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Update on Virgin Media O2 UK’s Free TV Streaming Service

Saturday, October 23rd, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 38,136
Virgin-Media-Stream-UK-Box-and-TV

Some of Virgin Media’s (VMO2) UK ultrafast broadband ISP customers, specifically those who don’t already take their Pay TV service, are once again being invited to take their long-awaited TV streaming (IPTV) product – simply called ‘Stream’ – and it will come “at no extra cost“. But this time there’s no mention of a trial.

Back in April 2021 we reported that Virgin Media had begun wider trials of a new TV streaming product (here), which would be a similar solution to Sky’s rival Now TV platform, albeit one that is only available to Virgin’s own broadband customers (at least for now). More recently, the CEO of VMO2, Lutz Schueler, appeared to confirm that the final product would launch before the end of 2021 (here).

The new Virgin Media Stream product essentially supplies a modified version of the palm-sized “mini box” device that they already offer alongside their premium Virgin TV 360 service, albeit without an internal hard disc and with modified TV360 code. The latest invites for this make no mention of it being a trial, although confusingly a spokesperson for VMO2 informed us that it was.

As the related customer invite page states: “We think entertainment should be simple. So we’ve packed faves like Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, and Netflix (if you subscribe), as well as the free channels you can’t live without (like BBC, ITV, and Channel 4), into one clever little box – and put you in charge.” A total of 40 “free channels” (they mean Freeview) and various “favourite” apps (e.g. iPlayer, YouTube etc.).

At present, no long contracts are involved with Stream, which means you can add or cancel TV add-on packs or subscriptions every month if so desired, and it can all be paid for via a single monthly bill. But Stream is only available with an active Virgin Media broadband subscription with a minimum download speed of 50Mbps and, for some inexplicable reason, it’s “not compatible with Gig1 broadband” (the gigabit package).

The Stream Box, which also comes with a remote, needs to be used with at least Virgin Media’s Hub 3, 4 or 5 routers, and it requires an HDMI cable connection to your TV. The box itself can cope with 4K (i.e. for this it requires a 4K compatible TV/device with HDCP 2.2), although at present it looks like most of the channel packs available only offer HD (High Definition) rather than Ultra HD (4K). Just to be clear, “Stream cannot be taken along with other TV set-top boxes including V6 or Virgin TV 360 box.

As above, there is no charge for the Stream service itself, but any of the content subscriptions taken with the Stream plan are at additional cost. In terms of TV packs, this is what is referenced alongside the invite message:

Stream TV Packs

Sky Cinema HD: £21 per month. Can be cancelled at any time by giving 30 days’ notice. Sky Cinema HD channels come as standard. Sky Cinema Premiere +1 not available in HD. Channel line-ups are subject to change. Service usually upgraded within 48 hours, but in case of exceptional demand may take up to 5 working days.

Sky Sports HD: £36 a month. Must be kept for at least 30 days but can then be cancelled on 30 days’ notice at any time. Offer redeemable by main Virgin Media account holder only. Sky Sports HD channels come as standard. Channel line-ups are subject to change. Service usually upgraded within 48 hours, but in case of exceptional demand may take up to 5 working days. Only available to view in the UK.

BT Sport: £18 per month. 30-day minimum term. Renews automatically until cancelled. Channel line-ups are subject to change. Includes HD content and Dolby Atmos on selected events, minimum line speed and compatible device needed. Only available to view in the UK.

BT Sport Red button: Additional broadcast events on the BT Sport Extra channels via the Red button are currently not available on Stream from Virgin Media.

Sky Sports and Cinema HD: £44 a month. Can be cancelled at any time by providing 30 days’ notice. Sky Sports and Cinema HD channels come as standard. Channel line-ups are subject to change. Service usually upgraded within 48 hours, but in case of exceptional demand may take up to 5 working days. Only available to view in the UK.

Essential Entertainment: £12 per month. Can be cancelled at any time by giving 30 days’ notice. Channel line-ups are subject to change.

Kids Pick: £5 per month. Can be cancelled at any time by giving 30 days’ notice. Channel line-ups are subject to change.

At the time of writing, we don’t know exactly which channels Virgin Media are including alongside their ‘Essential Entertainment‘ pack. The other disappointing factor is that this product is only available to Virgin Media customers in their own network areas.

