Clover’s Week: On the Virgin Horizon

It will be business as usual for Virgin Media when Liberty Media moves in, writes Julian Clover.

James Murdoch is right of course, the acquisition of Virgin Media by Liberty Global will make little difference to the operations of BSkyB, besides there has been competition between Liberty Global’s UPC and Sky in Ireland for the past few years.

On the surface it’s questionable that there will be any visible difference at all. The Virgin Media brand is to be retained, as will the TiVo technology, which has contributed to the restoration of the fortunes of UK cable under the leadership of Neil Berkett.

Indeed the departure of the New Zealander looks as if it might be the only change at the cable operator, assuming the regulatory approvals are given.

The relationship between TiVo and Liberty Global is an interesting one. We know through the many conference appearances given by Liberty Global president Mike Fries in the run up to the launch of his own Horizon platform that TiVo had been considered before Horizon made its debut.

Both products are searching for the same end, to give ever so slightly more control to the consumer, while locking them in to an ever-increasing supply of content.

When Horizon was released we gained a list of 30 or so companies that had contributed to a greater or lesser extent. Virgin has also contributed its own skills to the development of TiVo and this has fed back into the pot with the experience no doubt being passed onto the likes of ONO and Com Hem as they get their own platforms up and running.

So it would seem logical at the very least there may be some pooling of resources and a roadmap, probably several years down the line, which brings Horizon and TiVo somewhere together. Virgin’s 1.33 million and growing TiVo installs make it somewhat impractical to consider anything else.

And Liberty has a history of working in this sort of scenario. In Belgium, Telenet has its established Yelo platform that has already been drawing on the Horizon experience.