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The big match - Murdoch v Branson

Robert Peston | 13:00 UK time, Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Will Whitehorn, Richard Branson's corporate affairs director and right hand person, knows my guilty secret: I've been in journalism an embarrassingly long time. More than 20 years ago we would drink too much robust red wine with disreputable City folk in the bustling Long Room, opposite the old floor of the Stock Exchange, he as an apprentice spin doctor, me as cub reporter.

So he'll forgive my teasing: what on earth was he thinking when saying in today's FT that there was a victory for "morality" in the launch of Ofcom's unprecedented "public interest" probe of BSkyB's acquisition of a 17.9 per cent stake in ITV.

ricahrd_branson_2.jpgVirgin Media - in which Branson is the largest shareholder - still feels sore that Sky's purchase of the ITV stake stymied its hopes of taking over ITV. So I suppose morality might have been the winner yesterday if you happen to view Virgin as a saintly charitable organisations engaged in selfless sacrifice to better the world. But does that ring true with you?

That said, there's a plausible case that Sky's stake in ITV raises competition questions, such as whether it could reduce the competitive tension in auctions for sports rights, or independent TV productions, or even movies (that would be possible if ITV felt inhibited from bidding against Sky as its largest shareholder). That's an issue for the Office of Fair Trading, rather than Ofcom.

In theory the Sky stake in ITV could have an impact on "plurality", the number and diversity of voices available to viewers.

However the DTI's statement yesterday when referring the matter to Ofcom was strikingly short of anything that looked like an argument or evidence, apart from a cursory nod to news coverage. And there was no attempt by Alistair Darling, the Trade and Industry Secretary, to explain how a reference to Ofcom was consistent with the clause in the Communications Act allowing groups like BSkyB - whose de facto parent, News Corp, has huge British newspaper interests - to acquire up to 20 per cent of ITV.

So I have sympathy with those who say that the DTI reference to Ofcom simply buys Mr Darling a bit of time before having to make the horrendous choice for any senior Labour politician of whether to back Branson or BSkyB, which is the most important European television interests of the Murdoch family.

The battle between Sky and Virgin is a commercial struggle between two ferociously competitive businesses. They both want the biggest and most profitable slug of a media market that encompasses broadband, mobile phones, fixed line phones and TV.

Both can be seen as pioneers, as businesses that have taken huge commercial risks to bring new services to consumers. The difference between them is partly one of image.

Richard Branson has a genius for painting himself as the plucky underdog, as righteous Luke Skywalker against big bad Darth Vader - who at different times in his glittering career has taken the form of British Airways, Camelot and latterly as Rupert and James Murdoch, chair and chief executive of BSkyB.

In branding terms, he is the non pareil. Branson's global business interests are - with the exception of Virgin Media, which is listed - as private and opaque in financial terms as many businesses owned by private equity. But while private equity is everywhere decried for the secretive way it earns vast profits, Branson is feted as the entrepreneurial equivalent of Helen Mirren.

But in the Murdochs he is up against fearsome competition. It'll be his toughest ever challenge. The current spat over how much Virgin should pay to screen Sky's basic package of channels is just the start of something big and very bloody.

james_murdoch_2.jpgMurdoch v Branson: it's real, it's personal, it'll run all year, it's the best show in town, and it'll affect how millions of us communicate, receive information and are entertained.

Here's a tip. If you read stories that James Murdoch is going back to the US to run the family business, News Corporation, ignore them. He's staying at Sky till the struggle for supremacy against Virgin is settled.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 02:59 PM on 27 Feb 2007,
  • Will Whitehorn wrote:

Hi Robert, I do remember those days 20 years ago and here is exactly what I meant 20 years later in using the word morality.
The key competion issues of material influence and market share in the context material influence of combined Sky ITV in advertising, freeview owbership and programming etc is already being investigated by the OFT.
An intervention order to OFCOM from Alastair Darling is precisely a moral, as well as a legal competition issue, because the legislation itself introduced the moral question of the need to limit or restrict undue influence over our lives through the accumulsation of media power in its own right regardless of whether or not any particular media owner would exercise that power.
The question's moral base was succinctly explained by Lord Acton in 1887, when he stated, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absoluely"
So thats it in a nutshell!

