Virgin Media Adding Four HD Channels

Part of a "Verruca Salt" TV package. Probably safest not to ask.

Although the main order of the day, 50Mbit broadband wasn’t the only item of discussion at the launch of that service by Virgin Media today. Virgin Media CEO, Neil Berkett, was on hand to detail the forthcoming addition of four HD channels to Virgin Media’s line-up.

According to Berkett, Sky has been causing other providers a few problems until recently having “locked the HD content away for a period of time.” Apparently, though “this changed recently and a lot of non-platform suppliers have started to make HD available, so it is now a commercial decision that we have made.”

Pushed for a timeframe on these new HD offering becoming available Berkett suggested that the next three or four months would see Virgin Media “launching three or four more HD channels.” Berkett also added that: “you’ll see us exploit our advantage in Video on Demand. I refer to it often as the Veruca Salt package: ‘I want it and I want it now’ and that will impact more heavily in terms of HD.”

Given the BBC is, by all reliable accounts, set to launch its own HD content onto the iPlayer in the near future, Virgin Media might end up as one of the best placed competitors. HD video on demand will almost certainly be a huge selling point of Virgin’s service offerings when available.

Certainly, the implication form Berklett is that Virgin will be investing in on-demand HD content more heavily than broadcast content, citing Ofcom as one reason for that emphasis. As Berklett put it: “Ofcom are in the middle of a market investigation where they have deemed that a premium pay TV market is flawed and they have some remedies that they are imposing on that space. Importantly, their definition of that market is premium sport, premium movies and high definition. So, again our position over the last 18 months is that rather than work against our capital there are regulatory changes that need to happen to give broader access to HD and in the meantime we’ll take whatever advantage we can commercially with our on-demand applications.”

Still, as long as more HD programmes are available via more providers, does anyone really care how that content is delivered?

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