Virgin Media is now the only cable TV operator in the UK, and the #2 in broadband and pay TV behind BT and Sky respectively. It was formed by the relaunch of the old NTL cable business following its acquisition of Virgin Mobile in the UK in 2006. It uses the Virgin brand under license, and has adopted the Virgin corporate stance, but by the end of 2012 Richard Branson's Virgin Group had only a small shareholding in the business of around 3%. The company also owned a small collection of cable channels for several years, including Living, Bravo and a 50% interest in the UKTV channel portfolio comprising Eden, Good Food, Dave and others. The wholly owned channels were sold to Sky in 2010; the UKTV stake to Scripps of the US. The business was wholly acquired in 2013 by John Malone's Liberty Global investment group for $23.3bn, but retains the Virgin Media name, using the Virgin brand under license. The group had 5.5m customers in the UK for its various services at the end of 2018, including 3.9m for cable TV and 3.0m for mobile. Virgin Media is the biggest business within Liberty Global, which also has cable subsidiaries in several other European markets including Belgium (Telenet/BASE) and the Netherlands (the Ziggo/Vodafone joint venture). Several other businesses have been sold since 2016. Various assets in Latin America were divested in 2017. In 2018, Liberty agreed to sell its Unitymedia division in Germany and UPC in several central European countries to Vodafone. Swiss operator UPC was sold in 2019 to local telecoms operator Sunrise. Once completed, those divestments will reduce Liberty's portfolio significantly to the UK and Ireland, Belgium, Poland and Slovakia, in addition to the Dutch joint venture. Reported revenues from continuing operations in 2018 were just under $12.0bn, with net earnings of $725m. Virgin Media in the UK & Ireland accounted for revenues of $6.9bn. However debts remain huge: $29.3bn at the end of 2018. Mike Fries is CEO of Liberty Global; Tom Mockridge is CEO of Virgin Media. In 2020, a deal was agreed with leading UK mobile operator O2, whereby the two companies would merge under the joint ownership of Telefonica and Virgin Media parent Liberty Global.
Capsule checked 28th February 2019
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Recent stories from Adbrands Update:
Adbrands Daily Update 7th May 2020: Just a few days after news of negotations first leaked to the media, Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica and media investor Liberty Global have signed off on a deal to merge the UK mobile service O2 with cable giant Virgin Media. Telefonica and Liberty Global will have equal onership of the combined company, with a plan to issue an IPO in 2023. The deal values O2 at £12.7bn and Virgin Media at £18.7bn, including debts. Telefonica has been attempting to divest its UK business for several years, but a previous sale to Hutchison's Three was blocked by regulators. Virgin Media's own mobile business - the former Virgin Mobile - is very small, whereas O2 is the UK's biggest operator with 34m customers. In addition to the branded service it also provides the network for virtual operators Tesco Mobile, Sky Mobile and Giffgaff.
Adbrands Daily Update 24th Sep 2019: "I Can Do Anyth-ing". Adam&Eve DDB's latest for Virgin Media is another colourful high-octane assault on the senses, depicting the multiple entertainment opportunities offered to one young Scouser girl from the high-speed cable service. The extraordinary versatility of modern day CG now allows real life video capture to be turned into a virtual cartoon, where literally anything goes and everything is possible. All a filmmaker - like this ad's director Raine Allen-Miller - needs is imagination. The results are exhausting but very impressive.
Adbrands Social Media 17th Jun 2019: "Unlimiting". Newly appointed Adam&Eve DDB has thankfully dumped former Virgin Media brand ambassador Usain Bolt - no disrespect to the fastest man alive but that concept ran out of steam years ago - for a much looser CGI-enhanced campaign that piles up gags and effects one on top of another for maximum overload. Let's hope that freshness lasts, and that the agency can keep coming up with exciting new ideas like this, rather than eventually resort to wheeling out the Bearded One for a plug. After all, Branson has literally nothing whatsoever to do with business anymore other than to count the cash from his licensing deal for continuing use of the Virgin name.
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th July 2018: Ads of the Week: "A Report of Unconnected Events". Movie and box set buffs will have lots of fun identifying the multitude of sly references in this spectacular short from director Mischa Rozema and prodco PostPanic. The client is cable giant Liberty Global, owner of several different cable TV operators in Europe including Virgin Media in the UK. The idea is to celebrate Liberty's commitment to storytelling and original programming. The irony is: I don't know about you, but we at Adbrands can't think of a single notable original series actually created by Liberty. All the films or shows referenced here (that we recognised anyway) were commissioned elsewhere, even if they were shown on a Liberty strand. Oh well, quibbles aside, it's a stunning piece of work, worth every minute of the time spent watching it.
Adbrands Weekly Update 10th May 2018: Mobile operator Vodafone pushed further into cable TV with a deal to acquire the local operations of John Malone's Liberty Global group in Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. Enterprise value of the deal is estimated at €18.4bn. Vodafone already has a substantial mobile presence in Germany, and owns the leading cable provider. The addition of Liberty's Unitymedia, its biggest domestic cable rival, creates an even stronger challenger to local broadband and telecoms leader Deutsche Telekom. Vodafone Kabel and Unitymedia currently serve different areas of the country, so there is no geographic overlap between the two, reducing the likelihood of regulatory issues. Liberty's UPC is the dominant cable provider in the Czech Republic and Hungary and a strong #2 in Romania. However, the merger is expected to provoke considerable opposition from Deutsche Telekom - the main rival in all four markets - as well as traditional broadcasters. Telekom CEO Timotheus Hoettges recently told investors "There will be no way that this deal is going to be approved and for us it's completely unacceptable." The purchase will be made with a mixture of cash and bonds. Most observers expect Liberty to respond with a deal of its own to strengthen its remaining cable operations in Europe, not least in the UK, where it owns Virgin Media.
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