LONDON — John Malone’s U.K. pay-TV operator Virgin Media stepped up its rivalry with Rupert Murdoch’s Sky on Wednesday when it unveiled a new box, the V6, which can record six shows at once, and a download-to-own service, among a flurry of other new services and enhancements.
At a launch event in London’s Leadenhall Building, overlooking Tower Bridge, David Bouchier, Virgin’s chief digital entertainment officer, revealed the various features of the V6 box, which is powered by TiVo software. “Our new Virgin TV lineup raises the bar in home entertainment, marrying the latest and smartest technology with the very best TV programs, all underpinned by our ultra-fast cable network. This is game-changing TV,” he said.
While recording six shows at once, V6 box users can also watch a seventh recording or stream from services such as the BBC’s iPlayer or Netflix. Virgin has also freed viewers to roam throughout their homes. Recordings, on-demand shows and live TV can be watched in one room, paused and continued in another with the V6 box or their existing TiVo box. Recordings and live TV can be continued on a mobile device with Virgin’s TV Anywhere app.
The V6 box, which costs £99.95 ($124), supports 4K ultra-high definition TV, with Netflix and YouTube available in 4K from launch, and is also high dynamic range compatible. It comes with one terabyte of storage, allowing 500 hours of SD recordings or 100 hours of HD recordings.
Virgin also unveiled Virgin Media Store, through which viewers can download-to-own movies, straight after their theatrical release, and receive them on DVD as well. The store, which will launch in February and be available for non-Virgin Media customers on desktop and mobile, will offer a wide range of TV-series box sets to download. Virgin has also introduced a kids app, and its own tablet, the TellyTablet, which has a 14-inch HD screen and four built-in speakers.
Virgin Media is owned by Malone’s international cable operator Liberty Global, which operates in more than 30 countries, serving more than 29 million customers. The V6 box has been developed for use by Liberty Global companies across Europe and Latin America. The U.K. is the first market for the new box, with plans to expand to other parts of Europe next year. This is the first time a single box will be deployed so widely across the company’s footprint.