Telewest almost drops MTV

By | December 6, 2001 at 12:00 AM

MTV, the once invincible music station, almost lost its place on one of the UK’s biggest cable networks because of competition from new stations developed by the British magazines, Q and Smash Hits.

It has been forced to lower its charges dramatically in order to remain accessible to viewers signed up to Telewest.

MTV Networks, the music television arm of Viacom that also includes VH1 and a variety of genre specific channels, is understood to have dropped its charges after Telewest decided the fee it was paying for each subscriber was too high.

Telewest had said it would dump MTV from its 600,000 cable homes if terms were not renegotiated to its satisfaction.

The proliferation of new music channels, particularly those developed from Emap-owned magazines, has given pay-TV operators a variety of alternatives to MTV.

Figures from the industry body, Barb, show MTV’s six channels have an audience share of 1.45% compared with 1.07% for the six channels run by Emap.

Telewest has traditionally paid MTV around 70p per subscriber per month for access to all its channels, compared with the estimated 20p per subscriber charged by the Emap channels.

However, it understood intense negotiations and threats by Telewest to dump MTV have forced the US-owned firm to drop its charges to about 40p per subscriber.

A Telewest spokesman refused to comment on the terms of the deal but said: “We’re delighted to have renewed our deal. MTV is a terrific brand and an excellent content provider.”

MTV is likely to face similar battles when its contracts with BSkyB and NTL come up for renewal.

Analysts say cable and satellite TV companies are exerting increasing power over channel providers because they are able to deny channels distribution and a route through which to sell to advertisers.