Very interesting piece - the battle between Branson and Murdoch is certainly a personal one now. I agree, people are too quick to paint Branson as the rich philanthropist being bullied by 'the man' Murdoch, but Branson is no fool. he is a shrewd and single-minded businessman himself and would (probably) have tried to do exactly the same to Murdoch in his position. It may not be nice, it may not be friendly, but that's business.

If you're interested, I wrote a small piece somewhat earlier in the year about the attempted takeover of ITV etc here on our graduate blog:


  • 3.
  • At 04:52 PM on 27 Feb 2007,
  • Jonathan Skelton wrote:

Before I start I'd better say I am a virgin media customer and therefore biased! Sky stand to loose a good deal of advertising revenue with it's channels off cable tv. Surely the wise (or prudent) course of action here would be to seek a compromise. What is not clear (even to the customer) is whether sky subscription content will be available at all through virgin media. If not, I suspect that there could be a number of defections to sky, thus offseting somewhat their losses otherwise.

As for Sky and ITV, personally I would rather Virgin Media investigate tying up with Channel 4 (if that were at all possible), rather than with chav (sorry I) TV. Think of the film rights!!!! (How many C4 films get shown on Sky?)

  • 4.
  • At 05:36 PM on 27 Feb 2007,
  • Will Whitehorn wrote:

Sorry about the typo in my first blog, it should have read "accumulation of media power". I thought it would be worth commenting on the second comment by Tom Merrifield to partly agree with him. Richard Branson said publicly at the time when BSkyB bought the stake in ITV that if he was in Rupert Murdoch's position he might well have bought the stake to block Virgin Media from merging with ITV but he would have expected someone to try and stop him!Well here we are.

I must say that I tend to agree with Will here in his clarification of 'morality' in this situation, and it is very much aside from whether Richard Branson truly is a man of the people seeking to rid us of the media tyrant that is Murdoch or not...i'm as cynical as the next man!

The real point to note is that, for whatever reason, his efforts here have brought about something which should have happened before now - an effective inquest into the power exercised by Murdoch, the corollary of which could be a lack of choice and plurality in the media sphere.

It is worth remembering that the reason that the ITA and IBA (for example) created channels funded purely by advertising, was partly to offer competition and alternative to the BBC, but als to to engender a culture of competition between channels to ensure informative, entertaining and quality programming. Whilst in 'some cases' the then ITA in their creation of ITV and the IBA in its creation of CH4 may have fallen short of their aims, this does not detract from the very real necessity of competition and choice.

The element of choice and competition goes to the very heart of what builds, develops and educates our country. In a media playing field where readership of the Nationals is slowly declining, sadly, people look to the TV (and internet more so) for their news. Do we really want TV and the content therein dominated by similar styles to those found in The Sun or News of the World!?

I don't, and I am grateful to anyone who fights against this. Branson may be no wallflower and he certainly isn't a pansy, but to me, here, the ends justify the means.

  • 6.
  • At 09:26 PM on 28 Feb 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

