The company's not-always-friendly rivalry with BSkyB shows no sign of abating.
February 2007: Virgin Media had been formed by the merger of NTL:Telewest with Virgin Mobile to form a "four-play" of digital service offerings. During a launch day of cunning stunts, the highlight comes when Virgin's founder, Sir Richard Branson, picks up Dita Von Teese.
November 2008: Some observers had heralded Virgin Media as a digital media powerhouse to rival BSkyB - and, indeed, tensions between the two had been evident from the start. Sky, for instance, stopped Virgin Media's takeover of ITV by acquiring a blocking stake of its own. Then a carriage-fee spat saw Virgin Media dropping the likes of Sky1 from its cable TV line-up. The dispute is not patched up until November 2008.
August 2009: Towards the end of 2008, Virgin Media had announced a plan to cut 2,200 jobs (15 per cent of its then workforce) by 2012 as it sought to restructure outstanding borrowings of £4.3 billion. And the performance gap is put into stark relief in figures for the second quarter of 2009, with the highly profitable Sky continuing impressive subscriber growth (124,000) while Virgin Media's uptake slows to a relative trickle (20,000).
July 2010: Further areas of Virgin Media's competence come under scrutiny when it reveals it is selling its content creation and TV channel management business, Virgin Media Television, to, of all people, BSkyB. Sky pays £160 million to acquire the jewel in VMTV's crown, Living, which features the likes of Grey's Anatomy, Britain's Next Top Model and Sons Of Anarchy. However, Sky promptly closes the ill-conceived Virgin 1.
February 2012: But there's hope yet - as Virgin Media illustrates when it now reveals its first-ever annual profit. Income for 2011 was £76 million on revenues that were up 3 per cent year on year to £4 billion. It lost £141 million in 2010 and £358 million in 2009.
Fast forward ...
May 2014: As Virgin Media's financial fortunes improve, it becomes apparent that it can genuinely aspire to hold the balance of power in UK broadcasting. When the new ITV chief executive, Fru Hazlitt, begins buying up News Corp's stake in BSkyB, and makes it clear she intends to launch a full-blown bid, Virgin Media beats it to the punch by acquiring a 20 per cent blocking stake in its satellite rival.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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