Virgin Goes Mobile First With Revamped TiVo and TellyTablet Launch
UK pay TV operator Virgin Media has unveiled a mobile-first strategy with which it hopes to leapfrog rivals like Sky. Notable about today’s launch was a Virgin branded 14-inch TellyTablet which is intended to allow customers to view TV anywhere around the home.
The Liberty Global-owned operator had fallen behind Sky's Sky Q set top box which launched this summer and BT Sport's YouView box, with its existing HD TiVo STB. Sky Q Silver, for instance, has 12 tuners and 4K video.
In response, the new TiVo-powered V6 box can record six shows at once while users can also watch a seventh recording or stream from services such as BBC iPlayer or Netflix. The system has been designed so that users can pair two boxes in the home to double their record options to 12 tuners (each box carrying 1TB storage) with playback from either box—or on mobile.
David Bouchier, Virgin's chief digital entertainment officer, described the offer—which includes a download-to-own service—as "game changing TV."
The TellyTablet is an Android-powered tablet with 32GB of memory, a microSD card slot, two USB ports, up to eight hours of battery life and a stand for users to watch TV anywhere in a house. It costs £299 ($350) and is available for all Virgin Media customers.
A revamped Virgin TV Anywhere app permits recordings and live TV to be paused and continued room to room on a V6 box, a customer's existing TiVo box, or on a mobile device.
This service mimics Sky's, which made video playback on mobile possible for the first time with the Sky Q app. It allows subscribers to watch on demand and live streamed content content regardless of device in or out of the home. Features include a pause and playback of content on different devices.
Next summer the pay TV rival BT is launching a new BT TV app with options to manage recordings and stream live and on-demand programmes.
Liberty Media is pursuing a quad-play bundle in every market it operates in and wants to more than double its mobile base from 15% to 40% of its 17 million broadband subscribers by 2022.
The V6 box itself—which costs £99.95 (U$130) as a one-off fee—is intended for widespread deployment across Liberty Global companies in Europe and Latin America.
There’s support for 4K UHD, with Netflix and YouTube available in 4K from launch. Although it lacks the native 4K live event content of Sky and BT (Sky has also begun ramping commissions in UHD HDR non-sports programming) it is compatible with high dynamic range—something that neither Sky nor BT yet offer. HDR will be available for Netflix and Amazon shows via software update. The 1TB capacity equates to 100 hours of HD recordings or 500 of SD. It wasn't stated how many hours of UHD this would mean.
The Virgin Media Store is a download-to-own movie service with titles available to own immediately after theatrical release (a separate physical DVD will be automatically posted). This launches in February and is also available for non-Virgin Media customers.
In addition, a new ads-free Kids app will be launched for iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire tablets by February 2017.
Mobile video traffic keeps rising at a rapid rate, leaving operators struggling to keep up with demand. Meanwhile, the U.K. is falling behind on broadband connectivity.