Virgin Media admitted today that its battle with Sky over TV rights made it suffer in the broader convergence war. During the firm's quarterly earnings call, chief executive Steve Burch told investors that although the impact of losing shows like 24, Lost, and The Simpsons was not big in the first quarter, he was expecting more …
Anyone leaving Virgin to join Sky just so they can get SkyOne is mad.
Since we left Sky (We had everything, except sports, but incl Sky+) and moved to ntl we've watched MORE TV. Why? On Demand.
the amount of stuff they offer on demand is staggering. Ok yes I know they don't really provide it, but they make it damned easy to access. We now what TV when WE want, watch the programs WE want to at times to suit US. It really is what this whole on demand stuff is all about.
I'd take On Demand over SkyOne anyday, who really wants to watch re-runs of The Simpsons for 2 hours every day? One episode on Channel Four is good enough for me.
Now all we need is a V+ box to record the stuff that isn't On Demand!
As ye sow so shall ye reap
Virgin Media is reaping the rewards of its two botched mergers. I'm a VM customer, formerly of Telewest. While Telewest were hardly stellar, they make the current arrangements look gleaming.
As soon as the second merger completed, I started to get significant connectivity issues across my three services. My V+ box still won't record the ends of TV shows, and the much-hyped On Demand services usually work for three days out of every seven. Now, with Sky One gone, the use of ex-NTL call centres (staffed half with people who cannot speak English, and half with people who know nothing and care less) and savage bandwidth throttling on the internet pipes, it has become apparent that VM is hellbent on taking the worst elements of each of its constituents, and building a service portfolio based upon these.
I am scheduled to move house this year, to another cabled area. It is by no means certain that my cable services will move with me.
I agree 100% with the previous comment - I used to have Sky, but now have Virgin. Another disadvantage of Sky is the dish - planning regs sometimes prohibit them (& the picture was erratic in bad weather!)
I'd actually move to Virgin if they would cable my road! If I was to move 0.2 of a mile, I could get Virgin's services - It's about time they made some more investment rather than just milking exisiting customers I think. Half the work is already done for them, when the new houses in my area were built in 2000, the relevant ducting & accesses were laid for them - they just need the fibre to be dumped in, and a couple of cabinets of equipment installed! I know that's still not cheap - but to access an extra 100+ customers, possibly paying £30+ a month, must be worthwhile long term surely?
More to Sky than just the extra channels
"Anyone leaving Virgin to join Sky just so they can get SkyOne is mad."
Yep, they're mad for that superior customer service.
"We now what TV when WE want, watch the programs WE want to at times to suit US"
Err, Sky+. TiVo. ?
Who needs on demand when you can just have your box record everything you want to watch. Once it's buffered up enough shows you have more than enough to watch (usually more than you have time to watch).
Thanks to TiVo I hardly ever watch live TV anyway, it just records loads of material and I watch at my leisure on demand. TiVo even records things it thinks I might be interested in. Fair enough Sky+ doesn't do that. Sky+ does record multiple channels and let you watch another though.
As for 20Mbps/50Mbps broadband. They could never even deliver 512kbps or 1Mbps broadband reliably when I was with NTL. What's the point of faster speeds if your cable modem drops the connection every few minutes, and it's impossible to get through to the call center to complain and if you do you find engineers don't turn up when they're supposed to and still don't fix the problem even if they do. Remember nthellworld?
Last one to leave Virgin switch off the set-top box
I used to think NTL were hell to deal with, but then Virgin came along and took over our cable network. All of a sudden they claimed to offer services that NTL had never provided. I contacted them - TWO MONTHS AGO - with weekly follow-ups. I've never had anything more than the bog standard 'we can't be bothered to answer your question right now; but in the meantime Captain Beardy says thanks for your money' form reply.
Yes I should switch, but I can't. There's no terrestrial signal worth a damn on digital or analogue; and the 19th Century horticultural genius who planted the huge trees right outside my house never thought about how they would block an Astra signal.
I hate Virgin cable more than I hate their trains! Hell I hate it even more than their overpriced stores and their crappy malted battery acid passing itself as cola!
Suck it Sky
After having Lost(tm) Sky One from our Virgin Media TV line-up I can quite justifiably say "good riddance".
