Anybody who follows me on Twitter will know that I have recently returned to Virgin Media for my television, fixed-line broadband and telephone after moving back into a cabled area, and they will also know the major issues that I have been having with the service that I receive from them, particularly with regard to the broadband – allegedly the fastest in the UK, but rarely able to even get near to top speed and consistently suffering from outages.
So now they have launched the “Virgin Media Player”, a model not dissimilar to that of the BBC iPlayer or Channel 4’s 4OD – offering television shows and movies on-demand, in this case to customers who subscribe to their full television package, which I do.
The first question has to be, will it work? And the answer, almost immediately, is no.
The site looks very good, the aesthetics are pleasing to the eye and it makes use of AJAX technologies, programmatically it is very advanced, but the pitfall comes when you try to watch content – surely, the reason that it exists.
On my 50mbps broadband pipe the playback is of poor quality and is stuttery. I made three attempts to get an episode of South Park to play before giving up, it just would not load.
Advertising banners point out the fact that they have a mobile version of the site where I could watch videos on the move – the question I had to ask myself here was; “Do I want to give myself a coronary trying to get it to work?”, and the answer was … let’s do it.
Unfortunately it was a very short test, I pointed my mobile browser, a very recent and popular handset – the BlackBerry Bold 2 9700 on an Orange 3G contract, and I was immediately told to “Please use a browser that is supported and make sure you are on a 3G connection.”
First thing to wonder here is; why are Virgin Media not supporting one of the most popular handsets on the market at the moment? The RIM BlackBerry is currently doing very well for itself and is increasing its market share month on month, Virgin Media are clearly cutting out a very large proportion of their user base.
The second thing to wonder is; If my handset was supported, would I only be able to use the service when connected to a 3G data source, and if so, why? I mainly use my BlackBerry for browsing when I am on WiFi. Are Virgin saying that I have to be on a slower connection to use their mobile service, and if so, why? This makes no sense at all.
So, this entire test was a major fail. The Virgin Media Player appears to have some good content, mostly what is on the “On Demand” section of my HD set-top box, but unfortunately I cannot access any of it, despite using “the UKs fastest broadband”, so what chance has anybody else got?
The Virgin Media Player is available to XL television package subscribers and can be accessed at http://www.virginmedia.com/player