LONDON — It just launched its new V6 set-top box and a weird Android tablet this week and, though the kit reportedly does not upgrade the advertiser offering, according to The Drum, UK cable operator Virgin Media is already helping serve targeted ads inside catch-up programming.
Virgin Media, formed out of a merger of regional cable operators in the last couple of decades, is the UK’s second pay-TV provider after Sky. Unlike Sky, which leverages satellite for linear broadcast, Virgin Media’s trump card is fiber.
Back in 2010, the operator helped TiVo re-enter the UK when it selected the equipment maker to be its new set-top box. The commitment, made at the time, to embrace a new generation of apps never quite panned out, with a paucity of services running on a box that had become slow before V6’s arrival – although Virgin Media does, notably, carry Netflix and other TV channel apps, as well as broadcaster content through its own EPG.
But Virgin has, for some time, been offering the ability to serve custom ads in to broadcaster content when viewed as catch-up through that EPG. The new box will do the same, but will benefit from greater emphasis brought by a new sales team.
“Virgin is other star of the show,” says John Paul, advanced advertising and data VP of LibertyGlobal, which acquired Virgin Media in 2013. “It has has a very valuable data set, a very forward-thinking CEO as well, who has created an entity called Virgin Media Solutions. That’s going to be our sales vehicle across all our addressable inventory across Ireland and the UK.”
What will Virgin Media Solutions be doing? Acting as the sales agency for its inventory on VOD and public WiFi (principally, London’s Underground) as well as Irish TV channel TV 3. But most of the heavy-lifting will be done by UK broadcasters who air over Virgin Media.
“We will be selling some aspects of the addressable ad inventory, but we will primarily be an enabler,” John adds. “Whether it’s ITV or Channel 4, they will do the selling of their inventory, we will match that for inventory we control with Virgin Media Solutions.
“We’re only doing it on VOD at the moment. We have quite a range of attributes that we can do addressable against. Our biggest opportunity to improve is the actual dynamic nature of that activity, the automation of it.”