UPC lights up Horizon in Ireland

Liberty Global has launched its Horizon hybrid TV service in Ireland almost a year after its debut in the Netherlands during IBC 2013. The original plan was to deploy it across four markets including Europe’s largest Germany by mid-2013, but it has been delayed by persistent niggling technical problems that have affected quality of service for some subscribers. Ireland is the third country where the platform has been launched, following Switzerland early in the year.

Horizon has been dogged by erratic reliability problems ever since its launch, leading to Dutch consumer association Consumentenbond establishing in February 2013 a dedicated panel to bundle all complaints about the new set-top box in the Netherlands, where Liberty Global trades under the brand UPC. Consumentenbond stated then that Horizon customers were still experiencing problems with the box, even though UPC has continually updated the software in a bid to eradicate them.

The problems included slow response from the set-top box, inability to access VOD and catch-up TV services, as well as regular loss of broadband internet connection. Boxes also often required “hard resets” over the network when they freeze and failed to respond normally.

Incidence of such problems has been reduced but they have not been eradicated, which is embarrassing for Liberty Global given that Horizon is at the core of its multiscreen strategy across its European markets, except possibly the UK, where Virgin Media, the subsidiary it acquired this year for $23 billion, earlier developed its own hybrid platform in collaboration with TiVo.

But UPC cannot go on much longer making the excuse that Horizon is a new product, and must be desperately hoping that the new code drop will finally put the bugs to bed, to avoid them becoming a permanent blight. Ironically the TiVo platform at Virgin Media that could be threatened with replacement by Horizon after the Liberty Global takeover has enjoyed a much smoother ride and is highly popular.