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Virgin Media CEO rules out TiVo-Horizon migration

Tom_MockridgeVirgin Media’s CEO Tom Mockridge has ruled migrating the firm’s TiVo TV service to Liberty Global’s Horizon platform, claiming that doing so would be a “simplistic” business approach.

Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch yesterday, Mockridge said that TiVo in the UK has been very successful, is growing by “several percent a month” in terms of household penetration and is well liked by customers.

Asked whether Virgin would make the switch to Horizon now that it is owned by Liberty Global – which does not use TiVo in other markets – Mockridge said “the short answer is no.”

“It’s a bit like saying Virgin Media’s not a brand that Liberty Global uses in other markets. They haven’t turned up here and said ‘we’ll take away the red paint and slap Liberty on everything.’

“You make pragmatic, sensible judgements. You don’t do it via a simplistic rulebook. The [TiVo] boxes deployed today have been very successful here… The strongest mantra we take is that our customers like it.”

He added that Liberty is “not religious” about the Horizon platform, pointing out that Liberty itself is not a software company and that the Horizon offering is the result of partnerships with the likes of NDS, which provides the middleware and user-interface for the Horizon boxes.

“They are saying that if it [Virgin] works here, then we’re happy to maintain it. If it didn’t work, we’d take a different view. It doesn’t mean there will be a third [next-generation TV offering], but having the optionality around two is not necessarily a bad thing,” said Mockridge.

In its latest earnings call Liberty said that Horizon, which is deployed in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland and Germany, now accounts for 500,000 subscribers. By comparison, Virgin counts some 2 million customers for its Virgin platform.

Discussing other aspects of Virgin’s TV business, Mockridge said that Virgin was “certainly open” to more web-powered app deals, after integrating Netflix into TiVo boxes at the end of last year – and admitted it had already held talks with Amazon about bringing Prime Video, recently rebranded from Lovefilm, to the service.

He also defended Virgin’s decision to not invest in its own content channels or original content.

“We carry a wider selection of channels than anyone else in the market because we are the middle guy,” said Mockridge. “We would rather have a comprehensive offer and we don’t see the differentiation in the programming as being critical to our future. We see our differentiation as being in the quality and depth of broadband.”

He said that, at Virgin, “we see ourselves primarily as a broadband supplier.” Mockridge also claimed that “as a cable operator, we are structurally, fundamentally in a much better position than BT,” which, as the incumbent player, still relies on its copper network.