Virgin Media has revealed some new details about its upcoming rival to Sky Glass. The company has already teased its new set-top box on a number of occasions, but in a press release about a new partnership with ITV, it revealed some juicy new details. The new deal will result in deeper integration of ITV shows across Virgin Media’s products, including a fully-fledged ITV Hub app coming to Virgin TV 360 boxes.
However, Virgin Media has gone out of its way to confirm that ITV Hub and ITV’s live channels will both be available as part of its upcoming IPTV service. For those who don’t know, IPTV stands for Internet Protocol Television, which in a nutshell means television delivered over a broadband connection rather than satellite or cable. Buried in the press release about the closer relationship between ITV and Virgin Media, the broadband company adds that its new telly system will launch in “early 2022”.
Expanding on some of the capabilities of the new hardware, Virgin Media adds: “The service will offer a seamless app and streaming-based experience powered by the company’s leading ultrafast and gigabit connectivity.”
In the past, Virgin Media O2 CEO Lutz Schüler has confirmed that its next-generation product is designed to target “the younger segment”. However, we’re still a little unclear exactly what shape this new hardware will take. With the announcement of Sky Glass in October, the company finally untethered its popular paid-for television service from the satellite dish.
Sky Glass is able to stream live terrestrial channels, including those from ITV, alongside on-demand films and boxsets from Sky’s catalogue. The new system, which is built into a custom-designed 4K TV with an integrated sound system, also includes support for a number of streaming platforms, including Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, and coming soon, Apple TV+. Adding shows from terrestrial channels to the Playlist will prompt the software to scour through your streaming services to find old syndicated episodes – bringing everything together in a single interface.
Since recordings aren’t stored on a local hard-drive inside the QLED TV, but instead streamed from the cloud, these are synced across your devices, such as iPhone and iPad apps, as well as small set-top boxes called Stream Pucks designed to enable multi-room viewing at home.
Of course, Virgin Media doesn’t require a satellite to be drilled into the side of your home, so in that regard, Sky Glass is only just catching-up to its telly rival, rather than leapfrogging it. However, Virgin Media is a little old-fashioned compared to Sky Glass in a number of other ways, including the fact that its boxes still rely on physical hard-drives to store recordings. These spinning disks can fail – losing all of the episodes, films and sport fixtures you were hoping to rewatch in the future. And since these drives have a limited amount of space, you also need to delete older recordings to make room for a new series …something you don’t have to worry about when streaming from on-demand services like BBC iPlayer or ITV Hub.
Virgin Media’s TV 360 system doesn’t let customers download recordings to other devices, like an iPhone or iPad, to take with them for a long journey. This is something that Sky viewers have been able to do since the launch of Sky Q and continues with Sky Glass.
It seems unlikely that Virgin Media will integrate its new IPTV solution into a 4K TV (although it’s possible), but rather it could be closer to a NOW-style alternative. Sky-owned NOW, formerly NOW TV, offers access to the complete suite of paid-for Sky TV channels, Sky Cinema and Sky Sports with monthly memberships. Viewers can pick ‘n mix between these memberships between months, depending on what they want to watch.
Customers can also pause their membership and return at a later date (when the new season of their favourite exclusive show returns, for example) something that isn’t possible when signing-up to an 18-month contact with Sky Q or Sky Glass, for example. Virgin Media’s TV 360 already enables a number of clever features that are comparable to Sky Q and Sky Glass, including Prime Video and Netflix streaming apps built into the hardware.
However, it doesn’t have an answer to those who don’t want to sign-up for a lengthy contract for their television, but want to watch some of the biggest exclusive boxsets from HBO, AMC, ShowTime, and some of the other behemoth US networks.
Whatever form the next-generation telly hardware from Virgin Media takes, we know for sure that ITV will be present and correct. Not only that but, bespoke curations of content will be made available within the catch-up sections of Virgin Media’s platform, it has confirmed. This “will help viewers easily discover, access and watch the latest and greatest ITV shows all in one place,” the broadband firm adds.
Speaking about the closer partnership, Lutz Schüler told Express.co.uk: “We have been a longstanding partner of ITV for many years and this new agreement further cements our relationship. It paves the way for future product innovation and delivers more for our customers and our business, as well as enhancing the toolkit available to advertisers. Our focus in TV is all about providing incredible entertainment to our customers in a seamless way underpinned by the very best connectivity. As we continue to invest and innovate, having ITV’s vast selection of must-watch programming fully integrated and easily accessible plays a huge part in giving our customers a fantastic experience both now and in the future.”
Credit: Source link