Virgin Media launches all-IP Stream platform

David Bouchier, chief TV and entertainment officer, Virgin Media O2

Virgin Media has announced its new Stream all-IPTV platform.

The device, revealed at an event in central London on April 26 and to be released 24 hours later, is Virgin’s attempt to rival the likes of Apple and Amazon in offering an aggregation-oriented streaming platform. 

Stream is available to Virgin Broadband subscribers for an upfront activation fee of £35, with users paying for channel packages and SVODs directly through the platform. Subsequently, any customer taking Stream can get 10% credit back on the subscriptions they add, offering added incentive to centralise memberships.

SVODs available at launch on Stream include Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and BritBox, with the device also offering access to BVODs including BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub.

The focus on flexibility extends to what Virgin promises is an easier way of switching subscriptions in and out  for both SVODs and pay TV channel packages. 

Speaking at the event, Virgin O2 COO Jeff Dodds described Stream as “Streaming for the TV generation and TV for the streaming generation,” with him and chief TV and entertainment officer David Bouchier making several targeted digs at Sky. “We don’t believe we have to become a TV manufacturer [to deliver a cutting edge product],” said Bouchier.

Sky itself has revealed plans to launch its Sky Stream puck device as a standalone IPTV product in the UK later this year.

There are however a number of drawbacks to Virgin’s Stream platform worth considering that may put off consumers. 

Firstly, a spokesperson for the telco confirmed to DTVE that while pre-existing Netflix and Disney+ subscribers can login to their accounts, the only way they can benefit from the centralised management and cost-savings would be to create a new account – thus losing access to their profiles, watch history and watch lists. 

Secondly, at launch, only one Stream device will be supported per household, with an emphasis placed on moving the handheld-sized dongle from room to room rather than having multiple pucks placed around the house. 

The spokesperson also confirmed that the £35 upfront cost does not purchase the device, but is rather an activation fee. As such, subscribers will not own the Stream (unlike a similarly priced device from a company such as Amazon or Roku) and would have to hand it back to the telco if/when they change ISP.

In a press release, Bouchier said: “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 a 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.”

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