Hopes that BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media will increase subscribers

29 February 2008 / by Joy Tibbs
It is hoped that the launch of the BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media will help to dramatically increase ratings, as the broadband provider reports fourth quarter losses.

The free television catch-up service is set to become available from the provider in April.

The company's fourth quarter losses totalled £163.2 million compared with £122.1 million in the corresponding period last year as competition from other broadband and television services providers took its toll on earnings. Meanwhile, the group attracted just 122,900 new broadband customers compared with 111,200 in the third quarter.

However, Virgin Media reported a significant rise in new subscribers for its television package, with 61,000 new users added to the 20,400 previously registered. This was the best quarterly performance for new subscribers in the last seven years. Despite this, it still failed to match the 145,000 new viewers added by Sky during the quarter.

In total, 24,000 new customers joined Virgin Media in the three-month period, almost double the 13,000 added in the previous quarter. Its customer base now stands at 4.8 million overall, and the company hopes it will hit the five million mark by 2010.

Just under half (49.5 per cent) of Virgin Media customers now opt for its broadband, home phone and TV bundle compared with just 40.6 per cent in the prior-year period. Prices have been dropped as a result of competition, which appears to have negatively impacted revenues, but may have encouraged new users to sign up.

According to the company, Virgin Media will become the first television service to offer iPlayer programmes as part of its On-Demand service. Acting chief executive, Neil Berkett, said that around 50 per cent of its customers already view an average of 22 on-demand programmes each month including shows on Channel 4's 4oD.

The cable company plans to upgrade its basic broadband service to 10Mb in the next few months and has also suggested it will introduce 50Mb broadband by the end of the year.

More than 17 million programmes have been viewed on the BBC iPlayer, which was introduced earlier this year, and, according to the BBC more than 2.2 million viewers tuned in to the service in January alone.

We are achieving good results from our stated strategy of exploiting our superior network capability to drive broadband growth and deliver the next generation of personalised on-demand content," said Mr Berkett.

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