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Virgin Media UK Takes Flak for Automated Removal of TNT Sports

Tuesday, Jul 2nd, 2024 (9:05 am) - Score 2,880
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Some customers of broadband ISP and TV provider Virgin Media (O2), such as those who have previously taken one of their ‘Maxit‘ bundles that included access to TNT Sports (formerly BT Sport) TV content, have reacted with anger and confusion after the UK provider suddenly removed access to it and with only minimal prior notice.

Just for some context. The Maxit bundle was originally withdrawn from sale at the end of last summer (2023) and replaced with the Mega-TV bundle, which among other things stopped including TNT Sports and instead turned it into a chargeable (£18 per month) extra. But existing customers of the bundle were exempted from this, unless of course they changed they contract or existing bundle.

NOTE: The TNT Sports TV pack typically includes access to the following channels: TNT Sports 1 HD, TNT Sports 2 HD, TNT Sports 3 HD, TNT Sports 4 HD, TNT Sports Ultimate.

Since then it’s emerged that Virgin Media is in a dispute with TNT Sports, which is jointly owned by BT and Warner Bros Discovery (WBD), over broadcasting fees (Telegraph) and the renewal terms for their contract (due by the end of July 2024). Suffice to say that these two changes might help to explain why the provider recently sent the following message to those on packages that continue to include TNT Sports, much to the annoyance of their customers.

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In short, Virgin Media said they would automatically remove access to TNT Sport for customers that “haven’t viewed these channels in the last 6 months“, while at the same time offering no proportionate discount for the loss of the premium channel content.

Copy of Virgin Media’s Email to Customers

Hello

We wanted to let you know that we’re making a change to the way we provide TNT Sports channels in order to continue to provide the best value entertainment packages for our customers. We’ve noticed that you haven’t viewed these channels in the last 6 months, and therefore we’re removing automatic access to them from 30th June 2024. Don’t worry, nothing else is changing. If you wish to re-activate TNT Sports, you can click here for more information.

Thanks

The Virgin Media team

However, some customers only received the email a few days prior to the 30th June 2024 deadline, while others claim not to have received any such communication (email is not the most reliable of delivery platforms) and a few may simply have overlooked it due to the relatively short notice of such a change. Needless to say, there are more than a few gripes about this to be found via social media and Virgin Media’s Community Forum.

In addition, a number of customers have complained that Virgin Media were incorrect to state that some of those affected “haven’t viewed these channels in the last 6 months“, with several people complaining that they had in fact viewed the channel within that period and questioning the accuracy of the provider’s statement. Not to mention the usual issues with some of Virgin’s support agents either not knowing about the change or making incorrect account changes or statements when asked.

Sample Customer Complaint 1

“It does appear to be genuine but wth, they’re saying they’ll remove some channels and not reduce the price of my package. Why would anyone agree to that? Just like I haven’t watched any of the shopping channels. Does this mean I then have to click through every channel every so often? What nonsense.”

Sample Customer Complaint 2

“Also had this email today and am lost for words. I pay a premium price for services and channels, to be told because I’ve not viewed the channels in the last six months (which I have) that I will loose access. Virgin are quite happy to increase prices but I did not spot a price reduction or incentive in the email to loose access.”

Sample Customer Complaint 3

“I had the same email today and record TNT almost every weekend.

Got on the online chat and they said they could reinstate but price would go up as it’s not included in Maxxit anymore. I complained and the chat person said they spoke to a manager and it would be free til the end of my contract.

An hour later I get an email confirming a new contract that my bill was going up by £20 a month due to TNT and that the next payment would be £40 more than I normally pay!!!!

I have just got off the phone and the chap confirmed that he could see that the account has over 90hrs of viewing on TNT but explained that since January it has been separate from packages which was why the bill had gone up. I complained again saying my contract was agreed and that included BT/TNT sport. I have been assured that my account will be corrected and continue at the original price til it ends in December. But we will see I guess!!!!!”

Sample Customer Complaint 4

“I have watched TNT Sports regularly over the last six months so VM are plain wrong to suggest I haven’t (or have rarely) done so. Why have I received this email? There are lots of channels on my package that I have never watched but VM aren’t taking those away.”

One of Virgin Media’s forum support agents, Akua_A, later clarified that their email had been sent to customers who have both “zero or low usage of the TNT Sports channels“, which is a bit different from the “haven’t viewed” statement in their official email.

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However, just to be clear, if you did click the email link in time then Virgin’s T&C’s say you will be “signing up to re-activate the TNT Sports subscription to your package as an optional add-on, at no additional cost“. But they add that “this offer only remains valid whilst you are subscribed to the Maxit TV product and all other components of your current bundle. If you upgrade any aspect of the service, standard pricing will apply to that upgrade.”

The other catch in the T&C’s is that Virgin said their “offer is only valid whilst Virgin Media has this content in its current form, channels and content are subject to change with limited notice,” which could spell bad news in the near future if they fail to reach an agreement for continued access to TNT Sports.

A Virgin Media spokesperson said:

“As we continue to evolve our TV offering to give our customers more choice aligned to their viewing habits, we’re making some changes to how we offer TNT Sports, whereby it will exist as an optional offering. We know many of our customers enjoy watching TNT’s channels which they can continue doing with no changes to the price they pay.”

The 30th June 2024 has of course now come and gone, which seems to have produced another set of problems, with some customers complaining that they filled out the form in time and yet the channels have still been removed. One of Virgin’s forum support agents, Tom_W, has since acknowledged that “we are working through these forms as a priority – we do sincerely apologise for the delays have brought this over the 48-hour timescales advised, but hopefully this is all resolved for you as soon as possible.”

The best advice, if you’ve been affected by this change, is to contact Virgin Media directly to complain if you feel the channels have now been unfairly or incorrectly removed and wish to reverse that, but do it quickly. Admittedly, contacting Virgin’s support teams is often an exercise in crossing your fingers and hoping that the individual you reach actually has correct knowledge of the situation, which sadly isn’t always the case.

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As a side note, asking customers to click on a link in an email is generally a poor approach because such communications are often easily be copied / cloned by phishing attacks.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
3 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Ben says:

    Hopefully the continued expansion of AltNets (and OR FTTP) will see an end this sort of monopoly-like behaviour from Virgin.

    1. Avatar photo tech3475 says:

      Doubtful, that would require Virgin Media to invest in their CS.

    2. Avatar photo Martyn says:

      how the hell is an altnet going to get you a good tv deal?

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