Virgin Media is taking aim at Sky TV with the launch of an all-new (and ultra-flexible) way to tune into television. The new Virgin Media Stream is a mini box that plugs straight into any telly and allows customers to beam content to the big screen via their Wi-Fi connection. There’s no messy installation with the box arriving in the post for a simple plug and play set-up, and there’s no need for unsightly cables or satellite dishes.
You might be thinking that there are already plenty of streaming devices similar to the Virgin Media Stream, such as Amazon’s hugely-popular Fire TV Stick range, Chromecast with Google TV and Apple TV, that do exactly the same as Virgin’s new offering. But where the telecoms firm is hoping that its Stream box will beat its rivals is thanks to the way users can watch and pay for content.
Virgin Media says it will make it simple to add and remove different streaming services, with customers never forced to sign up for lengthy contracts. Each month, streaming options such as Sky Sports, Disney+, Sky Cinema, BT Sport, and Netflix can be chopped, changed, and cancelled at any time. That means you can subscribe to Disney+ for one month to catch-up on a talked-about series, cancel or switch to Netflix or Sky channels without any fuss. You can even stop paying completely and simply watch for free via services such as BBC iPlayer, All 4 and ITV Hub. Virgin Media Stream also offers access to all Freeview channels over your home broadband connection, with the ability to pause live television. That’s something you cannot do with the Apple TV or Google Chromecast!
Any subscription services that you do decide to add to Virgin Media Stream will appear on a single bill at the end of the month, which should make it easier to keep an eye on your total outgoing for entertainment. Better yet, Virgin Media will offer a 10 percent rebate on all of your subscription services, so the more you add via your Virgin Media bill – the more that you’ll save. With pricey subscriptions like Sky Sports and BT Sports available with the Stream, there are some substantial savings to be had!
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With the cost of living increasing and news that millions of homes are cancelling subscriptions, this diddy streaming box might arrive at just the right time.
Other features include a compact design that’s small enough to pop in your pocket plus you can control everything via your voice. Streams can be viewed in full 4K and there’s the option to pause live TV although you can’t record shows as there’s no hard disk.
Virgin Media says that the box will learn viewing habits and display favourite content on the homepage to make things much easier to find.
If that all sounds exciting then Stream will be available from tomorrow, April 27 although you will need Virgin Media broadband at home to gain access to the device. With almost all Virgin Media customers boasting at least 100Mbps download speeds (compared to the UK average of around 70Mbps), the company says this means it can ensure that all viewers will be able to enjoy content in crisp 4K Ultra HD without any buffering or stuttering.
Those who want to buy the Virgin Media Stream will need to pay £35 upfront. And that’s it.
There’s no monthly fee to use the box, instead, customers add as many (or as few) subscription services depending on what they want to watch. As mentioned earlier, you can then view without paying a subscription fee or add every streaming service going. And things will get cheaper as you add more to your Virgin Media Stream, instead of keeping all video streaming apps with separate accounts. Stream Credit gives you 10 percent credit back on any subscription you add to Stream.
Virgin Media will continue to sell its TV 360 box for those who want a physical hard-drive in their set-top box to record shows, movies and sports fixtures. Sky has taken a similar approach, with Sky Q staying on sale even after the launch of its satellite-dishless Sky Glass.
You can see how Virgin Media Stream compares to the latest discounts on Sky Q and Sky Glass by checking our in-depth deals guide.
Speaking at the launch, David Bouchier, Chief TV & Entertainment Officer at Virgin Media O2, said: “At a time of endless entertainment choice and a strain on household budgets, we’re putting viewers first. Stream customers will only pay for the entertainment they choose and can pocket monthly savings on the content they add – it is a truly flexible and personal way to enjoy the entertainment that matters most, at great value. Stream is more than just a new TV service, it’s whole new way to enjoy connected entertainment. More than ever, content and connectivity go hand in hand and with Stream we’re delivering the best of both.”
Virgin Media Stream goes head-to-head with Sky’s Stream Puck which is coming to homes later this year as a standalone product.
Until now, the Stream Puck had only been available to those who purchased a Sky Glass telly but that’s soon about to change with Sky revealing that it will launch this device to everyone later in the year. Like Virgin’s Stream device, the Stream Puck lets users watch their favourite channels via a broadband connection.
As Sky learns from your tastes and viewing habits, new recommended shows from Netflix, Apple TV+ and Prime Video will appear on the homescreen alongside live events and new boxsets available from Sky’s exclusive channels. Users will also be able to pause live television, skip adverts, search for new titles using voice search.
Unlike Virgin, Sky hasn’t announced a release date for its Stream Puck, but we expect to hear more soon. So stay tuned.
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