Describing the unveiling of its Virgin TV V6 set-top box as the industry’s “worst-kept secret”, David Bouchier, Chief Digital Entertainment Officer at UK quad-play operator Virgin Media, also introduced a new HD TellyTablet created by Virgin Media, designed specifically as a personal Smart TV to watch television in HD quality. The Virgin TV launch event also saw a revamped Virgin TV Anywhere app, a new-ad -free kids app and the unveiling of Virgin Media Store.
Bouchier claimed the new Virgin TV line-up raised the bar in home entertainment, marrying the latest and smartest technology with the very best TV programmes, all underpinned by Virgin Media’s ultrafast cable network, describing the service as “game-changing TV”.
The new Virgin TV V6 box is Virgin Media’s smallest, smartest and fastest box yet, half the size of the previous TiVo box with 10x the power and packed with a load of extra features, described by Bouchier as “a step-change”.
The device allows people to record six programmes while watching a seventh recording or stream from services such as iPlayer or Netflix. This increases to 12 simultaneous recordings with two Virgin TV V6 boxes and is designed so that recordings can be accessed and streamed on other TiVo boxes around the home. The new set-top box is completely compatible with Virgin Media’s original TiVo box meaning that existing Virgin Media customers can keep recordings and transfer settings while updating their home entertainment. “We want to take our existing customers with us,” explained Bouchier.
All V6 devices, including additional boxes around the home, support 4K Ultra-High Definition (UHD) TV with Netflix and YouTube available in 4K from launch and more programming coming soon. The Virgin TV V6 box is also High Dynamic Range (HDR) compatible so that, as more HDR content becomes available, a software update will be downloaded and Virgin TV customers can enjoy the very best 4K picture quality on compatible HDR TVs.
The new box will be available to existing customers on a Mix bundle or higher, before the end of the year. Existing customers will not need to change package to benefit. New customers joining Virgin Media will be able to order the Virgin TV V6 box when choosing their TV bundle from January 2017.
The standard price of the Virgin TV V6 box is £99.95 one-off upfront cost.
New and existing customers with a top-tier Full House or VIP bundle will benefit from a promotional price of £49.95.
The Virgin TV V6 box comes with 1TB of storage allowing 500 hours of SD recordings or 100 hours of HD recordings. Every additional Virgin TV V6 box installed will add another 1TB to the overall storage in the home and the ability to record six more programmes simultaneously.
“Our new Virgin TV V6 box is small in size but big on brains giving our customers a simple, smart and speedy way to find the telly they want whether that’s on a channel or on demand,” said Bouchier.
The box has been developed for use by Liberty Global companies across Europe and in Latin America. The UK is the first market to launch the new box, with plans to launch elsewhere in Europe from 2017.
Virgin Media notes this is the first time a single box will be deployed so widely across Liberty Global’s footprint, bringing market-leading technology and benefits of scale to millions of customers.
The Virgin TV TellyTablet brings customers the flexibility to watch the shows they love with the same up close viewing experience as a 50” television – whether that’s in the kitchen, the bedroom or side-by-side with the big screen in their living room, and has been designed for viewing Virgin TV’s range of apps – from the new kids app to the Virgin Media Store app.
According to Bouchier, for too long viewing TV on wireless devices has been secondary to other uses. “With the Virgin TV TellyTablet no matter where you are in the home you can watch your favourite TV wirelessly in the quality it deserves – be that Kingdom in the kitchen or Bake Off in the bedroom.”
To give Virgin TV customers a new way to own the entertainment they love, Virgin Media is launching Virgin Media Store to bring viewers some of the biggest movies first out of cinema before they are available to buy on DVD alongside a huge range of box sets to download.
Through the Virgin TV V6 and TiVo boxes, desktop and a Virgin Media Store app for iOS and Android, viewers can simply browse the store, buy what they want and then watch it straight away on a TV or mobile device such as Virgin Media’s TellyTablet. For films, a DVD copy will be automatically put in the post for keeps. The Virgin Media Store will launch in February 2017 and will be available for non-Virgin Media customers on desktop and mobile.
“We applaud Virgin Media for taking a different approach with its latest and greatest TV set-top-box,” commented Paolo Pescatore, Director of Multiplay and Media at global analyst firm, CCS Insight. “It also represents a milestone for Liberty Global as the UK will be the first market to support the new EOS TV architecture which will be rolled out in other markets as it moves towards a common TV platform.”
“It supports more recordings and is future proof with HDR, making Sky’s new set-top-box already feel dated. However, it lacks 4K content such as live sport and on demand movies and Virgin Media could have leveraged greater access outside of the home with its new 4G offering.”
“We believe that Virgin has identified a gap in the market for ultimate home TV viewing and its new TV TellyTablet will also dominate the headlines. This is equally as important given that content and media owners are taking a mobile first approach. An increasing number of people are watching live TV as well as downloading content on mobile devices, especially millennials, who watch programmes on their mobile devices while their parents use the main TV set in the living room.”
“Virgin Media becomes the latest UK provider to revamp its TV service. In many areas it has been playing catch up, but in others leads as it streams more channels via its app than any of its rivals.”
“This latest move reaffirms our belief that the UK market is moving away from linear TV to an app based on demand environment. The lines between linear TV, on demand and catch up TV are being blurred. Fundamentally it is all about the content; the TV show, box set or movie.”
“Sky has now thrown the gauntlet with its mobile offering targeting its core pay TV base and we are still eagerly anticipating Vodafone’s long awaited arrival in pay-TV. The UK multiplay market is firmly heating up and we expect a frenzy of marketing activity in provider’s quest to upsell users to more services, as well as lure new subscribers from rivals with aggressive discounts,” he concluded.