February 15, 2015

Virgin Media customer base passes five million

Virgin Media’s latest trading figures showed its revenue increased 3% to £4.2bn in the year to 31 December 2014, with operating profit up 41%, mostly due to revenue growth and economies of scale following its purchase by Liberty Global.

Cable subscription revenue grew 3% in 2014 and the quad-play company’s mobile revenue was also up, by 9%, while churn rate reached a record low of 14.6%.

Chief Executive Tom Mockridge put the fall in customers leaving down to better customer service and a more effective network, which people value more as they watch more video via broadband: “The fundamental reason is people use their broadband services so much more. The use in our network is running up 60% on last year.” Mockridge said that Virgin's first infrastructure expansion in 15 years is overdue and that the company will continue to prioritise infrastructure improvements over acquiring content. 

Average monthly revenue per user also rose, to £49.36 in the fourth quarter of 2014. While some could be attributed to price rises, the company also sold more products across its quad-play offering of telephony, broadband, mobile and television services. 

February 13, 2015

Virgin Media invests to increase network and create 6,000 new UK jobs

Press release (slighted abridged):
Virgin Media is embarking on “Project Lightning” the single largest investment in broadband digital infrastructure in the country for more than a decade; creating thousands of new jobs in what will be a multi-billion pound boost to the national economy.
Virgin Media will extend its unrivalled fibre-rich network to approximately four million additional premises over the next five years. This will increase the number of homes and businesses to which Virgin Media can offer services by almost a third; from around half of the country today to nearly 17 million premises by 2020. £3 billion for homes and businesses; £8 billion of value to the UK economy and consumers
Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media Chief Executive Officer, said: “Millions of homes and businesses will soon be able to benefit for the first time from broadband speeds at least twice as fast as those available from the other major providers. Consumers and business owners who want to make the switch to better broadband speeds now have an alternative; you can call on Virgin Media to ‘Cable My Street’.”
This network expansion programme is expected to create 6,000 new jobs in the UK at Virgin Media and across its construction partners. Roles will be created across the country, including jobs to support engineering and sales efforts. It will increase the number of apprenticeships created by Virgin Media to 1,000 over the next five years.
Virgin Media calls on consumers and businesses to register their interest Network expansion will be prioritised according to demand from households and companies, with a focus on areas closest to Virgin Media’s existing network. Virgin Media is urging communities who want better connectivity to register their interest at virginmedia.com/cablemystreet.
Mockridge added: “In virtually all of the areas we have identified for expansion, BT is the only option available right now. Its ageing copper telephony wires are not capable of the ultrafast connectivity that Virgin Media delivers. Soon we will offer unbeatable services to even more homes and businesses across the country.”

February 05, 2015

4k boxes from Sky? Don't hold your breath

Sky boss Jeremy Darroch played down the idea of a new 4k ready box from Sky – reported as Project Ethan – explaining the rate of change was different to what it was ten or even five years ago. Rather than replace the entire set-top box population it was more likely that changes will be made to the software.
“Ultra HD is to be determined – it does really well on big screens, but less impactful [sic] on smaller screens,” said Darroch. “The jury is still out as to how big an idea it will be, we’re thinking about the box power, how we build into the software stack and the broadcast infrastructure that goes alongside that.”
NOW TV, Sky’s pay-as-you-go service is to receive a revamped set-top, again based on the Roku platform. NOW will also receive a new logo. Rumours persist that it will be a full 1080p service - the current box, based on the old Roku LT, is only 720p. Expect a price hike too - despite service problems with the live channels the On Demand content has proven hugely popular and Sky are projecting even more success for the service going forward.

February 03, 2015

Amazon Instant Video

I've signed up to Amazon Prime for the free 30 days and have been impressed with the line up of programmes and films on the service compared with Netflix. I'm playing it through my Sony smart TV and iPhone - the former is poor and stutters at peak times, the latter is faultless*.
I've found Netflix's line up weaker of late (see previous post), so finding the following all available in Amazon Prime, in HD and sometimes 1080p, is quite heartening and certainly worth signing up for the month's trial. I'm currently watching the third season of Ripper Street and there's plenty of good TV series on Amazon that aren't on UK Netflix, including West Wing, Lost, Mad Men and The Walking Dead.
But it's the films where Amazon appears to be ahead of Netflix. Recent films include 12 Years a Slave, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Argo, Prometheus, Prisoners, Rush, Alan Partridge, Mud and last year's Under the Skin. It's impressive.
What I'd really like to see is the service available via my TiVo boxes. It's a broader service though than Netflix and you can buy or rent On Demand movies at lower prices than Virgin Movies, so maybe Virgin won't be offering it to UK customers any time soon.

* Does anyone else experience problems with Amazon Instant Video on Sony TV or Playstation? If so, any idea if Sony is doing anything about it? Netflix through the TV is stunning so I think it's the app rather than a broadband or service issue, as playing it via my iPhone or iPad is fine.