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Virgin loses senior exec

UBS delivers damning report

LONDON — U.K. pay-TV operator Virgin Media suffered another blow Wednesday with the news that long serving channel controller Louise Benham is to step down next month.

Benham, who is controller of gameshow channel Challenge and the teen skewing Trouble, has spent the last nine years with the company, which is embroiled in a bloody carriage dispute with rival paybox Sky.

News of her departure follows Tuesday’s publication of a report by investment bank UBS that suggests Virgin could lose as many as 400,000 subscribers as a result of the dispute, which led to channels such as Sky One and Sky Sports News being pulled from the cable operator’s 3.3 million homes.

Based on a GfK survey of 1,000 U.K. TV homes, the report claims that Virgin is “not a credible threat” to Sky, which UBS predicts will add another 150,000 subscribers in the second half of the financial year, ahead of its target of 100,000.

Virgin, however, has been quick to dismiss the research, which it described as one-sided.

“The headline projections UBS has driven off this sample group should be treated with extreme caution,” said a Virgin Media spokesperson.

“We have seen a significant drop off in call center activity since March/April when this survey was carried out and based on actual customer behavior to date, we believe TV customer losses have been contained to a fraction of that suggested by UBS.”

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