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Virgin Media UK Preps Next Gen TV 360 Service for Launch

Tuesday, August 25th, 2020 (12:04 pm) - Score 39,837
virgin tv 360 possible uk set-top-box

Customers of TV and broadband ISP Virgin Media UK (Liberty Global) are being invited to sign-up for the operator’s future launch of a new “next generation TV” service, which looks set to be called Virgin TV 360 and will also be accompanied by a new piece of set-top-box hardware or two.

At first we thought that this might just be the Horizon 4 software update for VM’s existing v6 set-top-box that was due in H2 2020 (here), but we now understand from our sources that Horizon won’t be coming to the v6 boxes after all. Instead Virgin Media appear to be gearing up to introduce two new STBs – a main box with the Horizon software and hard drive inside, and then a mini box with no hard drive (both have HDMI ports).

Both boxes support 4K video and we hope that they’ll also do HDR. According to the sign-up page, “Watch and stream on all your screens – Welcome to telly, anywhere. Powered by our ultrafast fibre and 4G mobile networks, our next generation TV experience will bring together all your screens, favourite channels and apps, so you get to watch and stream what you love, at home and wherever there’s mobile data or WiFi.”

The trial page also lists the following features, although these are quite vague and sound similar to what already exists on their current platform.

Extract from the Trial Sign-up Page

Great power and streamability
Speedily find what you want with our new Voice Search and Control, watch and stream on a TV experience powered by our ultrafast fibre and mobile networks.

Entertainment comes together
The TV you love, together in one place – with much-loved Sky channels, Catch Up services and built-in apps, you won’t need to watch anywhere else.

On the go
Stream, control and manage your TV, wherever you are, with our Virgin TV Go app.

We assume that the new Mini Box is the same one as Liberty Global recently launched for UPC in Poland (pictured – top), while the new Main Box looks a bit like the v6, but on the inside it’s a different piece of hardware. We think that the picture below represents what this unit might look like (swap that UPC logo for Virgin Media’s).

virgin tv 360 big box

After that the details start to become a little less clear, not least because Virgin Media in the UK doesn’t always take the same approach as operators in Liberty Global’s other markets across Europe. At present it is unclear whether the new kit will be available to all new customers or only specific bundles (e.g. Ultimate Oomph). Likewise, we don’t know if existing v6 customers will have to pay for an upgrade (post-trial) or if it will be free.

Apparently, the trial invites are only open until 2nd September 2020 and there’s limited availability, which means that those who apply might not all be accepted. Overall, the proposed two box setup sounds very similar to the approach already being taken by Sky Q (Sky Broadband). We note that Virgin Media in Ireland has also launched a 360 TV service (here), which may provide an indication of what UK consumers can expect.

Elsewhere, the announcement of a mini box for UPC Poland (here) reveals a few more details. The unit will be an all-IP device, meaning that all it needs to run is a WiFi or Ethernet connection from a cable, fibre or mobile source. It can also run on the power from your TV’s USB input (no mains power required) and has max usage of under 5 Watts.

The 4K Mini TV Box will be available from today to UPC Poland customers and will be introduced in other Liberty Global markets in due course,” said Liberty Global on Monday. You can see a related video presentation of the mini box below. We have asked Virgin Media if they’d be able to share any information on their UK plans and are awaiting an update (we’re not hopeful).

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31 Responses
  1. Avatar Jono says:

    Basically Sky Q, but probably not as good.

    1. Avatar Brian M says:

      My experience with Sky Q has been hit and miss.

      When it works, it’s fantastic. When it breaks it’s a pain to diagnose. And if your boxes are too far apart for wifi to work well, and you connect them via ethernet, prepare for broadcast packet flooding!

    2. Avatar Graham says:

      I’m not even sure that Sky Q is a particularly good solution, to be fair.

      As an individual, or possibly even a couple, who have their main TV, but then would also like to access their recordings from other locations, it works quite well.

      But for families, where you maybe have parents and kids watching very different sets of shows, it’s a pretty terrible solution compared to how old multiscreen worked.

  2. Avatar CJ says:

    Does an all-IP device open up the possibility of Virgin TV becoming available in non-cabled areas in future, for example via an agreement with smaller altnets or even as a stand-alone product? Sky seems to have put its plans for a similar service on hold.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Sky are interesting since they technically already do a miniature version of that via their NOW TV service. But yes, Virgin might have the ability to do something similar in the future, although I don’t believe that any of Liberty’s other EU markets have taken that step yet (happy to be corrected).

    2. Avatar Jay says:

      Be great if sky did do ip channels here in the uk like they do in the EU which is called SkyX

      nowtv isn’t to bad but skyX is basically a skyQ interface but streamed via apps or there own skyQ mini box, even the skyX samsung tv app is pretty neat looking

  3. Avatar Yatta! says:

    Finally, they should have dumped the terrible TiVo years ago.

    1. Avatar Vince says:

      Yeah I wouldn’t get too excited til you’ve tried this.

      TiVo when implemented on good hardware and without so many nasty customisations… is nice. Virgin Media messed it up.

  4. Avatar Yilang says:

    Why is it that the UK is the last place to get all the new toys ?