An example from two days ago:
6am-9am Sunrise (I'll take BBC Breakfast News any day thanks)
9am-10am Project Runway reality crap
10am-12noon Stargate (I miss it, but I've got the DVD's)
12noon-4pm 4 episodes of Bones (any of you still awake?)
4pm-7pm various Stargate thingies (again)
7pm-9pm The Simpsons (how Bush really lives - yawn)
9pm-10pm Project Runway crud again
10pm-00:30 an old film (in this case U.S. Marshalls)
Law & Order
Naked in Blackpool
Reps in Ibiza
God, I'm so heartbroken at my loss. Suck it Sky.
Happy With VM, But Room For Improvement?
I have been a customer with Telewest as it was since 2000 and never had a problem with the service and would recommend them to anyone!
Since NTL got their hands on Telewest though I too have seen a huge decline in certain aspects of the service and those are the things they need too sort out and quickly. Forget blowing millions on advertising for a moment and invest that money in the areas of of services that need it most.
* Dump the offshore call centre, since Telewest was merged with NTL and NTLs bad ways of cheap labour from India contact center's rubbed off its been nothing but trouble, Telewest was clearly the best of the 2 with regards to churn, customer care, and fault handling so why change something and try to fix what was not broken? Now you spend 20 minutes trying to explain a problem to an offshore contact centre, only for them to not have a clue what your on about and you end up hanging up out of frustration to call back and speak to someone in the UK who are so much better and improved!
* Sort out the appalling over priced landline service. Since the re-brand to Virgin Media the talk packages came down in price only to align itself with BT, yet with what they give you in one hand they take from another by decided to piss people off more by charging them per minute for a call instead of per second. So now a 3min 1 sec call will be rounded up to 4mins ripping off customers again. To get people to stick with a phone or be tempted to get one they need cheaper talk plans, dump the scandalous 6p connection charge and charge per second not per minute!!!!!!!!!!!
* Invest more in Digital TV and Broadband network to increase capacity to add more TV channels people actually want and a faster more reliable Broadband connection as well as sort out SPAM on cable emails. And sort out the ongoing software issues on Digital TV such as V+ so its works 99.9% of the time problem free and doesn't freeze, crash or stop working.
* Finally, Actually stick to what they say about realigning channels, channel numbers, services, and billing systems and do it quickly. Ex Telewest customers saw Supreme TV go from £17.50 to £22.00 and saw no benefit from the channels ex NTL had for their higher price.
Investing in sorting these problems out should be priority, only then will they see less customers leave, more customers join and profits increase. Maybe they should look at sacking the people in high positions who obviously don't know what's best for both the customer and the company!
Only thing I miss
The only thing I miss, having defected from Virgin to Sky, is having the time display in VCR notation. My Sky Plus box is set to use the confusing AM/PM notation. I know there must be a menu option to change it, somewhere -- but I can't find it! (In the meantime, I have bought an LED digital clock.)
I used to use Virgin's On Demand service, and it was good; but with Sky Plus, I get to choose *what* I watch, not just *when* I watch it. I even used their broadband service for awhile, but their DHCP servers were unreliable, occasionally failing to renew my lease necessitating a power cycle (usually while my flatmate was busy on the 'net and I was in mid-film) and my IP address used to change. And their web space was broken (no PHP scripting and no perl).
Milk the system....
The service from Telewest wasn't great, but at least the TV-Drive box worked (ish), once VM took over it has been absolutely appalling - it refused to record episodes of some shows for no reason at all (even when nothing else was set to record...)
No problems at all with Sky so far - not even with the weather...
With Telewest/Virgin Media I had 4mb Broadband, a basic phone package, and the essential TV package with a TV-Drive.
Right now, in total, I am paying the SAME MONEY (yes, its amazing what you can get when you threaten to cancel everything with VM...) and I now have:
The basic 2x package TV deal with Sky, A Sky+ box in the bedroom, a Sky HD box in the lounge, a Virgin Free TV box (for all the On Demand stuff that Sky is lacking - mostly Teleport Movies) in the lounge, An upgraded VM Phone package and my 4mb VM Broadband....
For absolutely no more money per month than I was paying Telewest/VM in the first place.
Frankly, if VM can knock £16 per month off of my internet/phone bill and upgrade my phone package when I threaten to cancel, I wonder what they will do for me when I make a complaint about the appalling bandwidth throttling they are now imposing? (which after 1x demo downloaded on my 360 cuts my connection speed in half for 4 out of the six hours per day I might want to use the net..)...
