Who will blink first – Virgin or Sky?

Posted by Chris Green on Wednesday February 28 @ 5:11 pm

SkyVirgin Media

At midnight tonight, the carriage deal between Sky and Virgin Media (the new name for the recently merged UK cable TV companies NTL and Telewest) expires. If no new deal is signed, and no temporary extension agreed, Sky’s handful of basic channels (Sky One, Sky News, Sky Travel etc) will disappear from around 3.3 million cable TV homes in the UK.

I am one of these customers, although I also have a Sky dish and a top-tier subscription so the withdrawal of service is not the end of the world, as I’ll still have all the affected channels available via either of my two Sky receivers.

We only have the one cable TV box and a basic cable sub, and only then because it comes free with our phone line. However, it will be very irritating if the basic Sky channels are pulled, as part of the reason for having the box fitted was that it gave us easy access to Sky One in the bedroom.

Sky and Virgin are currently engaged in a stand-off. For Sky, failure to agree a deal will cost the company anything up to £60 million in lost advertising revenue, as rates will have to be lowered and refunds given on existing bookings to reflect the huge drop in audience for the affected channels.

For Virgin, which today announced a loss of £122 million for its fourth quarter, already losing cable TV customers at an alarming rate (37,000 in the last three months alone), faces the prospect of even more bailing in favour of satellite dishes and Freeview boxes (though Sky is in advanced talks about pulling Sky News, Sky Sports News and Sky Three from Freeview as well, in favour of using its multiplex portion for a limited pay-TV service instead). Customers bailing in search of a better, cheaper and more extensive TV service are also likely to take their broadband and landline telephone custom with them, increasing the financial impact for the loss-making Virgin Media.

As a further note, Virgin’s position has not been helped by the rebranding of the cable service, that has seen its web site, literature and on-screen information and presence revamped to be more appealing to those recovering from a lobotomy or a severe brain injury. Here’s a tip guys, not all your customers are as thick as your overseas, outsourced call centre staff.

So, returning to the business point – Both companies will lose out if no deal is done, with both set to miss out on revenue in the high tens of millions. Virgin will also face the knock-on effect of increased customer churn that will likely impact on other parts of its faltering business. Sky on the other hand will struggle to replace the loss of over three million viewers overnight, given that the UK broadcasting landscape does not offer another viable outlet for basic pay TV stations such as Sky One.

My prediction – I don’t expect a deal to be agreed in time to head-off tonight’s deadline. Instead, I expect to see a temporary extension of the existing carriage deal on the existing terms, probably for another month while both sides grow up and settle this. While they are technically rivals – the fact is that they either both lose or both win – there is no scenario that will produce one outright winner and loser.

Things I’ve learned this week…

Posted by Chris Green on Monday February 26 @ 3:11 pm

Ok, this post is more a case of things I learned last week, but it’s been a hectic seven days for the IT industry’s most controversial (and according to one reader, dashingly handsome) journalist:

1) My attention has been grabbed by the arrival in the IT PRO office of a giant paperclip and a giant calculator from an as-yet unidentified source (could this be the geek equivalent of sending flowers? If so, keep’em coming!)
2) The Rover 75 will do 120 miles an hour.
3) Sky is set to pull its basic channels from Virgin/NTL/Telewest, which will make keeping my cable TV box pointless as I only had it installed as it was cheaper than installing another Sky box in the house, and would still allow me to get Sky One in my bedroom.
4) Tony Blair is even more of a prat than I thought.
5) Twitter is not only addictive and dangerous, it is also expensive, as my most recent mobile phone bill demonstrates.
6) Trying to plan a holiday is incredibly stressful, especially if you want to do something in August.
7) I’ve signed up for Facebook – not sure why?
8.) My Sky+ box has almost run out of space, so I’m now seriously looking at taking time off work in order to actually watch some of the stuff that I’ve been taping for the last few months.
9) I have started thinking about this summer’s barbecue party.
10) The Slingbox is still one of the best bits of kit I reviewed in 2006, not sure I can part with it now.
11) Words can be powerful things…..

Tune in next time for more unusual thoughts and cryptic messages.

Free Coffee Day

Posted by Chris Green on Wednesday February 21 @ 10:15 am

On my way in to work as I type this entry, running late as usual.

Anyway, there’s an interesting ad on the back page of this morning’s Metro. Apparently all Starbucks branches in the UK will be giving away free coffee today between 2-4pm to celebrate “Good Coffee Day”, otherwise known as a Starbucks publicity stunt.

Starbucks are evil (We’ve all seen Austin Powers so we know this is true), but a free cuppa is a free cuppa, and we’ve basically paid for it already by buying overpriced Starbucks coffee in the past.

And Keely, if you are reading this – too much free coffee is bad – m’kay! Hope your week improves.

The site may be a bit strange for a while

Posted by Chris Green on Wednesday February 21 @ 12:02 am

We’ve just updated the WordPress install to version 2.1, and it has succeeded in breaking some parts of the theme we use. In particular, the links down the right hand side are a bit messed up as a result of the upgrade.

