 12 TV channels off the air.

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Credit: J.Wallace Presents/

Such a threat caused an uproar on social media and even in the celebrity world, with figures as diverse as Ronnie O'Sullivan, Colin Murray and Jonathan Edwards rallying to prevent Discovery's disappearance from Sky and NOW TV platforms.

However, wrangling over the amount Sky had to pay Discovery in fees was resolved at the eleventh hour, ensuring that 10 million households will still be able to enjoy the likes of the Discovery Channel, Eurosport, TLC, Animal Planet, and Discovery History "for years to come".

A grassroots outcry?

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Despite this resolution, it's still not clear whether Sky ended up offering Discovery more money, or whether Discovery simply caved in and accepted the offered amount which led to the dispute in the first place.

Regardless, it appears that millions of people were mildly horrified by the prospect of not being able to watch Discovery's varied range of documentaries and sporting programmes.

There was a veritable Twitter storm over this possibility, with the ex-Moto GP racer James Haydon being one of several famed personalities to voice their displeasure:

He was, of course, joined by "thousands" of less celebrated fans, some of whom took the opportunity to have a dig at Sky:

At the heart of such tweets was the #keepdiscovery hashtag, uniting social media users in a grassroots campaign to convince Sky to give up sufficient ground to Discovery in their negotiations.

And yet, as is often the case in many a "spontaneous" Twitter campaign, this hashtag was coined and spread by Discovery themselves.

The broadcaster clearly wanted to create a public outcry that would put extra pressure on Sky, so on January 25 they posted the following on Twitter:

It's also worth noting that many of the celebrities tweeting in support of the campaign - including James Haydon and Jonathan Edwards - are presenters for Eurosport.

In light of this, it appears that the "public outcry" was at least in part a marketing exercise, staged in order to threaten Sky with an unfortunate backlash if they didn't make Discovery a better offer.

At the last minute

Such an offer had to be made by January 31st, which was when Discovery's previous agreement with Sky would come to an end.

If this date were passed without any resolution, then Discovery's fans would indeed have found themselves without the ability to watch much of their favourite programming.

Our fans' voices were heard loud and clear. They want choice and great TV and I cannot stress how much we love them for their support.
Susanna Dinnage, Discovery Networks UK

Instead, a deal was reached on the deadline day, although both sides are being understandably tight-lipped about its precise terms.

In fact, not only are they not providing exact details, but they're also contradicting each other as to which side ultimately gave up the necessary ground.

Sky's UK CEO Stephen van Rooyen, for example, said, "The deal has been concluded on the right terms after Discovery accepted the proposal we gave them over a week ago."

This statement was also reiterated to us by a Sky spokesperson. It would therefore suggest that, despite their attempts to bring the weight of the public to bear in the dispute, Discovery weren't able to dislodge Sky from the position the latter held on January 25th.

More or less money?

As reported at the time, Sky were rumoured to be offering Discovery less money, largely because of their desire to cut costs after throwing impressive amounts of cash after football broadcast rights.

Sky have also invested in this year's launch of their own mobile service, another expense which would conceivably give them more reason to limit spending on channels.

That said, Discovery seem to be claiming they didn't accept less money. A spokesperson for them told us, "The deal we reached with Sky is meaningfully better than our former agreement and their proposal."

He wasn't able to clarify just how it is "meaningfully better" but he did add, "our new arrangement enables us to control our destiny in more ways, with even more opportunities to invest and launch channels and consumer services".

If this is true, then it would seem that everyone has walked away happier from the resulting deal, especially those millions of viewers who can continue to watch Discovery's expanding range of channels without - it seems - having to pay more for their Sky subscription.

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