Well as a student at Manchester Business School I'm fascinated by this current "spat" and have incorporated it in my Managerial Economics studies.
I seem to remember some years ago Richard Branson being unhappy with the public scrutiny that comes from running a listed company and prefers the private route.
Sky on the other hand is listed and has shareholders to please and dividends to pay.
So is Richard playing this advantage here hoping that Sky give in because of shareholder pressure?
I’m also a Telewest, sorry Virgin Media customer and don’t like the way we as customers are being talked down to by the company.
According to my Marketing Strategy lecturer a company with a true marketing orientation solves the customer’s problem. As a large number of customers want to keep Sky One how will their problem be solved?
In Economic Game Theory (I think) there is a term called “Signal”. Will the removal of Sky One be the signal that causes a lot of customers to leave Virgin for the cheaper Sky TV?
For me access to programmes on Sky One was the deciding factor to get cable back in the early 90’s and it still looms large in my life at the weekends.
The result of this "signal" for me is I’m now evaluating the cost of moving to Sky or saving money and going for a Freeview box with a hard drive.
What people will remember are kids saying daddy where has the Simpsons gone? And grown ups being frustrated that they miss the next episode of 24 and Lost.
I will be sure to tell them all about the dastardly Murdoch evil empire and explain to them how the value of Sky One is declining and they can watch lots of other programmes on Virgin Central (which doesn’t work by the way)
Well time will tell if Richard’s gamble will pay off but in the short run it is the customer who loses out and no amount of Branson's great platitudes will win this cynical person over.

  • 7.
  • At 02:14 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • max wrote:

The reason Richard Branson is taking this to the media with this underdog and morality pitch is that Virgin Media are in a bad position. Sky are holding all the cards, as it seems that SKY ONE content is attractive enough to get Virgin Media customers to actually defect over to Sky.
Branson did the same in his battles with BA and others when things were not going well for him. He leverages the press and public opinion not really to save humanity, but to get Virgin a better deal. Sky have outmanoevred Virgin Media and so Bransom is getting desperate. He knows that Murdoch is not popular and is trying to exploit this. Branson's tactics are to be admired as he has an amazing track record.

Regarding Sky's material influence and market share stifling competition, surely one could say the same about the Virgin empire. Are Murdoch and Branson not cut from the same cloth?

  • 8.
  • At 03:05 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Peter Ashley wrote:

I'm not a business studies student nor am I a Virgin Media or Sky customer just an interested reader. It seems to me that Mr Branson is a bit 'sore' about Sky's purchase of 17% of ITV which has stopped him (in the form of Virgin Media) buying ITV for himself and is playing the 'it's not fair' card the same way that he did when he lost out on the lottery. Incidentally why is Sky's involvement in ITV any more problematic that Virgin Medias, who as far as I understand were looking to buy all of ITV and not just a stake. If Virgin Media were allowed to buy all of ITV then surely as great a(if not greater) proportion of the TV and media 'pie' would exist with Virgin that with Sky and wouldn't this cause the same problems with regard to 'reducing the competitive tension in auctions' for sports rights and films rights if ITV were a part of Virgin.

  • 9.
  • At 05:50 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • Pete Stubbs wrote:

Let's not forget that the reason that Virgin Media (VM) have not continued to show Sky's content is because Sky were requesting almost double the value of the current agreement.

Sky prevented VM from showing their channels as a basis for a marketing campaign to attract customers over to their platform - and I expect the message of a stingy VM will be repeated to consumers many times over the next year!

I very much doubt that there will be a huge number of customers churning over to Sky from VM just because they cannot watch Sky One? and what value does Sky News really have - instead viewers will just watch BBC News 24?

The whole industry is rapidly changing with BT Vision, Tiscalli TV soon to come, and even Microsoft entering the entertainment on demand market place with the Xbox 360 in the near future!

I'm a Virgin Media customer and have no intention of switching to Sky. For me, I use VM for basic TV and 2Mbps unlimited broadband at £20 and I use a BT VoIP phone with free weekend and evening calls for about £2 a month! Much cheaper than Sky.

  • 10.
  • At 09:42 PM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • John wrote:

What really has to be considered here is that Sir Richard is a very well respected man in the business world. I personally don't think that he is going to let Rupert be on top for too much longer. Three main shows that are going to me missed are Lost, 24 and The Simpsons. From an inside source I can confirm that Richard has already aquired rights to Lost. Is Richard going to let these other shows go? I don't think so!

