Liberty Global Extends Netflix Distribution

Liberty Global plc Feb. 10 announced a multiyear deal with Netflix that will continue to offer its 11 million video customers in Europe direct access to Netflix, including original series and movies such as The Irishman, “Sex Education” and “The Witcher.”

Liberty Global is no stranger to Netflix with its Virgin Media subsidiary in the United Kingdom being the first TV and broadband provider in Europe to launch direct access to Netflix seven years ago.

In that time, Virgin Media said about half of its V6 video subscribers access Netflix content on their set-top media devices.

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Today Netflix is available on the Horizon platform in nearly every country operated by Liberty Global. And with this agreement, Liberty Global said it would continue to enhance functionality and overall integration of Netflix within its offering, beginning again with its U.K. operation.

“We are excited to extend our partnership with Netflix and continue to provide the best of all worlds in content on a single, intuitive platform,” Enrique Rodriguez, CTO of Liberty Global, said in a statement. “Our customers are savvy. And with one voice control command, they can continue to directly access the programming they want on networks that deliver reliable, uninterrupted viewing. Netflix is a global leader in streaming content, and that’s precisely a partner we want for our customers.”

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Viacom Expands Distribution Deal with Virgin Media to Include Pluto TV

Viacom International Media Networks and Virgin Media Oct. 7 announced an expanded content distribution agreement for the United Kingdom and Ireland.

In addition to live, on-demand and streaming rights to MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Paramount Network, the new deal includes access to Pluto TV — the $340 million ad-supported VOD service Viacom acquired earlier this year.

The Pluto brands includes Pluto TV Drama, Pluto TV Romance and Pluto TV Crime, among 60 channels.

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“This renewed and broadened partnership with Virgin Media speaks to the strength of our brands and content, as well as our investment in new streaming apps, which will allow Virgin Media customers to access their favorite Viacom content in new ways,” Arran Tindall, SVP, commercial and content distribution, for Viacom International Media Networks, said in a statement.

The deal also includes first-time Virgin access to Viacom’s U.K. apps My5 (Channel 5, including content from A+E and PBS America)) and MTV Play.

The pact includes on-demand access to U.K. reality series “Geordie Shore,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Paw Patrol,” among others.

“This is great news for our customers who can continue to enjoy Viacom’s diverse range of channels and content,” David Bouchier, chief digital entertainment officer at Virgin Media, said. “The inclusion of three brand new apps will give our customers greater flexibility to watch their favorite shows at a time that suits them.”


Virgin Media Adds Amazon Prime Video Direct Access

British pay-TV operator Virgin Media, beginning July 22, has added direct-access to Amazon Prime Video — six years after its landmark agreement with Netflix.

The deal affords Virgin’s 1.8 million TiVo-manufactured V6 set-top box subs access (with a separate subscription) to Amazon Originals, including “Good Omens,” “The Grand Tour,” “The Marvelous Mrs Maisel” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” in addition to movies and Premier League soccer matches.

“Giving our customers the telly they love in one place is at the heart of what we do” David Bouchier, chief digital entertainment officer at Virgin Media, said in a statement.

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Since Virgin Media became one of the first pay-TV operators to embrace — not shun — Netflix, more than 800 million hours of the SVOD behemoth’s programming has been streamed by subscribers.

Prime Video integration means Virgin Media subs can search, favorite and save Netflix programming on their home screen.

“Virgin TV brings the best programming together so our customers can enjoy top-class entertainment and sport when and how they want,” Bouchier said. “Alongside our leading ultrafast broadband, it’s the best way to watch the best TV.”

Netflix Finally Available on Sky

Netflix, beginning Sept. 19, is now available as a direct link to U.K. pay-TV service Sky – about six months after first announcing a partnership with the high-profile satellite TV operator.

The SVOD behemoth is available to Sky’s most-expensive Q bundle for an extra £10 monthly as part of Sky’s “Ultimate On Demand” add-on feature. Existing Netflix subscribers can link their account to Sky Q or log onto the Netflix app separately.

