Virgin Media plans to squeeze channels for top billing on its next TV platform

Oliver Gill
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Virgin Media was sold by Richard Branson to Liberty Global in 2013 (Source: Getty)

Virgin Media is poised to open up a valuable new income stream by auctioning off premium slots on its TV platform.

The Liberty Global-backed firm is consulting with broadcasters over changes to its Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) policy.

Under current rules BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have guaranteed premium spots on TV providers' platforms.

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Virgin Media is not planning to alter the position of these broadcasters. But it does want to offer high profile spots alongside them to other stations through a tender process.

A spokesperson for Virgin Media said: “Given the significant changes in the TV industry, we now feel that it is time to refresh our EPG Policy.

Our new policy, which is currently being consulted upon, is designed to ensure the best and fairest outcome when positioning services, taking into consideration our customers, channel partners and of course the regulatory commitments we operate under.

Virgin Media's EPG has not been substantially overhauled since 2008. It is understood that the bidding process will not be based solely on financial terms.

Instead the channel's popularity and the content it produces will be taken into account. This means, for example, adult channels would not be in a position of featuring prominently no matter how much money they are prepared to stump up.

In particular the sixth most prominent slot, previously occupied by BBC Three, is up for grabs.

Broadcasters will also be able to pitch for slots in sub-genres, positioned next to rivals.

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The move compares with rival Sky, which allows broadcasters to trade slots with one another.

If Virgin Media goes ahead with the plans, the next stage will be a tendering process whereby channels put in offers to the media firm.

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