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Media + Networks

Where Content Meets IP

Virgin Media plays aggregation but not with Amazon 

Virgin Media has ruled out adding Amazon Channels to its service line up but will ramp up its SVOD bundles. 

Chief executive Tom Mockridge said, at Cable Congress, “Amazon’s primary business model is as a retailer. We are also a retailer. We are not thinking of bundling in Amazon at this time.” 

The cable and broadband TV provider was the first in the world to integrate Netflix onto its platform – a deal made late 2013 shortly after Mockridge joined. 

Netflix is now the third most popular channel on Virgin Media services in the UK and Ireland. 

“We see ourselves as a content aggregator,” said Mockridge. “A real point of difference [between VM and rivals Sky and BT] is the way we offer our customers choice of third party apps like Netflix and more of our own apps.” 

The company launched a dedicated kids TV app last year. 

However, Virgin is working with Amazon Prime Video to produce The Feed, the cablenet’s first original commission. Due in 2019, The Feed is a 10-episode sci-fi drama co-produced All3Media International, which is owned by Virgin parent Liberty Global. 

Virgin and Liberty hold exclusivity for the show in their respective European territories. 

Mockridge poured water on the idea that Virgin is pursuing more exclusive content.  “It’s more a marketing strategy than a programming strategy,” he said.

In wide-ranging address, Mockridge referred to the pending Disney-Fox / Comcast-Sky mega-mergers. 

“Consolidation has always been a feature of our industry, ever since John Malone cabled local communities. Virgin Media is the result of 600 local franchises. Consolidation also sends a very strong message that fundamentally subscription-based businesses are very, very attractive properties.”  

He confirmed that Virgin Media would transition its V6 TV box to the Horizon user interface, common to Liberty Global operations in the rest of Europe and Latin America, and in partnership with TiVo (designer of the current UI). 

Mockridge recently signed Virgin up to Sky’s ad-targeting service AdSmart. 

“Historically, Virgin Media has spent a lot of time competing with Sky and generally coming off second best – but our real competitor is BT. We are the only alternative builder of networks in the UK. But even with BT there are is a lot of co-operation. You have to know which fights to pick.” 

The CEO also issued a call to arms for gender equality, saying that it makes business sense. 

“We have got to be serious as an industry about bringing women into senior executive positions. It’s a hot topic at Virgin Media. If we want to get that breadth of talent we have to go to that talent.”