Virgin launches rival to Sky One

Channel to kick off in fall

LONDON — The ongoing spat between U.K. cable platform Virgin Media and satcaster BSkyB moved up another notch with news that Virgin is to launch a rival to BSkyB’s flagship entertainment web, Sky One.

Virgin 1, which will be available on free-to-air service Freeview, will bow in the fall enabling the outfit to provide “more muscle to acquire and commission the very best U.S. and U.K. programming.”

However, precisely what exclusive shows will be on the new channel is unclear.

The new service will feature user-generated content alongside fare from Virgin Media’s existing pay-TV channels, such as Living, Bravo, Challenge and Trouble.

“Virgin 1 will shake up multichannel and free-to-air TV and start liberating viewers from the linear schedule,” claimed Jonathan Webb, managing director of Virgin Media Television.

Celia Taylor has been tapped as director of programming for Virgin 1, in addition to her existing responsibilities for Bravo, Bravo 2, Challenge and Trouble.

She will report to Virgin Media TV director of television, Claudia Rosencrantz.

News of Virgin 1’s launch follows a bullish statement from the Nasdaq-quoted combo, which claims the loss of TV subscribers is expected to stabilize during the second quarter of 2007.

This is despite BSkyB pulling a number of its channels from the cable platform, including Sky One, in a dispute over carriage fees.

Virgin Media indicated that following a “better than expected” performance during April and May it expects the number of TV subscribers to be “roughly flat” during April-June, in contrast to an earlier forecast indicating it expected to lose customers.

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