  • 11.
  • At 10:25 AM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • Tony Welwyn wrote:

Reading through all your messages, one thing that is certain is that we have a good competitive atmosphere going on between the two media giants and that can only be good for the consumer. Yes, it means some us will miss out on watching the Simpsons (if you're in to all that), but don't forget that Virgin Media can also play that card with the channels they control too. For those ‘techies’ out there I'm sure you know that the technology that Virgin Media has under it's belt is far superior and flexible than what Sky can currently provide and I think it is this alone that will eventually settle this war.
Yes, Sky was the first to introduce the Sky+ box with its recording capabilities, which hasn't come without its problems, may I add. Virgin Media too have launched their version of the box, V+ with the added advantage of being able to record an extra channel simultaneously - Sky is yet unable to complete against this. With the TV aside there is no other company other than Virgin Media that can truly provide super fast broadband speeds, those beyond 10Mb and even 50Mb in some places and it is this technology that will become valuable as we move in to the future. So unless Murdoch, starts to get his pneumatic drill out and digs up roads to lay cable, he has a very tough time ahead!

By the way, I am actually a Sky customer who would switch at the drop of a hat if I could get Virgin Media in my area.

  • 12.
  • At 12:15 PM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • tim forbes wrote:

So Virgin has cut some of its main, and we must suppose by the debate we are hearing, more expensive channels.

I believe Virgin has also recently increased prices, which we may assume, was based on a business case of including Sky content with a "reasonable increase" in their cost to Virgin.

Is it therefore reasonable to assume that Virgin is saving money since it curtailed Sky?

Any customer of Virgin nee NTL knows that it is no white knight.

As a Virgin subscriber I am interested to know whether I am to be charged less for this reduced service.

So Mr Branson, if you are so moral, I await a refund/reduced price for my service, or something which matches that for which I contracted with you.

Sky is one of the few reasons to have a cable base pack instead of freeview. Virgin had better not spend too long on the moral high ground using my money to subsidise its argument about how it can maximise it's profit.

  • 13.
  • At 02:09 PM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

I am a virgin media customer and utterly dispise the Murdoch empire, however, I have had just about enougth of the shoddy service from Virgin, formerly NTL. I am going to free view, the hell with both of them!

  • 14.
  • At 04:13 PM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • eccles wrote:

Unless Virgin media can do without Sky programming altogether, the element of competition will always be compromised. I wonder if Virgin have actually explored setting up a 'Virgin 1' channel with a view to purchasing programming such as The Simpsons, 24, and Lost directly from Fox USA. I know that Fox is a direct subsidiary of News International, Murdoch's parent company, but that may not matter since the US company will most likely have a high degree of autonomy from Sky UK. After all, Channel 4 currently shows The Simpsons.

  • 15.
  • At 05:08 PM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • Teresa wrote:

For me and millions of others, there seems to be an even greater abuse of power, in relation to our access to digital TV, regardless of who owns/controls particular channels. I'm talking about the monopoly that Sky has in respect of those of us who have no access to digital broadcasts via cable or aerial. In fact, where I live I cannot even get a decent analogue signal via aerial and found my only option was to sign up to a Sky satellite dish service. Why did the Govt/OFT allow that situation to arise? Competition? What competition?

  • 16.
  • At 09:07 PM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • colin bennett wrote:

with refereance to the post by "Tim Forbes" I find it strickingly ironic that over the last 12 months many new chanels have been added to the network now owned by virgin media. I wonder if at any time this writer considered he should call his provider and offer to pay more for the increased chanel line up.

Perhaps it is human nature to complain rather than consider the benefits of the service one subscibes to.

  • 17.
  • At 09:13 PM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • Peter Card wrote:

I imagine that I am like a lot of long-time NTL customers. Familiarity with their comically inadequate customer service has not instilled any great sense of brand loyalty, but up till now they have managed to fulfill their basic role of providing content.

