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Virgin Media takes on Sky Glass with Stream dongle, claiming it’s no TV manufacturer

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By Hannah Bowler | Journalist

April 26, 2022 | 5 min read

Virgin Media O2 has unveiled its rival to Sky Glass – a portable streaming device called Stream.

Virgin Media O2 introduces Stream to market

Virgin Media O2 introduces Stream to market / Virgin Media O2

The company’s chief TV and entertainment officer, David Bouchier, said of the new product: “We don’t believe we need to become a TV manufacturer... TVs don’t need to be junked, they just need to be upgraded.“

Two years in the making, Stream is Virgin Media O2’s bet on future proofing its TV business, with reports from The Media Leader forecasting a 5% decline (a loss of 160,000 subscribers) by 2027. The offering bears a stark resemblance to Sky Glass, which was launched by the pay TV provider to protect its business from even more worrying subscriber losses of 19% in five years.

The dongle-style device can convert any TV that is up to seven years old and has a HDMI port into a voice-activated smart TV, meaning customers won’t need to “fork out for a new screen to upgrade their entertainment,“ according to Virgin Media. It added that it was “helping customers save on the cost of upgrading their viewing experience“.

The device itself is smaller than its remote control and designed to be moved between TV devices, allowing users to stay logged into services as they travel with the device.

“We’ve taken a lot of care in making it small and we know that our customers value taking care of the environment, so it uses less of the world’s resources,” Bouchier said.

Everything you need to know about Stream

  • Available to both new and existing customers of Virgin Media’s broadband-only or broadband and home phone packages, there is a one-off £35 activation fee but no ongoing costs beyond the streaming services subscriptions

  • The homepage takes viewers directly to VOD players, skipping the electronic program guide (EPG), while services are given prominence based on channels the user is subscribed to and those they view most

  • Algorithmic recommended shows are pushed to the homepage from across all services

  • Customers are able to manage subscriptions on the device through the Virgin Media app, adding and cancelling subscriptions in one place

  • All channels are available in HD

  • Virgin Media is offering 10% credit back on subscriptions added to Stream

In light of recent Kantar research that revealed 1.51 million Brits had cancelled their SVOD packages this year, Bouchier was keen to hammer home how Stream could help ”strained household budgets”.

He claimed that greater visability of what services households are signed up to and how much they are costing each month can be a huge benefit.

Improving the ‘dark age’ of user experience

Virgin Media O2 is to promote Stream as a curated service bundled through integrated deals with VOD services, rather than making any app available like on Smart TVs. ”We are trying to cut out the noise,” said Bouchier. ”The great thing about living in the golden age of TV is there is so much choice, but we live in the dark age of the user experience where just finding it and knowing how to search for it is a challenge.”

As part of Stream’s launch, Virgin Media O2 has struck a deal with Disney+ bringing the streamer to Virgin Media TV for the first time.

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