By comparison, Sky’s rival NOW TV platform can be taken alongside any broadband ISP and its Entertainment pass costs from £9.99 per month, but then you also have to pay another £5 a month just for full HD and decent audio. As above, we don’t yet know how VM’s Entertainment pack compares in terms of channel choice. Credits to Daniel for spotting the latest invite.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
49 Responses
  1. J says:

    not compatible with Gig1 broadband LOL

    1. Steve says:

      Hi I can assure you it does work with 1 gig

  2. anonymous says:

    ‘for some inexplicable reason, it’s “not compatible with Gig1 broadband” (the gigabit package).’

    Not compatible with Gig1 specifically or not compatible with the Hub 4?

    1. anonymous says:

      Never mind. Missed the part where it requires Hub 3 or higher.

      I can’t say this makes any sense to me. Only difference between Gig1 and others is a configuration file. I suppose they could be worried about a maxed out gigabit port causing streaming issues.

    2. Buggerlugz says:

      Get the impression Virgins left hand doesn’t know what its right hand is doing.

  3. Smythe says:

    Does it include a Freeview tuner?

    1. Jon says:

      No Freeview tuner.

  4. Dk says:

    By allowing iplayer they are putting you into a pool of users that will then need to pay for a TV licence. Surely that shouldn’t be considered free regardless of what speed package you have. All other catch up programmes are exempt (mostly) but iplayer will put you straight on their fine list. I only use exempt programmes and don’t recieve virgin TV though i do use their Internet services so i doubt I would be offered one of these boxes anyway but just seems a bit sketchy to me

    1. Lucian says:

      You need to pay the licence if you watch LIVE programs, be it on YouTube, Iplayer, freeview or anywhere else. You don’t need to pay if you only watch catch-up stuff.

    2. Lucian says:

      I stand corrected, ignore my previous message. Iplayer is indeed an exception, you need to pay the licence even if you don’t watch live stuff on it. This kind of sucks.

    3. Buggerlugz says:

      Only if you watch live programming. Just because it comes with Iplayer doesn’t mean you need a licence. You can choose not to use it.

    4. ToneDeaf says:

      Wondering why “it kinda sucks” to have to pay the BBC licence fee to watch on demand programming on iPlayer? Licence payers like myself have paid the licence fee in order for these programmes to exist on the service!

    5. ToneDeaf says:

      From the TV Licencing website – “You must be covered by a TV Licence to download or watch BBC programmes on BBC iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand. This applies to any device and provider you use.

      Don’t forget, your TV Licence also covers you to watch or record programmes on any channel as they are being shown on TV or live on an online TV service.”

    6. Frank says:

      I think everything BBC should be a subscription option instead of having their apps forced upon us all the time. License fee is old fashioned and very totalitarian in nature. It needs scrubbing immediately and let the masses choose what they want to watch. I’m sure it would work out better for them. I have no room for an update on my Samsung TV – but there are apps on there I never use taking up space and I can’t remove them. IPlayer is one of them, Apple TV is another. You can bet this is more of the same crap.

    7. Rich says:

      Even without iplayer you’d have to pay the license fee, as the point of this box is watching live tv on freeview channels.

    8. Optimist says:

      The TV licence is killing Freeview because in order not to have to pay for the BBC’s rubbish viewers have to forego watching anything via Freeview at all.

      Perhaps this is the plan, to force all TV off the airwaves so the Freeview bandwidth can be auctioned off for other uses.

    9. Ryan says:

      hah. we can’t even watch Ukranian TV without giving money to the BBC via the TV tax. We have no interest in watching UK broadcast TV but I would quite like for my wife and children to be able to watch TV from Ukraine but we’re not going to pay a TV tax for that. Amazon prime is much better value at £79 a year.

    10. Jake andrews says:

      Defund bbc and cancel your tv tax licence and then watch what ever you want if the goons knock on your door just don’t answer it only the gullible get court without a tv rip off tax licence as I been been watch live tv without a licence for years by not answering the door to goons for years . Never been court 10 years and counting save ££££ for not funding Gary linker fat cat overpaid wages for talking shi*te for couple of hours match of day or fa cup ect . I don’t subscribed to any paid streaming services either . I use kodi and use to use mobdro app before it shut down by police in another country .

