Virgin TV fights on two fronts as customer wars heat up

Company persuaded 155,000 customers to upgrade to its premium TiVo set-top box

Virgin Media won only 5000 pay-TV subscribers in the last quarter as Britain’s war of the TV providers hotted up, but it did persuade 155,000 of its customers to upgrade to its premium TiVo set-top box.

Britain’s second biggest pay-TV provider, which has 3.8 million TV subscribers, claimed its focus on quality services was paying off as rivals such as BT and TalkTalk offer low-cost options.

Virgin increased average revenue per user in the last three months as it pushed through some price increases and persuaded customers to pay extra for more services such as super-fast broadband.

Churn — the rate at which subscribers quit — also improved, despite a marketing blitz by BT ahead of this week’s launch of its sport channels.

“In what is a competitive market, there’s clearly emerging recognition of the benefits of faster broadband and advanced television,” said new chief executive Tom Mockridge, who has taken over after US giant Liberty Global completed its £15 billion takeover of Virgin last month.

Virgin, BSkyB, BT and TalkTalk are engaged in a four-way scrap as TV and the internet converge and customers increasingly look to one company to provide TV, broadband, phone and even mobile services — dubbed a triple play or quad play.

Quarterly group revenues were flat at £1.03 billion but operating profit more than halved to £66.7 million after £49 million of restructuring costs ahead of the takeover.

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