The next couple of months will reveal how successfully Virgin have shot themselves in the foot. I for one am off to Sky, hopefully just ahead of the rush. I am intrigued by the claim from Philip Culman of the NCC that Virgin Media customers would be entitled to cancel our subscriptions without penalty. Let's hope that it is so.

  • 18.
  • At 11:19 PM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • Gillian Moorse wrote:

Richard Branson has never learned to be a 'good loser' as evidenced by the BA and Camelot forays. He is now chucking his teddies out of the pram with Sky. He made a costly mistake when he floated Virgin Atlantic but he's made an even bigger mistake in getting 'into bed' with ntl, a company with a deplorable record in customer service. Forget the Murdock debacle - I'm looking forward to all the fur flying when he discovers that the ntl image has tarnished the Virgin brand name. I'm predicting in a couple of years there will be a huge legal battle between the erstwhile Virgin- ntl partners and this Sky issue will just be a sparring match in comparison.

  • 19.
  • At 02:23 AM on 03 Mar 2007,
  • Graeme Mulvaney wrote:

If the DTI and OFCOM are concerned about SKY using it's quasi-monopoly position to distort the market then I assume a similar investigation into Virgin Media and their monopolistic cable empire will soon be forthcoming.

There are plenty of free-to-air and independent subscription services on satellite and it is fairly easy for new entrants to set-up and sell their wares; with or without the help of SKY - not so with cable - you have no choice but to deal with Virgin Media.

The government should force Virgin Media to open up their network to independent resellers in much the same way that BT was forced to open up their exchanges and the "local loop".

Competition in the telecoms industry has driven prices down and improved the quality and range of services available.

There is no incentive for Virgin Media to lower prices or offer improved services.

They issue plenty glossy press statements about leveraging the "Virgin" brand, but as a commuter and having no choice but to use Virgin Trains the "Virgin" brand stands for higher prices, flashy packaging and poorer quality service. From where I'm sitting it looks like Virgin Media will fit into the Virgin family quite comfortably.

  • 20.
  • At 06:00 PM on 03 Mar 2007,
  • kev wrote:

Is this the latest salvo in the Branson v Murdoch war?..
I, like several other Vigin Media customers, booked to watch the Chelsea v Portsmouth match on Premplus via Virgin TV,today.
Come 5 o clock service switches itself on then off.
Try to contact Virgin on several of their customer service (lol!) lines no success.
In desperation go to the Cable Hell (formerly NTL Hell) website and see there are several postings from other hapless Virgin customers.. no service and unable to contact Virgin.
Has Branson been outmanouvered and had the plug pulled on this service or is Virgin Media just another rubbish company unable to provide what they offer and what the customer has paid for and cannot be bothered to face their punters?

  • 21.
  • At 07:53 PM on 03 Mar 2007,
  • Martin Hughes wrote:

If Mr Murdock is allowed to gain market share and damage virgin media's profitability by this action, then who is there left in the media world to stand up to him.
Will any politician dare to stand up to him once he has such a wide spread control of so many media outlets.
It is widely believed that one of the reasons behind new Labours victory in 1997 was the backing of the Murdock press, will they really bite the hand that helps them.

  • 22.
  • At 08:21 PM on 03 Mar 2007,
  • Dr Les Nelson wrote:

Its an absolute disgrace that channels on NTL that I contracted to pay for because I wanted to see them are no longer available since Sir Richard screwed up. What is 'Goldenballs' going to do about it? I will not hold my breath for an answer. Back in the seventies, when I was a university student, I thought that Virgin Records was the most welcome and refreshing departure from the traditional way of selling records but now I feel that Richard has let me and an awful lot of people down. Why did he acquire NTL if he knew what SKY's response would be. Shame on you Sir Richard!

  • 23.
  • At 11:32 PM on 03 Mar 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

I am a VM customer and only have their service to get Sky One for 24. I do also watch lost.