    11. anonymous says:

      Can’t speak for everyone but for my part in paying for the content you consume, as weirdly enough the people making it do want to be paid, you’re welcome, Jake.

  5. Wishes to remain hidden says:

    I’ve been/I am on this trial since the beginning and have recently been informed the trial is going to be wrapped up soon.

    As I had to sign an NDA I still can’t say a lot but can confirm when Gig1 came to my area my account was ineligible to upgrade to it due to the Stream product on my account.

    There are a lot of apps missing like Disney+ so unfortunately it isn’t the one-stop-shop I was hoping it to be.

  6. ACDeag says:

    The problem I see with these streaming services is that the content owners are reluctant to licence their channels direct to them, so that is why you end up with endless apps. Ideally Virgin could store all broadcast ITV programs and if you wanted to watch something from last week they would stream it to you, but no, ITV wants you to use the ITV Hub to do that, the same will happen to all the other channels eventually.

    So you want to watch something from Discovery you will need Discovery+, something from NatGeo you will need Disney+ and so on. The worst thing is where the Channel only holds broadcast rights and not streaming rights, so for example Frasier on C4 you can’t watch it on All4 so you either watch as broadcast or forget about it.

    1. MilesT says:

      “Broadcast rights but not streaming rights”

      That’s what a Freeview/Freesat PVR is for!

  7. NDA says:

    I removed stream, added gig1, trial ended and they said keep the box, plugged it back in, still works on gig1.

  8. James says:

    I high doubt it but is it possible to get the NowTV app on this?

    1. AQX says:

      Doubt it. Now TV is a direct competitor to Virgin so even though it would make sense from a convenience to the customer side of things; they probably won’t.

  9. J Carrington says:

    I was offered one as part of the trial, but I turned it down as it lacks some the Apps I use such as Disney+, Britbox, NOWTV. I’ll stick with my Apple TV box which has everything I need.

  10. Ryan says:

    I would like to get a good UK streaming service in Cyprus. Even with ridiculous 4m dishes it’s impossible to get all the freeview channels via satellite. There are of course people selling their Chinese dodgyboxes and you pay a small monthly fee and mysteriously get all channels but we only want the free to air ones. I would imagine the VM stream boxes are probably going to only work on the VM network. Would be great if broadcasters didn’t have these rigid geofences i understand it’s a rights issue but yeah some of us are bored to tears with the local content, thank god for streaming services.

    1. anonymous says:

      VPNs are your friend, Ryan. Believe Surfshark are ‘acceptable’ for performance, adequate for streaming, and should suit your needs. Always promotions going on to keep the pricing pretty reasonable.

  11. Michael V says:

    I’m not in s Virgin Media area, have fibre & would absolutely consider the service.
    If it’s a trial then maybe that’s why it’s limited to their own cabled areas.

  12. Ash says:

    Just to say You do get the virgin 4k channel with the entertainment package

  13. mike says:

    “We think entertainment should be simple”, except:

    – It doesn’t work with Gig1
    – You can’t have an existing STB
    – We provide no way to stream recordings from your V6 around your home using your existing wifi or ethernet
    – To use “Stream” you have to use our box, not your smart TV, Apple TV, iPad, etc
    – Which means “Stream” only streams to a TV

    All of Virgin’s TV offerings suck. Sky is overpriced. As soon as Gig1 is available to me I’m renegotiating my contract to remove the TV service.

    Then I’m just buying an HD Home Run and linking it with Plex. Then I can stream TV channels and recordings to any device, including my iPad, and even when I’m away from home.

  14. Michael V says:

    We need a TV licence if we watch BBC services, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 or Amazon video subscription.
    That what the license site said last time I visited. Even if you only use their on-demand streaming services.

    When I moved into my own place I didn’t use any of those services so I didn’t need a licence.

    1. JP says:

      Read carefully…

      The law says you need to be covered by a TV Licence to:

      watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV, on any channel
      watch or stream programmes live on an online TV service (such as ITV Hub, All 4, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV, Sky Go, etc.)
      download or watch any BBC programmes on BBC iPlayer.

      Note its says “as shown” this mean means live broadcasts, pretty much most streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Now TV, ITV, All4, offer live streams of TV channels like Eurosport, and other sporting events like football on Amazon, Now TV offers live streams of Sky One and a few other channels, ITV and All4 allow you top stream Channel 4, E4, more4 live too….