At least with sky the Sky+ and Sky HD boxes are about half as noisy as the TV-Drive box, they actually WORK (no problems at all - and we record A LOT), and I've not had any issues in bad weather either. So far I haven't had a reason to test the customer service. Frankly I found the Telewest customer service *just about* acceptable, but the Virgin service is positively disgusting.
The thing that worries me is that Virgin would have you believe they are some kind of 'underdog' with this 'Sky War'. Which is frankly rubbish. Make no mistake about it, this is a pricing war between 2x very large multinational organisations, and so far most customers have come off worse - unless like me you are prepared to treat them the way they treat you and take the pi**.
Get your own back people, nobody should feel sorry for Virgin or Sky. Look after your own pockets. Without us these companies are nothing.
I've left Virgin and Never been happier, nor has my wallet
That subject says it all.
I moved house recently (2months ago) and took the opportunity to move from ntl to sky. I've been with NTL (or virgin, whatever) for 5 years, and the only good thing about them is their broadband - customer service is rubbish, as is their tv box. Lost and 24 are my most fave shows on telly.
But its not just sky1 is it - who has EVER had a reliable interactive service on an NTL box - last time I pressed the "red button" on the box it killed it - new box - 3 weeks turn around - never again did I try that - not to mention no interactive on Sky Sports. Endless other TV problems (dodgy picture, sound problems, etc. engineers no idea what is up with it).
Anyway - with Sky+, sky freetime package, BT line and broadband (not sky broadband - heard it isn't up to much, yet, but I would save more money if i did) - i save £10 a month AND i've got a sky+ box compared to what I did have.
Plus, the customer service is much better - being that I have not had to call it yet!!!
pile of s--t
I live in Milton Keynes, no signal of any sort, you either must have sky or virgin.
Before when it was NTL you paid £3 and you got sky one fair enough it has like four shows I watch and you got a generally decent signal.
Now the great t--t Branson has come along swinging his microscopic penis and now I get Hallmark instead... have you watched hallmark? It's less worth watching then QVC, suffice to say my unrestricted unmetered internet connection has been very busy since. O also for the privelage of not watching TV anymore I now must pay £4...
So glad that useless W----r bought NTL... Really cheers me up.
better off with nothing!
After reading all these comments its clear that very few people get the same experience.
My view is that VM sucks, and after dropping what little tv was worth watching (Sky One) there was not much left for someone who only watches a few things.
Sure the broadband was ok and the phone worked, but since leaving them and not taking up any other service I have moved to an area where i get freeview and got a 3g card from vodafone.
Freeview is almost the same as VM without Sky - coincidence?
I feel so much better off, i get Lost almost as soon as America does thanks to bittorrent (so that is 4 days before its shown here), and also I have Joost so i probably get more tv than i ever did.
My wifi provider does not dictate where i drink coffee and i can skype anyone that might cost on a landline (e.g. my folks in spain).
I did some work last year for BT on their "converged" services. Convergence is a great idea but companies offering it need to realise that they have to deliver more than the sum of the parts, things are just too competitive to fall short.
Like the comment further up said, if you are not happy switch or complain until you get more value (i.e. free stuff) or failing that end it - the alternatives are already out there...
Look it's NTL not BBC or SKY what do you expect?
Sorry, call me old fashioned but I am a VIRGIN (NTL) customer for their broadband. It works, and it's looked after well. I do not use their TV service as the content is arse. Not their fault, it's just cable/sat content is cheap crap. It’s not personal it's true. You want good content you buy the DVD or download it from 'somewhere'. Me I love the BBC and I love film. I cannot watch SKY because of the damn adverts. I got ed up with the Sci Fi channel et al as well. I did not pay a subscription to be bombarded with dumb adverts. If it's subsidising the TV service, - well then it's really not worth it. So I use FreeView. I use a PCR and I can skip the ads - yey.
On demand - that's a good service if you want what NTL, oops Virgin can offer. Sky - nah. Stick it. Money for old rope. Overpriced US budget content. Sport - if you like it - great. I think they have spoiled the world of sport but that's for another rant.
