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Virgin Media pulls feed from Eir platforms in sports content standoff

Dani Olmo of RB Leipzig is challenged by Marcos Llorente of Atletico Madrid during the Uefa Champions League Quarter Final match (Photo by Miguel A. Lopes/Pool via Getty Images)

Virgin Media has suspended the supply of its sports channels to fellow Irish telco Eir over a payment dispute, leaving the latter’s customers without access to Uefa Champions League football coverage.

Last August, Virgin Media and Eir agreed a deal to carry their key sports channels on each other’s television platforms. As part of the deal, Virgin Media Sport is available as part of the Eir Sport package and in turn, Eir Sport is available to Virgin Media TV customers.

Virgin Media Sport’s rights portfolio includes Champions League and Europa League matches, as well as Uefa Nations League action and rugby competitions such as the Six Nations and European Champions Cup.

Virgin Media Sport has been broadcasting the latter stages of the Champions League and Europa League, with the coverage also available to Eir Sport customers. However, the latter’s subscribers were unable to watch last night’s Champions League clash between RB Leipzig and Atlético Madrid after Virgin Media Sport pulled the plug.

In a statement posted on Twitter last night, Virgin Media Sport said: “We have suspended our supply of Virgin Media Sport and Virgin Media Sport Extra to Eir Sport because eir has failed to pay the contracted distribution licence fee.”

Eir responded to Virgin Media Sport’s claims by stating that Virgin had refused to agree to renewed terms in their contract.

“In common with other live entertainment businesses operating through this pandemic, Eir Sports can only pay for the sports events that actually take place,” Eir said in a statement to the Irish press.

“We have consistently offered fair terms to each of our live sports content providers to reflect the reduced timetable, however, Virgin Media has not agreed to updated terms and has taken the unreasonable step of unilaterally withholding their feed from Virgin Media Sports viewers on the Eir network.”

Financial terms of Eir’s agreement with Virgin Media were not disclosed but the Irish Times reported that the deal involves a “multi-million Euro annual fee”.