    I’m not particularly interested in TV, but look they have it elsewhere already and we’ll be last to get it, just like DOCSIS 3.1 is there on other liberty global networks. Why are we last all the time 🙁

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      To be fair we were, I think, the first or one of the first to get Virgin’s previous v6 box.

  5. Avatar Nick says:

    I’m a Sky Q customer with multiscreen. It is extremely disappointing that 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos are only available on the main box. All the mini boxes only offer HD and standard Dolby. Every time I complain to Sky, they just say there is no demand for it. This is simply not true if you read the online complaints. So many people now own 4K TVs. Sky is holding back many of their customers from utilising the full potential of their TVs

    Hopefully if the rumours are true that Virgin will be offering 4K on their mini boxes, then this will finally force Sky to upgrade their Sky Q mini boxes in order to offer 4K and Dolby Atmos. Unfortunately this will necessitate replacing the entire mini box since the motherboard isn’t compatible. No doubt Sky will charge their customers £50 P&P to send back the old boxes, which they’re currently doing on some of their main boxes that aren’t compatible with HDR.

    If it wasn’t for Sky’s competitors, Sky wouldn’t budge and just milk their loyal customers with annual price rises for the same hardware. Therefor I welcome this news from Virgin.

    1. Avatar James™ says:

      Just waiting on BT’s new TV system being announced now.

    2. Avatar Pezza says:

      @James, now that could be interesting, we can’t get Virgin but if BT had a decent alternative then it could be time to consider ditching Sky?

    3. Avatar James™ says:

      @Pezza, agreed but would mean taking BT broadband 🙁
      I’d really like a TV provider I don’t need to take broadband with! I don’t like Sky but will use now tv for now just a pain it’s not on Fire TV.

    4. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      As I understand it, both the VM Mini and the Main box support 4K UHD and, by standard, it has options to convert to 5.1 audio however it only mentions this for Netflix movies and programmes. But you can pair an audio system to the boxes as well.

  6. Avatar Pezza says:

    So copying Sky Q then, only it has the advantage of being able to provide 4K on both boxes where as Sky are living in the Stone Age and only allow it on the main box, mind you the Sky Q boxes only connect to 2.4ghz WiFi anyway unless your using a Sky Q router.
    So long as it keeps the price war in place it will be worth having it around I’d imagine.

  7. Avatar Roger_Gooner says:

    It looks as if customers will have a choice of a box which:

    1. Is a replacement for a TiVo or V6, requires a connection to a coaxial cable and stores recordings on a hard drive. A connection to VM’s hub for broadband will also be required.
    2. Is a new all-IP box which does not have a coaxial cable connection and which stores recording on the cloud. I would expect a connection only to VM’s hub for broadband as it takes a closed network to deliver what’s required. I can see this box being more easily installed as additional boxes where a coaxial connection would be awkward.

  8. Avatar Elle says:

    Neither of the boxes shown here have a hard drive. The first is a basic iptv box like Now TV which will most likely be bundled with Virgin broadband for those who don’t want tied down to an 18 month cable tv package or bundled with O2 mobile post merger.

    In Ireland, Virgin is rolling out the same V6 box as the UK as its main cable box but with Horizon 4 software instead of TiVo – https://www.virginmedia.ie/virgintv360support/

    1. Avatar Elle says:

      The 2nd box shown here is used in Ireland as a multiroom box similar to SkyQ mini boxes but with 4K support – https://www.virginmedia.ie/virgintv360support/multi-room-viewing/

  9. Avatar SimonR says:

    Well, at least that remote looks usable. The one I’ve got could have been designed better by pulling a pile of buttons randomly out of a Scrabble bag.

  10. Avatar Aleksandr Metslov says:

    I have internet. Sorry, I really need somebody to explain me why shall I pick locked streaming box over the whole choice of programmes I want on the internet?

    What is that TV box magic?

    1. Avatar qxv says:

      Because some people want TV. It’s not a requirement to take TV with any provider..

    2. Avatar Roger_Gooner says:

      It’s simple, the only way to legally get premium channels like Sky Sports is by locked boxes. Those who are caught illegally sharing streams can get fined several thousand Pounds.

  11. Avatar James says:

    Is there any news or rumours regarding BT’s new box? The article on ISP review is approaching a year old… Where has that time gone!?

  12. Avatar Roy Morley says:

    I’ve connected my Virgin TV360 using the same cables that I used for the V6. I’ve paired the hub I get the welocme scene but after that nothong the remote blonks as of tryong to communocte but nothong os is happening. Iwonder why

    1. Avatar Andy says:

      For some reason they always suggest using all the new cables that come with the box. I did that and have no issues.

    2. Avatar Andy says:

      Also, after you’ve connected it all you still have to ring them to activate the new box.

  13. Avatar Gordon Wyett says:

    I can not get my itv hub or UK TV apps on my Tele in the apps section

  14. Avatar Andy says:

    I have the new Virgin 360 box. I’m not a tech geek but it was a free offer so I thought why not? The unit can be voice activated to choose channels, apps etc but I’ve no idea what’s inside it. The guide has a new layout on screen. Incidentally I’m out of contract but when I rang them for a deal they said they couldn’t help for another week until the box is rolled out properly because they weren’t all trained in the new box and what channels or packages they could offer. Time will tell I guess.

  15. Avatar Mark says:

    I am an existing customer and I would like love to give it a go underneath 360 box

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