However, a crack team is currently working on trying to fix the incompatibilities between version 2.1 and our theme.

The peculiarities of Google advertising

Posted by Chris Green on Tuesday February 20 @ 2:06 pm

I’m beginning to think that Google is spying on me, or at the very least someone at the search engine giant is intercepting my post.

I am not sure which of my recent posts may have triggered it, but all the Google ad spots on this blog are currently promoting debt restructuring and other deadbeat finance deals.

Is someone at Google reading my credit card bills before me?


Paranoid of Ruislip 🙂

Thought for today….

Posted by Chris Green on Monday February 19 @ 7:09 pm

A clear indication of my mood can be taken from what I pull from my many DVD cabinets. Today, it was season 2 of Babylon 5, in particular – The Coming of Shadows.

There is a quote from this particular episode that has stuck with me since University. I used to have it printed out and stuck on the wall above my desk. It has many meanings: defiance, strength, determination to name but a few. For me, it serves as a reminder of the person I used to be – it provides inspiration and focus when I need it most:

“There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power governments, and tyrants, and armies can not stand. They learned this lesson once. We will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years, we will be free.”

This quote doesn’t usually surface during good times. I’m not the only one with some tough decisions to make this week 🙁

Chevrolet HHR

Posted by Chris Green on Friday February 16 @ 8:51 pm

Chevrolet HHR 3

Originally uploaded by Chris Green.

A quick pic of the hire car I had in San Francisco. It’s a Chevrolet HHR.

Having driven it, I can understand why they have never launched it in the UK. Bad handling, dashboard made out of a plastic dustbin and that stuff that holds the sweets in a chocolate box, and a big engine that produces very little power.

But you have to love the retro styling. I think it looks fantastic.

Things I’ve learned this week…

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday February 15 @ 11:20 pm

Greetings from the Virgin lounge at San Francisco airport. I’m waiting for my flight home after almost a week here with HP.

This week, I have learned many things:

1) American cars, with the exception of the Mustang, are crap!
2) I really miss the power and comfort of my Rover 75, not to mention its ability to turn corners without understeering into a tree.
3) Twitter remains extremely addictive.
4) Twitter remains extremely dangerous.
5) We need a new blogging platform for the mag, I choose WordPress, and expect a lengthy and bloody battle ahead.
6) I am always right!
7) Except when I am wrong or annoying 🙁
8.) Valentine’s Day sucked this year for several reasons.
9) Blockbuster still hasn’t replied to my letter.
10) Customer service at Virgin Media since the rebrand has actually got worse – I didn’t think it would be physically possible.
11) George at Wal-Mart is better than George at Asda.
12) Pay day can’t come soon enough this month.
13) A server fan can be used as a replacement for an electric motor in a remote control toy car.
14) Two of my friends are not speaking to me this week – a new record.
15) In both cases, I really don’t know what I’ve done (can’t have run over their pets again, not been in the country).

This educational moment has been brought to you by the number 70, the letter A and the colour red. It has also been typed on my Sidekick, so apologies for typos.

Last chance to sign the anti road charging petition

Posted by Chris Green on Wednesday February 14 @ 6:58 pm

If, like me, you believe that we already pay enough to use cars in this country, then please consider signing the following e-petition:


The deadline is February 20th. There are over 1.4 million signatures so far, but we need more.

BBC lays the smackdown on YouTube over Top Gear clips

Posted by Chris Green on Friday February 9 @ 9:50 pm

Top Gear

I could not sleep last night, and there was nothing worth watching on the 480+ shopping and quiz channels that now dominate late night British TV.

Therefore, I decided to have a play with YouTube and dig up some amusing Top Gear clips, usually a sure-fire way to put me in a good mood, or make me fall asleep. Alas, my search for clips proved fruitless.

The BBC has finally called time on the extensive and outrageous level of piracy of BBC content on YouTube, and with it, the huge library of Top Gear clips and complete episodes. Every clip I tried to access had been pulled either for a terms of service violation or because the BBC had been in touch to exercise its rights as the copyright owner for the material. The BBC is completely in the right on this one, but it is still a shame – my increasing use of YouTube has demonstrated to me the benefits of having such a huge library of British TV programmes and clips available on-demand, and free of charge.

The strange thing is, having revisited YouTube just now; I see that a large amount of the content that was suspended has now disappeared from the site altogether, while the remaining material is now accessible again. The fact that a decent amount of stuff is accessible is great, but I do appreciate that it is almost certainly not legal for it to be there, and I can’t see the Beeb giving its blessing for people to upload clips of any of its most popular shows to such a service, at a time when it is trying to get into on-demand content. So I suggest you enjoy the content on YouTube while you still can, before the onslaught of copyright holders wipe out all the commercial material on the site.

As an aside to all this, I notice that the BBC Top Gear web site has had a major facelift, and now offers over 60 streaming clips from past shows, including the majority of the items that have been nuked from YouTube.

Coincidence? Conspiracy? How long before they start using TV detector vans to erase our memories of Eldorado and Triangle.

Actually – that’s not a bad idea, as both those shows were rubbish!

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