Live TV may shut down

Like others, it opposes unbundling cable and sat packages

LONDON — Kelvin MacKenzie, the flamboyant deputy chief exec of the Mirror Group, has warned that he will have to shut down Live TV — home to the news bunny and the bikini-clad weather girl — if plans to unbundle cable and satellite channel packages proceed.

The ITC, the U.K.’s commercial TV regulator, intends to allow cable operators and satcaster BSkyB to unbundle channels. Channels are currently guaranteed carriage to at least 80% of subscribers.

Fears of losing distribution have so far prompted Universal to threaten not to locate its European headquarters in London, and Viacom to pull out and move to the continent.

Those threats are at least in part posturing, but a British cable channel like Live is undoubtedly legitimately vulnerable. It, like many niche channels in the U.K., is functioning in the red, and does not have a parent with pockets as deep as Universal or Viacom.

In a letter to British MPs, MacKenzie — a former editor of the News Corp. tabloid the Sun — said that Live and other chan-nels “have been built on the back of contracts with cable companies guaranteeing distribution to all cable homes, and would not have been launched without it.”

The Mirror Group has threatened to sue the ITC if it does not back off on unbundling. The ITC argues, however, that bundling is anti-competitive and forces subscribers to pay for services they do not want.

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