Josh Widdicombe & James Acaster To Host UKTV Comedy Format As Virgin Media Carriage Dispute Rumbles On

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UKTV, which is a joint venture between Discovery and BBC Studios, has handed British comedians Josh Widdicombe and James Acaster a new comedy panel show. This comes as its carriage feud with UK cable operator Virgin Media rumbles on.

The multichannel broadcaster has commissioned eight-part entertainment format Hypothetical for its male skewing network Dave. The series is produced by Episodes and Have I Got News For You producer Hat Trick Productions, which is currently working on Anna Paquin-fronted Flack for UKTV.

The show will test two teams of comedians on their ability to deal with a series of ridiculous hypothetical scenarios such as how someone would cope living in a motorway services for a year or how to take a selfie with Nicolas Cage within 48 hours or you die

Each hypothetical will be posed by Widdicombe, while Acaster’s job is to enforce ridiculous rules and score the guests’ attempts at dealing with them. None of the guests see the hypotheticals beforehand and the pair take great delight in throwing them curveballs as the show progresses.

The series was ordered by UKTV’s director of commissioning Richard Watsham, genre general manager for entertainment and comedy Steve North, Dave channel director Luke Hales and commissioning editor Joe McVey. The latter will also executive produce alongside Stu Mather at Hat Trick Productions. Sophie Le Good will produce.

Widdicombe said, “I have spent the last decade of my life annoying other comics with these questions in cars and dressing rooms so I am delighted Dave have allowed me to claim that I was in fact researching a show and not just wasting everyone’s time. More to the point I cannot wait to work alongside the man who makes me laugh more than anyone else in comedy. I just hope this goes better than our [one star] 2009 Edinburgh show.”

McVey added, “When I was pitched Hypothetical my first thought was ‘Seriously, no-one’s given Josh Widdicombe his own comedy entertainment show on TV before?’. It’s therefore a real testament to Dave that he’s come to us and obviously we bit his hand off. And as it’s being produced by Stu Mather we bit his other hand off. Fortunately, he’s assisted by James Acaster so a lack of hands shouldn’t be a problem.”

Hypothetical comes as UKTV is currently in the middle of a carriage dispute with British pay-TV operator Virgin Media. The broadcaster’s ten channels were pulled from Virgin Media’s 4M homes over the weekend after the two companies could not reach a carriage deal.

UKTV’s portfolio of 10 channels was pulled from Virgin Media’s 4 million homes at midnight on Saturday after the companies failed to agree a deal. UKTV claimed that Virgin has “drastically reduced” the amount it is willing to pay to carry its channels, while Virgin has claimed that UKTV is not willing to offer its sufficient on-demand and box-set rights to library series.

The blackout includes free-to-air channels Dave, Drama, Home, Really and Yesterday, as well as pay channels Gold, Alibi, Eden, Good Food and W. UKTV CEO Darren Childs said, “We’re hugely disappointed for the many customers who are losing out because our channels are no longer available through Virgin Media. We completely understand their frustration and would love to continue to bring them the shows and channels that they’re so passionate about, but we need a fair price to support our growing investment in programme. The reality is that we just can’t accept the drastic price cut that Virgin wants.”

Virgin Media’s Chief Digital Entertainment Officer David Bouchier said, “We have been in extensive discussions with UKTV but we have not been able to reach an agreement which reflects the reality of how people are watching television in the 21st century. UKTV is insisting on holding back its channels, like Dave, which are freely available over the air and online, unless we pay inflated sums of money for its paid channels like Gold. On top of this, UKTV is unable to provide the extensive on-demand programming which is expected of a modern day broadcaster.”

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