If you have to leave Virgin, do it because you want the content and are prepared to watch endless adverts and pay over the odds for content that you can by on DVD for less and keep. I love 24 so I buy the whole thing on DVD then I can watch it until my eyes bleed. ;-)
For those VM customers using on demand as a reason for VM bettering Sky, well if you've got a Sky+ box they have recently launched their very own on demand service. Just imagine, it'll be very similar to the VM offering, but they'll actually have some content worth watching. I moved house recently and used it as a perfect excuse to switch from Telewest/VM to Sky for TV. I stayed with VM for broadband though. That way, you get the best of both worlds (despite the recent "caps", cable is still years ahead of the ADSL crowd out there).
VM 10 meters from our door cant get it. My wife is blind she has audio description don't know if VM supply it Sky Do. Freeview do. The new recently published throttling of bandwidth my wife is a computer programmer Myself a archaeologist we both spend hours on line researching for various projects. The measly amount allowed wouldn't last 5 minutes when we have a video conference. maybe even 2 separate conference going on at the same time in different rooms Work that out vermin sorry virgin. by the way virgin is described in some dictionaries as a female who is inexperienced so they have the right name.
Why don't Virgin...
Unless Sky own the companies that produce the big shows that Sky broadcast, have they (Virgin) not tried to deal with them (the producers) directly?
If Sky have an "exclusive" broadcast contract then isn't that anti-competitive?
Personally I don't care for SkyOne. I've been Nynex/Cable & Wireless/NTL/Virgin Media for donkeys years.
I have never watched 24 (a friend has them on DVD - I'll borrow them if I feel the need)
When SkyOne got Lost I started watching it till they had a break over Christmas. I then proceded to miss the next few episodes and "Lost" the plot! - I'll buy Season 3 on DVD when it's available.
I always missed the new Simpsons episode and therefore only ever saw the repeats
I'm ot interested in Bones, Nip/Tuck, endless Star Trek (and spin-offs) or Stargate SG1 repeats.
I'm bored of all the reality shows (not just the Sky bunch!)
I think I'll stick with Virgin
Poor ole Virgin seem to be getting a lot of El Reg column-inches these days... maybe it's time we had a "Virgin special correspondent"? ;-)
There seems to be a lot of dissatisfaction out there with VM, and most of it seems to be down to ex-NTL customers. Like other people I really hope that VM stops adopting THEIR practises. I also think that it's high time that the customer base saw some payback for sticking with 'em and for putting up with the many problems during the transition. A small price cut would be nice! Although - as a broadband customer - I wouldn't object to having the speed increased for the same price either.
As for the Sky v's Virgin spat - it does strike me as very childish. I'm not a fan of 24 or Lost, so I really don't miss Sky1 (too many naff repeats), although Brainiac used to be okay. People have asked me about whether I'm going to switch, and I usually answer no. I've heard from work colleagues and a couple of family members that Sky's customer service attitude is "we've got your money, so clear off stupid!" and it can take weeks for broken hardware to be replaced, (unlike my experience with Virgin/Telewest where it's always been a case of a swap out and the longest we've been without a service is about two days).
Lastly, to the poster who was having problems with the TV-On-Demand service my advice would be to contact customer services. We'd had problems with it failing for about a week, I phoned in, and the problem was sorted in about ten minutes (by a nice Scouse gent, in case anyone was thinking I was talking to somewhere in India).
As someone who switched
I had been a Blueyonder/Telewest/VM customer for 4 years before I switched to Sky last month. I've always been a great fan of the broadband offering, and because of that I've put up with the shortcomings of the TV they offer (no interactive services to speak of).
I'm a HDTV subscriber and with VM offering almost no HD content, my extra £10 a month was promised to be refunded each month. This happened once. So I started looking into switching to Sky.
I was amazed to find that for a better service on almost all fronts (Broadband is on a par at best, but I get more and better TV, better phone service and a PVR that works), I'd actually save £25 per month!
The switch went through fine and I've got nothing but praise for Sky's service.
You know I used to think that the V chip was about television censorship. It now appears to be a device that Virgin install on the shoulder of their customers, that inhibits their ability to see any of Virgin's faults.
They still have areas of the UK with analogue only coverage
They pass off the BBC HD trail as having free HD bundled in with the V+, and their customers don't realise that they will start charging for the HD channels, as soon as they start actually carrying any real ones.