The sad thing about this whole episode is that neither of these to executives have considered the impact on the customer. They are both arguing with each other - one claims they only wanted 3p per day per customer while the other says the wanted double.

Meanwhile the customer loses out. Tomorrow I shall miss 24. I have already found a way of streaming live football but sadly not 24. I wont switch to Sky but I will reduce my subscription to VM. Then when the box set DVD comes out, I shall buy it and watch the whole series at my leisure.

I am sure I read somewhere that Sky were planning to show Sky One on Freeview under a subscription plan.

It is a pity that these two grown ups could not have reached an interim solution for the benefit of their customers.

  • 24.
  • At 10:43 AM on 04 Mar 2007,
  • Edward Grainger wrote:

While I am not so naive as to believe that Branson is much less of a capitalist than Murdoch, his track record as an entrepreneur does suggest that he appreciates the importance of customer satisfaction: you don't build a media empire or an international airline purely by chasing the money. Virgin Media's avowed intention is to replace the lost content with a better offer; their ability to obtain exclusives in deals with HBO and the like will determine whether they succeed. The outcry at Sky's snatching of many live sports, and the BBC's abandonment of 24 to Sky will be repeated if Virgin can do deals for, say, Battlestar Galactica and similar shows produced independent of FOX and available to the highest bidder. Does Branson have the funds at his disposal to outbid Murdoch ? I hope so !

  • 25.
  • At 01:17 PM on 04 Mar 2007,
  • Jamie Barallon wrote:


Just as Sir Richard wants to be treated fairly and in a business-like manner by Sky, so too do I want to be treated fairly by Sir Richard.

The loss of Sky One has reduced the quality of the overall service offering of Virgin Media cable TV.

It was a long established and highly popular channel used to attract new customers and retain old ones. Yes, there were lots of repeats of cherished classics(Simpsons, Futurama, Star Trek NG and so on) but there were also new offerings and new seasons of Battlestar Galactica, StarGate SG-1, StarGate Atlantis, Lost, 24, Harry Dresden etc).

My reason for retaining cable TV - when there is so much repetition - was the enjoyment of watching these very few but high quality productions.

Sir Richard has suggested customers have been compensated with the introduction of Virgin Central and the On Demand service.

I argue that the offerings are just more repeats - in the main previously aired on C4 some years ago. We are not being given anything new or being given adequate and fair compensation.

I understand the reasons for Sir Richard making his stance against Sky. I ask that he not soft soap the viewers - his customers - and instead reduce the pricing of Virgin Media cable TV in recognition that customers now have a lower quality product.

By all means raise the prices back up once the former Sky One hit shows have been re-introduced under a new Virgin branded channel.

We the customers also want fair play ... please.

  • 26.
  • At 05:21 PM on 04 Mar 2007,
  • David Roden wrote:

Virgin media's decision has done little to endear it to thousands of virgin-ntl subscribers who were never consulted on this issue. It is even more irritating to then be told that the denial of a service which, for many, was the main reason for opting for cable over freeview is being made on behalf of subscribers. A brief glance at the message board at virgin media shows that Branson has lost the battle for hearts and minds here. The decision to remove sky1, etc. is thus self-defeating given the considerably stronger financial position of Sky.

Many intelligent viewers enjoy the quality US dramas on sky 1 such as the critically-lauded revamp of Battlestar Galactica and are likely to be switching to sky in the future. BSG will certainly not be shown on non sky channels since sky is a co-producer of the show.

The prospect of receiving a slew of underwhelming middlebrow films from a channel 4 tie-in is unlikely to set hearts aracing.

