Virgin Media Player is an interesting new offering for anyone subscribing to the big V’s tell service, but with their eyes on Sky’s all singing, all dancing HD line up. It’s a viddy on demand service for customers on all your screens, and we’ve been trying it out recently to see how it fares against established IPTV offerings. Check out our verdict here in our full Virgin Media Player review.
There once was a time when families would gather expectantly around the goggle-box of an evening to enjoy their daily offerings of light entertainment, but with the emergence of super-fast broadband internet connections and arrival of on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer and 4OD, such quaint occurrences are becoming a thing of the past. TV today is very much a case of what you want, when you want it.
It’s into this increasingly competitive battleground that Virgin is launching its Virgin Media Player service. Like the other online portals currently doing the rounds, it essentially allows you to watch television shows whenever is suitable for you. The key difference here is that Virgin’s challenger pulls together content from several different broadcasters, meaning you don’t have to have to endure the spectacle of multiple media players fighting each other for your attention.
The catch is that in order to use the service you have to have signed up with Virgin’s XL TV package, as well as their broadband service. Assuming you can tick the boxes on both of these counts, then a whole ocean of televisual ecstasy awaits your hungry eyeballs.
Running the service from your PC is easy – you just visit the dedicated site and key in your Virgin Media email address and password. Thankfully our test machine was already bang up to date, but you may find that you need to upgrade your installed version of Adobe Flash Player in order to get the ball rolling. Regardless, it’s the work of minutes.
Once you’re in, you’re presented with a several options. You can select a popular show from the ones highlighted, browse the A-Z or consult your playlist. This last option is another reason why Virgin Media Player is unique – you can create your own schedule of programmes tailored specifically to your tastes.
There’s plenty of content to pick from, as well. If you’re a fan of classic telly then Taggart, The Darling Buds of May and Captain Pugwash will undoubtedly be ever-present in your playlist. Thankfully for more modern tastes there’s The Life and Rhymes of Snoop Dogg, Jack Osborne: Celebrity Adrenaline Junkie and Primeval, not to mention the dubious charms of Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men.
However, unlike rival services SeeSaw and YouTube TV Shows, you can’t watch programmes that have been shown very recently, so there’s no catching up on the implausible events in Hollyoaks or finding out who got evicted in Big Brother. By far the most glaring (though understandable) omission is the complete lack of BBC content, so dedicated coach potatoes won’t want to delete the web link to iPlayer just yet. Virgin promise more content in the near future, though.
Playback quality through Virgin Media Player varies dramatically from show to show. More recent programmes tend to look sharper, but older shows suffer from bothersome pixilation. To be honest the same issues blight both BBC iPlayer and ITV Player, so it’s hard to be too critical.
There’s another added bonus for those of you that also have a Virgin Mobile as well as the aforementioned TV and broadband packages — you can watch an hour’s worth of shows a day from the palm of your hand. If you don’t have a Virgin phone, you can still join in with the fun for just £1 a day. Sadly we didn’t have the opportunity to test this portion of the service but from experience we’d imagine that a fairly powerful phone will be required to get anything approaching half-decent performance.
The Virgin Media Player is currently in beta testing and more channels and programmes are promised when it eventually launches for real. The lack of BBC shows is irksome, but aside from that the concept is solid. Bringing together streams from multiple providers in a single sleek and unified interface is an excellent idea, and the easy-to-use playlist option takes the pain out of planning your evening’s entertainment.
If you’re already under Virgin’s wing then you really have nothing to lose by trying out Virgin Media Player. It’s not worth switching TV and broadband providers for – after all, it’s not like exclusive content is on offer – but its convenience certainly could be a deal clincher if you’re already undecided about which service to subscribe to.