They provide a free box - that you can't upgrade or use without a subscription
They provide a free repair service, which means days of lost wages waiting in on the off chance that an engineer might just deign to turn up
They provide "unlimited" broadband
They reduce the channels they are offering, but only reduce the price to those who threaten to leave, screwing the vast majority of their subscribers
Their pin control on the movie channels suck
But apparently it's all down to Murdoch
"There seems to be a lot of dissatisfaction out there with VM, and most of it seems to be down to ex-NTL customers"
Bear in mind that NTL bought into Virgin, not the other way round. The deal just meant they could take the Virgin name.
The same happened when CableTel bought NTL and took on the NTL name. CableTel were awful, and they were when they became NTL. I don't see things changing just because of the Virgin brand, the bearded one's backing (who's more concerned with his space efforts to care anyway), and sexy adverts. Spending money on branding and marketing should come secondary to first of all taking care of their existing customer base. First rule of business really I'd have thought.
As for SkyOne, well Virgin could just launch their own channel and bid for the same US shows, perhaps beating Sky to them. Though I wouldn't be happy if Virgin got first dibs on Battlestar Galactica! (the Sky sub is worth it alone just for BSG, even more so in HD).
Unless Sky own the companies that produce the big shows that Sky broadcast, have they (Virgin) not tried to deal with them (the producers) directly?
To some extent they do - or at least News Corp owns both C20th Fox (well the whole Fox network) and Sky ... plus the National Geographic Channel, Harper Collins publishers and of course The Sun, Times and News of the World newspapers... and more besides.
A good chunk of Sky 1's broadcasting schedule is Fox programs, including 24 - funny that.
Over time Sky can be more expensive
I have been with Telewest and now Virgin for several years on their lowest package. The only extra that I have is the Telewest TVDrive (V+) box. I have also looked into getting Sky (using a employee only deal) and found it to be more expensive. The reasons for this are as follows:
1. To have a Sky service you need to have a BT landline and pay the rental on that in addition to the Sky payments. With VM the line rental is included.
2. You have to purchase the Sky box (I know the basic one is normally free with the deals they do, but the Sky+ box cost £199 when I was checking this). VM own all the boxes so there is no extra charge.
3. To use the Sky+ features you have to pay an additional monthly charge (£10 last time I looked). VM charge £15 , but this is for the service and hardware rental.
4. If anything goes wrong with the Sky box after your 12 months you have to pay around £80 to have it fixed (ie. replaced with a reconditioned one). With VM as they own the box it is down to them to fix it.
5. Although you own the Sky box there is not much you can do with it if you don't want to be with Sky anymore.
6. Living in a tenement block means that it would cost an extra £200 to have a Sky dish fitted. Telewest only took a couple of hours to fit the cabling (including extra rooms at no extra charge - so we can move the box between the rooms).
7. The V+ box is better than the current Sky+ box. It has 1 more tuner (recording 2 programs and time shift on a third).
8. Faults are present with the services of both companies, and this changes on a regular basis. It can not be used to choose between them. (I know technical support staff for both companies)
As for service they seem to be copying each other all the time so anything that one of them has the other will have soon enough.
My tip is to work out the cost over several years (expecting to have at least 1 or 2 faults with the hardware). Also remember to look into any extra charges that are not listed but you need to pay for (eg. line rental, fitting, and upgrade costs). For some Sky might work out cheaper for others it will be Virgin.
Re: Over time Sky can be more expensive
This is getting like forum rants, but hey :-)
"1. To have a Sky service you need to have a BT landline and pay the rental on that in addition to the Sky payments. With VM the line rental is included."
Firstly you don't need to have a BT landline. It's only a requirement for the pay elements of the interactive services which few ever use, and you only need a phone line not specifically a BT line. In fact I had an NTL line for a while when I got my Sky dish back when NTL's offering was a complete pile of tosh. Only went to BT when I gave up with NTL's useless broadband.
Secondly, this is a common false comparison. The cost is the same like for like comparing inclusive NTL or Sky+BT, for similar packages... oh wait, but you don't get Sky channels any more with VM ;-)
"2. You have to purchase the Sky box (I know the basic one is normally free with the deals they do, but the Sky+ box cost £199 when I was checking this). VM own all the boxes so there is no extra charge."