      However just because you use those services for ‘on demand’ streaming don’t mean you ‘need’ or ‘would’ use them for live broadcasts….. the only On demand app/service that will require TV Licensing is BBC iPlayer (live/ondemand)

      If that don’t clear that up for you then let us know 🙂

    2. Spurple says:

      @JP: who is “us”

    1. Jake andrews says:

      You don’t need a tv licence rip off tax to watch bbc i player or bbc don’t listen to jp as he’s a tech illiterate . I’ve been watching bbc I player without a tv rip off tax licence as I got a spy hole on my front door if it’s the tv goons don’t answers door no £20 commission for capita scum.and I watch live tv Aswell being doing it for years not got court by not a answering the door . I use to watch live football ect on a a app called mobdro before it got shut down last year by police in another country and I use kodi now being doing it for years . Saving ££££ by not funding Gary liniker fat cat overpaid wages .

    2. anonymous says:

      Can’t speak for everyone but for my part in paying for the content you consume, as weirdly enough the people making it do want to be paid, you’re welcome, Jake.

      I’m not tech illiterate by the way I am just not a fan of freeloaders. Like yourself. If you object to paying the going rate for things you don’t help yourself to them, you don’t use them. We can all hook ourselves up with content free of charge, just most of us choose not to.

      Choose.

      Sorry your own personal value system doesn’t extend to this.

    3. Ash says:

      Jake if we all did what you do there would be no content to watch, but your small mind probably doesn’t realise that. I happily pay my sky sports subscription and tv licence so you’re welcome.

      It’s just like hard working tax payers paying for lazy none workers sponging off the government.

  15. Ash S says:

    This is the perfect product to allow me access my virgin content in my bedroom. I live in an apartment which only has one virgin socket so I am unable to take multiroom. Hopefully its something they think about in the future, as it runs the same software the 360 box i can’t imagine its not impossible to allow it stream from the main box.

    1. mike says:

      But that’s one of the stupid things about it… if you already have a STB you can’t get this streamer thing

    2. Buggerlugz says:

      Still, I guess theres more value for money to be had in a tv licence than any graphics card currently…..

  16. Celtic says:

    I agreed to trial the VM Streaming Box several months ago. Within 30 minutes of setting-up the box I had disconnected it, and packed it up ready for collection by VM. It’s quality, in terms of its its output, was significantly inferior compared to my existing AppleTV.

  17. Simon Craddock says:

    I was on the trial of this box/service a few months back. Too be honest it was ok for basic Freeview but didn’t really offer any real incentive to subscribe to anything as the prices are ridiculous.

  18. Brian Gannon says:

    You can get Sky Cinema and Sky Sports on a NOW TV stick for less, particularly Cinema as there always seems to be an offer available. For Cinema, I am currently paying £5.99 a month and reluctantly an extra £2 for HD and simultaneous viewing compared to £21 via the Virgin Stream box. BT Sport is a good value at £18 though as it’s £25 direct from BT so that’s what I will be using the Virgin Stream box for. The NOW TV account management is really good in terms of adding and removing “passes”. The Virgin Media online account management is woeful so will need to improve to seriously compete with NOW TV.

  19. Justme says:

    I have a paid sub ,and I have everything for £50 a year if you want to pay sky funny money and be ripped off carry on ,you must have more money than sense

    1. Matt says:

      And what is this TV that only costs 50 a year then? Its not iptv is it coz last time I checked its not lagit

  20. Nick L says:

    They sent me one of these last week. While it does offer more of the free-to-air channels in HD than I can get on Freeview via an aerial, it doesn’t have apps for All4 or Disney+ and I’m not interested in subscribing to Sky (and Now is cheaper anyway) so it’s not going to replace my Amazon FireTV. Add those two apps and I might change my mind.

  21. Dean Mason says:

    Any news on when I can get one of these?

    Is there anywhere I can register for updates on this?

    Or do Virgin Media offer any equipment trials?

  22. Matt says:

    I’m just upset it costs so much to have virgin media TV and broadband it’s more than my electricity bill witch says something I think todays prices suck and long turn customers get bent over its notice to have full service from them but we only watch certen channels and the odd ramdom one but thay package it together so you have to pay the high package to get the Sky channels bit of a joke

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