Virgin Rolls 'TV Everywhere' Delivery In-House

U.K. Operator Shifts From Third-Party CDN to Its Own Based on Concurrent Servers

British operator Virgin Media has decided to build its own content delivery network for TV Everywhere, a move that exemplifies how MSOs worldwide are wrestling with the costs of delivering multiscreen video.

The U.K.’s No. 1 cable provider last fall launched Virgin TV Anywhere, which lets customers access live and on-demand content from up to 47 TV channels via mobile devices and computers. Initially Virgin used a third-party CDN (which it declined to identify) to get to market quickly, but it’s now in the process of deploying Concurrent’s MediaHawk VX media servers to deliver TVE over its own network infrastructure.

With the new CDN, the operator will be able to “reach new screens more easily and rapidly scale our system to meet increasing demand for Internet-based services,” Virgin Media director of multiscreen product Scott Kewley said.

Translation: Virgin Media stands to spend less by operating its own content delivery network than using an outsourced CDN, as usage escalates and the number of connected devices in customers’ hands and living rooms proliferates.

Virgin is in the midst of being taken over by Liberty Global, whose $16 billion bid is aimed at fortifying its European cable stronghold. At the end of 2012, the MSO had 3.8 million video customers, 35% of whom had TiVo DVR service.

For Concurrent -- whose main rival is Cisco Systems -- the deal is among the vendor’s biggest European customer wins. Other operator clients in the region include Kabel Deutschland, Portugal’s Zon, Telefonica in Spain and Vectra in Poland; major U.S. customers include Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications.

The MediaHawk system’s ability to unify IP video and traditional VOD into a single architecture was attractive to Virgin, according to senior vice president of strategic marketing Jim Brickmeier. “The promise is there to potentially merge into the set-top side,” he said. Virgin currently uses SeaChange International’s VOD servers.

In part, Virgin is using TV Anywhere as a carrot to get subs to upgrade their video package: Only its TiVo digital video recorder customers have access to the service both on the Web and through Apple iOS apps; other Virgin TV customers may access only the online service. The MSO prices TiVo service at an additional £2.50 to £5.00 extra per month depending on the package (about $3.78 and $7.57, respectively).

Virgin is continuing to expand the authenticated offering, announcing a deal last week with broadcaster ITV to add four channels to TV Anywhere later this year.

The Virgin TV Anywhere services can be used anywhere in the U.K. over a wireline or Wi-Fi broadband connection; streaming over mobile 3G networks is currently not supported.

Separately, last month Virgin Media added a channel for YouTube in its program guide (or as the Brits spell it, “programme guide”) available to TiVo customers. The MSO integrated YouTube clips and channels into the TiVo “My Shows,” search and browse functions.