Virgin Media rolls out the red button

March 12, 2012

Virgin Media, the UK’s largest cable operator, is introducing a red-button feature for customers with a TiVo DVR box to view alternative versions of programs, starting with the sports packages produced by its archrival, BSkyB.

The red button allows users to select camera angles for watching football matches, or to obtain extended highlights of a particular game afterwards. It will also allow users to obtain interactive services developed by Sky itself, including features such as action replays for the new Sky Sports F1 channel covering the popular Formula 1 motor racing. Virgin said that further interactive services would be added via the red button over the next few months.

As a pure play operator, it will rely to a large extent on interactive features provided by its content providers, including broadcasters and program producers such as the BBC and commercial Free To Air operators, as well as Sky as a major sports rights holder. But, the TiVo box enables Virgin to blend these broadcast services with web-based content and set out its stall as the ultimate quad-play provider including its EPG-based access to Internet content. So, while the total number of pay TV subscribers for Virgin Media was marginally down at just under 3.8 million at the end of 2011 compared with a year earlier, there was strong growth in quad play.

There were 697,000 households taking the complete bundle of TV, phone, mobile and broadband at the end of 2011, up 12.2 percent by 113,000 over the year. The TiVo platform has also helped, with accelerating growth since the launch in December 2010, to reach 435,000 subscribers by the end of 2011, with 272,900 of those gains coming in the fourth quarter.

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