  • 27.
  • At 06:40 PM on 04 Mar 2007,
  • MarcMc wrote:

Re comment 11.
No Virgin media caN't play the 'we'll take channels away card'. They don't have any channels worth watching.
The thing that really winds me up is the way us (as consumers) are being treated! Murdoch and Branson OUR using our services to have a petty argument. They have no repsect for their customers at ALL!I guess that probably shows the kind of contol they obviously have over the market. That they can basically stick their fingers up at the contracts and needs of their customers is incoprehensbile and SHOULD be financial and business suicide

i think it should all stop and i think sky should stay on properly as it isnt confusingand virgin media is upsetting alot of sky viewers

  • 29.
  • At 02:08 PM on 05 Mar 2007,
  • Stuart Spalding wrote:

I am a Virgin Media (NTL) customer and the loss of Sky One will likely result in me cancelling cable, it is the thrid strike and out.

Strike One: having to take the NTL phone line when I have a BT line I am happy with already.

Strike Two: Sky Sports losing the USPGA to Satanta. Yes, I know that is not Vrigin's fault, but the only way to get the Satanta golf channel is to take all 7 Satanta sports channels for £15 per month. I only want the golf!!

Strike 3: Loss of Sky One.

If it makes Virgin Media feel any better, I won't go to Sky either. As one show form my childhood said I will "go do something less boring instead"!

  • 30.
  • At 04:24 PM on 05 Mar 2007,
  • Shane Dabinett wrote:

I am fed up...I am now not getting my favourite channel, i dont care if they add channels, they are usually rubbish and the same quality as Virgin Central, as Telewset customer for 6 years I was not informed of Virgin takeover nor wqas I consulted about the loss of Sky this week I am switching obver TV/BB to sjy..fed up with VM and its pathetic service now and no cost reduction, £60 per month i I will pay £26 to Sky...Disabled too so I am off to sky to see the programmes I pay for and like.

  • 31.
  • At 12:51 PM on 06 Mar 2007,
  • Rob Plant wrote:

@ 27:

You're never forced to take the NTL phone line (although you do get a discount if you take it with other services). Whoever sold you the tv/telephone service was not following company policy if they informed you differently.

  • 32.
  • At 03:34 PM on 06 Mar 2007,
  • Michael Forwell wrote:

I'm a two year user of NTL/VM, but complaining Virgin Media Customers need to start thinking again. No, I don't mean "thinking again" as in having a re-think, I mean "Thinking again" as in using the tissue in their heads to something approaching full capacity. Use your brain like Branson does, it's exhilarating.

Wake up!! shake off the heavy fog in your thoughts. This is no ficticious exploding suitcase nuke in downtown LA. This is LIFE, this is real, this is war, and what a spectacle.

You'll have to re-tune your mental receivers to appreciate this ratings winner, but I assure you it's worth the effort. You'll feel the benefit in so many other areas of your life too.

This is the big picture like Plasma ain't ever gonna be. You chose your side some time ago, now take your place in the trenches and be proud to be a foot soldier in the battle for satelite supremacy or cable conquest!!

Sure, you're just cannon fodder, but like I said, this is real life guys. I'm prepared to lose everything and look at a blank screen for a whole year whilst paying my £80 per month. My allegiance to my channel provider is unbreakable. By my will alone, we will see victory and the complete destruction of Sky.

(Told you it's exhilarating:)

  • 33.
  • At 12:51 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • mimo wrote:

As a diehard TV junky with no interest whatsoever in sports for the longest time my TV viewing came down to 5 channels Sky TWO, SCI-fI, MORE 4, E4 & LIVING. My platform of choice for these channels was CW, then NTL. However some lovely changes have happened in the last few years that neither SKY or VM seem to be truly acknowledging as they indulge in this little spat.


Due to a recent move I've had an opportunity to experience FREEVIEW.
Freeview gives me MORE 4 & E4 and with the introduction of BBC3 & BBC4 (increasingly these channels are worth the licence fee on their own) ITV2 & ITV4 (introducing shows that would previously have been the preserve of SCI-FI or SKY 1/2) I find i am really enjoying the lack of monthly bills and don't miss NTL TV service at all.