Valid point, though you can source Sky boxes cheaper. Last point is also relevant as with Sky boxes it's yours for life. VM boxes are not yours so you can't sell them on (relevant with the more valuable Sky+ and SkyHD boxes).
"3. To use the Sky+ features you have to pay an additional monthly charge (£10 last time I looked). VM charge £15 , but this is for the service and hardware rental."
in other words, VM charge £5 a month for rental. Over a few years you've paid the same as buying a Sky+ box, and after that you're throwing money down the drain.
"4. If anything goes wrong with the Sky box after your 12 months you have to pay around £80 to have it fixed (ie. replaced with a reconditioned one). With VM as they own the box it is down to them to fix it."
Yep, that's the benefit of rental. I wonder why the rental TV market has pretty much collapsed however? ;-)
"5. Although you own the Sky box there is not much you can do with it if you don't want to be with Sky anymore."
You can use it as a freeview box if you get the freesat card thing I believe. You can also sell it.
"6. Living in a tenement block means that it would cost an extra £200 to have a Sky dish fitted. Telewest only took a couple of hours to fit the cabling (including extra rooms at no extra charge - so we can move the box between the rooms)."
Most restrictions in flats are down to council and block rules that require you to use communal dishes.
"7. The V+ box is better than the current Sky+ box. It has 1 more tuner (recording 2 programs and time shift on a third)."
Sky+ does record 2 channels and let you watch something time shifted. However what you mean is V+ will let you record 2 and watch a third live feed as it has a triple tuner.
Sky+ dishes however have typically 4 feeds so can in theory record 4 at the same time.
Not that any of this is required, as any TiVo owner knows the nature of a PVR combined with the amount of repeats and +1 channels means you rarely if ever get a conflict or even need to watch live TV anyway. Though TiVo is somewhat better than both Sky+ and V+ in it's ability to do this, and it works on all platforms (but sadly isn't HD in the UK).
"8. Faults are present with the services of both companies, and this changes on a regular basis. It can not be used to choose between them. (I know technical support staff for both companies)"
You choose based on personal experience and recommendations. Going on the "I know" factor, most people I know with NTL experience shudder in terror at the very name. I hear few complaints about Sky by comparison. However I foolishly picked NTL at first. I learnt my lesson.
However this is never representative. People voting with their feet (or wallets) is however, and if VM are losing customers, well...
Virgin v Sky - I chose both!
You can have both Virgin and Sky!
I was on the Virgin 3 for £35 deal - as a long term customer incredibly peed off with losing Sky One I had Sky installed the Saturday after Virgin withdrew Sky One and then rang BT to switch from Virgin to them and then spent 59 minutes on hold to speak to VM to cancel all my services.
However, Virgin are quite desperate to keep customers and they offered me a much better deal rather than lose my custom altogether - £19.95 gives me broadband and telephone but with free daily, evening and weekend NATIONAL calls and a discount on International and mobile calls and they let me keep the TV box for free and installed it in my bedroom free of charge.
So I am staying with VM with tv (M), phone and 2mb broadband and the free calls cost just £19.95 so even with my £15 a month Sky subscription I am quids in as I am saving approx £10 a month on calls (dont use the phone a lot) and I get more channels Sky One, Two and Three as well as the kiddie channels that are on the VM XL package which I could not afford.
I have also joined the VM mobile contract for £10 a month - 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts, a great package for me.
So ring VM and tell them you want to leave and renegotiate your deal - my sister, her best friend and my parents have all done the same!
They dont want to lose you so give it a try!!!!!
You can still have Sky as well - they want you to connect your box to a landline as the box occasionally calls Sky. But VM assure me you can connect it to your VM line and Sky wont know the difference unless Sky can find out from BT which is unlikely as its against the data protection act.
If you dont connect your Sky box to a phone line within 8 weeks then Sky charge you a one off payment of £25 which is basically the installation fee that they waived but VM have said that if I do get charged this they will pay half of it!
So with the war of words going on who knows who is right? But I hope that both parties gets their facts and figures right becasue I have not 'switched' from one to another, I have both! And I love VM with their on demand service - I can watch a lot of programs when it is convenient to me (just wish Channel 5 was one of the channels!).
Thank you Mr Branson for screwing things up, as a customer I am getting a lot for my money because of your mistakes!