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Virgin Media O2 Announces New Connected TV Device ‘Stream’

26 April, 2022 

Newly merged UK telco Virgin Media O2 this morning unveiled a new connected TV plug-in device called ‘Stream’. The device will feature a new CTV platform operated by the telco, giving access to most major CTV apps including BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, ITV Hub, and All 4. The device will also offer traditional linear channels delivered by the internet (IPTV).

With this new device, Virgin Media O2 is positioning itself as a centralised access point for streaming services, attempting to simplify content discovery and payment across different CTV subscriptions.

For example, content from any streaming services which a user is subscribed too will appear on the platform’s home page, providing a tailored feed of content available to them. And subscription costs will be bundled together into one monthly payment, which can be adjusted on a month-by-month basis. As an extra sweetener, users will get ten percent credit back on any streaming subscriptions they add on Stream.

The IPTV element has also been designed to match the flexibility of streaming services. Paid channels are available in various bundles which, like the streaming services, can be added in or taken out on a monthly basis with no minimum commitments. And the cost of any channel bundles will be added into the same single monthly payment as the streaming services, again giving users a better handle on their monthly TV spending.

The device, which releases tomorrow, will cost £35 for initial set up with no extra monthly charge. At launch, Stream will only be available to Virgin Media’s broadband packages.

The other streaming wars

A lot of the focus in connected TV over the past few years has been on the battle between the streaming services themselves, as they’ve each built out expensive libraries of content to try to win over customers.

But a second battle has been playing out between the CTV platforms themselves. By acting as the consumers’ gateway to streaming, the platforms can control which services and content users see first, and provide personalised recommendation (something which Virgin says Stream will do). Ultimately this allows the platforms to extract fees from these services for preferential positioning.

On the advertising side of things, streaming platforms also often demand a cut of ad revenues or inventory from any ad-supported businesses. Virgin Media O2 has not said whether this will be the case on Stream.

Given the rich spoils available to the victors, many of these services are fighting hard to win market share, targeting long-term gains. And Virgin Media O2 seems to be following this trend, particularly with its cash back offer for streaming subscriptions.

The fact that the device is only available to broadband subscribers could limit its reach. And competition could be tough. Virgin will have to compete with the UK market leaders like Samsung TV+ and Amazon Fire TV, as well as growing players like Roku and Google TV. And Virgin will receive its most direct challenge from Sky, whose upcoming Sky Stream device will similarly offer streaming apps and IPTV with no monthly subscription cost.

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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