And with My Broadband access despite being a tech novice. I find I can download those shows (Heroes, BSG, 24, Bones etc) I am missing within 24 hours of them being shown in the states. Broadcast Quality files, No adverts and the freedom to watch at my own convenience. And with recent developments it seems increasingly likely I will be able to do this legally soon.

Between these 2 things. JM & RB can carry on having there little spat.

But the question has to be asked how many viewers will they have once the dust settles.

  • 34.
  • At 02:02 PM on 07 Mar 2007,
  • Fraser wrote:

Like a few others here i have been a customer of both NTL (Virgin) and Sky. I only got cable as my landlord wouldn't allow a dish to be put up. In other words i got cable to watch Sky programming. Sky Sports, Movies and Sky One.Yes anything good is an american import such as Lost,24, The Simpsons, Bones,Rescue Me etc but any of the above is far better than what is currently showing on ITV.
Sorry Mr Branson and Mr Whitehorn but you are sadly mistaken if you think anybody gets cable for Living Tv that a recent Virgin advert boasted about.

  • 35.
  • At 12:33 AM on 08 Mar 2007,
  • Philip Hobson wrote:

It's quite simple really. Sky currently receive £25m per year from virgin to air Sky 1,2,3 sports news and Sky News.

If 10% of the 3m virgin customers defect to sky at the basic package cost of £15 per month sky make £54 million a year.

Even more defections mean even more cash direct to sky.

Add to the fact that sky wish to replace the free channels on the freeview platform with subscription channels, it's clear to see that the motive of sky is to dominate the subscription tv market in the uk, and bully it's smaller rivals into submission, thus increasing it's own profits or put them out of business once and for all, thus giving the uk viewer only one subscription service, its own.

Sky should be investigated by the OFT, and OFCOM should deny sky it's desire for subscription channels on freeview.

If sky no longer wish to offer a service on freeview then perhaps those channels that it doesn't want us to have for free can be handed over to the BBC to experiment with terrestial HD service, thus benefiting the UK viewing public.

  • 36.
  • At 01:28 AM on 08 Mar 2007,
  • allison wrote:

As a diehard TV junky with no interest whatsoever in sports for the longest time my TV viewing came down to 5 channels Sky TWO, SCI-fI, MORE 4, E4 & LIVING. My platform of choice for these channels was CW, then NTL. However some lovely changes have happened in the last few years that neither SKY or VM seem to be truly acknowledging as they indulge in this little spat.


Due to a recent move I've had an opportunity to experience FREEVIEW.
Freeview gives me MORE 4 & E4 and with the introduction of BBC3 & BBC4 (increasingly these channels are worth the licence fee on their own) ITV2 & ITV4 (introducing shows that would previously have been the preserve of SCI-FI or SKY 1/2) I find i am really enjoying the lack of monthly bills and don't miss NTL TV service at all.

And with My Broadband access despite being a tech novice. I find I can download those shows (Heroes, BSG, 24, Bones etc) I am missing within 24 hours of them being shown in the states. Broadcast Quality files, No adverts and the freedom to watch at my own convenience. And with recent developments it seems increasingly likely I will be able to do this legally soon.

Between these 2 things. JM & RB can carry on having there little spat. But the question has to be asked how many viewers will they have once the dust settles.

  • 37.
  • At 11:29 AM on 08 Mar 2007,
  • wasting time wrote:

If you really want to watch lost and 24 etc whilst still on VM it is simple enough to watch them online through websites such as, the website itself has no content to watch but links to watch the shows on youtube, dailymotion, veoh, etc. Naturally the quality is not as good and its a bit of a hassle watching things on a computer in comparison to the living room, on a sofa in front of the tv.
Football can be streamed online too, there are sites that provide links for this too, they are then used in conjunction with a program to watch them on.

These are just suggestions but you do require a decent speed broadband service, certainly to watch sport online.

Now we have another issue to debate.

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