Broadband Wars VII: Virgins on the cheap
Virgin Media continues to slide down the plughole, flailing about like a tadpole in a cistern, until some private equity vultures come in and buy it for a few pence in the pound. Cable is a technology with so much potential to change telecommunications – especially in the UK where slow, unreliable copper wire DSL looks to be the default option until 2050. Yet it has always suffered from financially and intellectually bankrupt owners and the 8,000 tonne beast that is Murdoch’s Sky. I’ve detailed Sky’s market abuses in the past and to be fair in the content game Virgin has been left with the leavings (shows from third tier US networks and whatever else Sky can’t be bothered to buy) but its patronising, blokeishly base marcomms has done it no favours.
The tone of all Virgin Media’s communications is the same: simple, stupid, chatty and cheap. The aging Uma Thurman in a windtunnel screeching ‘Hot diggity damn that’s fast’ does not disguise the fact that its service looks and is too expensive for most consumers. The new leftover content channel ‘Virgin 1’ has a tagline of ‘Proper Telly’ – who is this for, mythical blokes for whom Sky has become too upmarket? Print ads scream of special offer! And hurry! further devalue its brand. There is no sense of cable’s technological advantages, rebellion from the Sky behemoth, fun, aspiration or anything attractive at all.
Many in the City have noted that the loss of Sky’s basic channels have damaged it far more than paying the admittedly rapacious Murdoch shilling would have done and that in its current form it is simply not a credible alternative for consumers.
Meanwhile the ninja-like perfection of NewsCo continues apace with Sky’s rather more clever ‘Believe in Better’ campaign. This hits Freeview, Virgin and the soon to be launched free to air satellite service with a fun, confident premium proposition. Better indeed…