UK converged operator VMO2 has launched a device called Stream for its broadband customers, which aggregates content from multiple TV services and allows billing for them to be controlled in one place.
The box plugs into a TV via HDMI and the platform is controlled via a voice enabled controller, which essentially turns a dumb TV into a smart TV in the same way as an Amazon Fire Stick, Android TV, or any games console does. It has an app store for the most used streaming and TV services, such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Disney Plus, which again will be familiar to anyone who has used similar plug in devices.
It is only available to VMO2 broadband customers, and it’s targeted at those that don’t already have Virgin Media TV in the home, since this more or less does the same job of aggregating a mix of live TV, freeview, and paid for subscriptions as the set top box does.
The main USP of Stream seems to be the ability to get a view of multiple TV subscriptions in one place – as long as you enable payment for them through a VMO2 account – and turn them on and off from there, though you can’t do that with Amazon Prime or BritBox at this stage. If you do set it up so you pay your subscriptions through the My Virgin Media app as opposed to directly, VMO2 offers 10% credit back every month on each subscriptions.
Stream is available from tomorrow to Virgin Media broadband only or broadband and home phone package customers from M50 to Gig 1 Fibre, and has an initial set up cost of £35.
“At a time of endless entertainment choice and a strain on household budgets, we’re putting viewers first,” said David Bouchier, Chief TV & Entertainment Officer at VMO2. “Stream customers will only pay for the entertainment they choose and can pocket monthly savings on the content they add – it is a truly flexible and personal way to enjoy the entertainment that matters most, at great value. Stream is more than just a new TV service, it’s whole new way to enjoy connected entertainment. More than ever, content and connectivity go hand in hand and with Stream we’re delivering the best of both.”
All in all its neat little box and the UI in the demo looked solid. The difference between this and the sorts of streaming gadgets put out by the tech giants like Apple and Amazon is that they are mass market affairs – they and about getting as large a global audience as possible globally onto a platform in some way. This however has a pretty targeted audience – UK Virgin Media Broadband customers who don’t already pay for Virgin Media TV services.
At the launch event today there was a heavy emphasis on flexibility, and the ability to ‘only pay for what you want’. Obviously you can do that anyway with SVOD subscriptions, which are almost always rolling contracts with a 30 day cancellation policy, but there could be some utility in being able to get a top down view of all the subscriptions in one place. And that would certainly be more convenient if you happen to have loads of them on the go at once.
The Stream has been in development for a couple of years, and it could be argued it has has dropped at a slightly inopportune time. If anything the current squeeze on living costs seems to be contributing to a trend of cancelling subscriptions, so a service that allows you to easily manage multiple accounts in one place is less useful if you’ve got rid of most of them. But there’s the 10% discount, which you can’t argue with, and of course all the other content it pulls from Virgin services, YouTube and Freeview.