But direct access, including Netflix original programing on display alongside traditional pay-TV selections is precisely why multichannel video program distributors such as Comcast, Virgin Media (since 2013), Altice USA, Charter Spectrum, Cox, Liberty Global and T-Mobile, among others, have embraced Netflix.

“We are partnering with a growing number of pay-TV providers across the world to the benefit of our mutual customers,” Netflix said in its Q4 shareholder letter. “These partnerships make it easier for consumers to sign up, enjoy, and pay for Netflix, while our service allows our partners to deepen their relationships with these subscribers.”

Amber Pine, commercial director at Sky, says the satellite TV operator with about 9 million U.K. subscribers has a lot of mutual customers.

“The depth of this integration provides them with a unique experience where they can have the best of both worlds,” Pine said in a statement.

Indeed, British regulator Ofcom recently reported that over-the-top video across the pond has now topped pay-TV in the number of subscribers: 15.4 million to 15.1 million.

“On a simplistic level, Sky and Netflix look like direct competitors,” Andrew McIntosh, the head of TV analysis at Enders Analysis, told Wired. “But they act on different levels, which Sky is well aware of. Sky doesn’t offer what Netflix offers. Now it is providing what it can’t offer, but still through the Sky package. And it makes Sky look good, because it is putting the customer first. It’s a very clever move.”

And interesting, considering both Comcast, Fox (and Disney) have competing acquisition bids on the table for Sky.


Virgin Bowing First 4K UHD TV Channel in the U.K.

Virgin Media is launching the first dedicated 4K ultra high-definition (UHD) entertainment channel in the United Kingdom, beginning Sept. 17.

The channel will be available for Virgin TV Full House and VIP subscribers with a V6 set-top box and 4K TV. Content includes series “Start Up” with Martin Freeman, “Masters of Sex,” starring Michael Sheen and “House of Cards”; “Shut Eye” with Isabella Rosselini and “The Art of More” with Dennis Quaid, in addition wildlife and nature documentaries set in Zambia and Vietnam, plus gigs from the Rolling Stones, Sting and Imagine Dragons.

Virgin Media has also broadcast an array of sporting events in 4K UHD, including the Champions League Final, the 2018 French Open, Wimbledon Championships, as well as a selection of matches from this year’s World Cup in Russia.

“With the launch of Virgin TV Ultra HD, we’re giving our customers the ultimate entertainment viewing experience with must-see shows in incredible, crystal-clear picture quality,” David Bouchier, chief digital entertainment officer, said in a statement.

The V6 set-top box is Virgin Media’s fastest and smallest streaming media device offering access to YouTube and Netflix in 4K. The V6 is free to new customers taking one of Virgin Media’s bundles (TV, broadband and telephone). Nearly two million Virgin TV customers have a V6 box in the UK.

The new channel continues Virgin Media’s ongoing investment in 4K UHD programming, following the launch of BT Sport 4K UHD on Virgin TV in August.



Virgin Media Ups Netflix Relationship

Virgin Media was one of the first pay-TV operators to embrace Netflix when it inked a direct-access pact with the SVOD pioneer in 2013.

The British company, beginning in October, will enable its 3.7 million subscribers to add and pay for Netflix through their monthly bill.

Virgin TV already fully integrates Netflix into its content discovery channels such as “smart search,” which enables users to find and save Netflix programs and movies within the Virgin TV platform.

This expansion of Virgin’s partnership with Netflix follows more than 700 million hours of programming watched through the Netflix app by Virgin subs, with over 100 million hours watched so far in 2018.

“We were the first to embrace this open philosophy by embedding Netflix … and it’s clearly something that our customers absolutely love,” Jeff Dodds, managing director of consumer and mobile at Virgin Media, said in a statement.

Virgin TV customers with a V6 box, Netflix premium account and a compatible TV now have the option to watch Netflix programming in 4K Ultra-High Definition and High Dynamic Range (HDR) following a software update for the V6 box.

The V6 is half the size of the previous TiVo box with 10 times the power to run apps such as Netflix. More than 1.6 million Virgin subs have the V6 box. All current broadband, TV and phone bundles for new Virgin Media customers come with a V6 box included.