Called appropriately enough Stream (not to be confused with Nadine Dorries’ Downstream), it’s a way of Virgin Media customers accessing live TV and a whole bunch of streaming services via a dongle not much bigger than a mobile phone (see above).
Available from tomorrow (April 27th) Stream doesn’t tie customers into lengthy contracts for streaming services. Instead, they can sign up for just one month at a time. They can also get 10% credit back on the subscriptions they add to Stream. For those with older TVs, it’s a way of converting them to Smart TVs complete with voice activation for a one-off activation fee of £35, as long as they have an HDMI port.
Streaming services include Disney+ which is now available on Virgin TV for the first time. Other apps available on Stream include Netflix, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Starzplay, BritBox and YouTube as well as live TV subscriptions such as Sky Sports and BT Sport.
Says David Bouchier, Chief TV & Entertainment Officer at Virgin Media O2:
“At a time of endless entertainment choice and a strain on household budgets, we’re putting viewers first. Stream customers will only pay for the entertainment they choose and can pocket monthly savings on the content they add – it is a truly flexible and personal way to enjoy the entertainment that matters most, at great value.
“Stream is more than just a new TV service, it’s whole new way to enjoy connected entertainment. More than ever, content and connectivity go hand in hand and with Stream we’re delivering the best of both.”
Adds Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com:
“Hot on the heels of Sky’s bid to revolutionise entertainment with a new TV in Glass, Virgin’s Stream frees consumers from the shackles of lengthy streaming services – all from a tiny device showcasing your favourite live and on-demand content in one place.
“At a time when the cost-of-living crisis is really starting to squeeze households across the UK, Stream also allows its customers to keep track of and manage all of the entertainment services they use in one place.
“This will be especially useful to people who struggle to juggle payments for different entertainment services.
“With no monthly subscription fees, Stream allows you to dip in and out of each service, giving more flexibility to customers that may not want to stay subscribed to each of them throughout the year.
“Stream offers a 10% discount on your monthly bill when subscribing to platforms through the service, so customers can find savings on their bill when bundling everything together, so long as you’re a Virgin Media broadband customer, and willing to pay the initial activation fee.
“By putting the technology into a dongle similar to an Amazon Fire Stick, it means that for most people with a HDMI port in their TV, it will be straightforward to set up and easy to transfer to another TV in the home.”
At launch, Stream will be available to both new and existing customers who take a Virgin Media broadband only or broadband and home phone package.
Recent analysis carried out by researchers at MTM has shown that while video-on-demand (VOD) is commonly the first type of TV that consumers turn to when looking for something to watch, live TV is almost on a par – with 36% of UK consumers claiming to turn to linear first, vs 37% for VOD.
Similarly, when consumers were asked what TV services they “could not live without” the top three answers were Netflix, BBC and ITV – reinforcing that typical viewing habits nowadays are a blend of subscription, on-demand and traditional TV.
Additional MTM Group analysis from 3 Reasons Ltd has also shown that the TV set is increasingly the most popular way to view VOD programming, with 72% of programme streaming requests now going through the TV set, growing from 54% in 2016.
Stream offers enhanced features such as Voice Search and Control, Profiles and Watchlists so customers can cut through the choice of what to watch and where to find it, diving straight into their favourite shows and movies quickly.
Whether at home or on the go, customers with Stream can manage their entertainment across devices via the My Virgin Media app, using the app to add and remove TV subscriptions to suit their needs