UPC rebrand: what does it mean for customers?

Subscribers will be hoping for better TV service and cheaper prices

It's too early to say with any authority how the rebrand to Virgin Media will affect UPC customers and the company is not saying anything further on the subject for now. Nonetheless, the move will likely be welcome by subscribers who will be hoping for lower prices and improved services.

Both UPC and Virgin are owned by Liberty Global, which is in turn owned by the billionaire cable TV magnate John Malone. And the two have a similar heritage, having emerged from what was previously NTL. In fact, Virgin was established in 2006 following a merger between NTL and Telewest, a move that led to the creation of the UK's first so-called "quadruple play" provider, offering TV, internet, landline and mobile bundles.

UPC is also about to become a quadruple play provider as it enters the mobile market by piggybacking on Three’s network.

Virgin Media was also the first to offer HD TV and 3D On Demand to millions of British households and it has continued to invest in its cable network to the point that it now offers ultrafast broadband to over half of all UK homes, with speeds of up to 152Mb. This is somewhat less than the maximum 240Mb currently offered by UPC, but is twice as fast as that offered by some rivals. Moreover, according to the regulator Ofcom, the group has the fastest widely available broadband in the UK and earlier this year it announced plans to invest a further £3billion in its network.


Television viewers may be the ones to see most change, however. Subscribers have been less than impressed with Horizon TV, UPC’s revamped, but somewhat clunky, digital TV service, particularly when compared to Sky. Virgin TV customers don’t just get a more reliable service but one that offers more than 200 channels (34 of which are HD), compared to UPC’s 100 channels (21 of which are HD). Moreover, Virgin has a TiVo service that allows subscribers to record around 500 hours of standard TV or about 100 of high definition television.

Pricewise, UPC's basic 'three-play' bundles, which consist of television, internet and landline, range from €75 to €90 per month. Equivalent deals from Virgin Media cost between £17.50 (€23.89) and £52 (€70) per month. It costs from £5 (€6.89 to add in a mobile SIM to deals.

UPC is promoting the rebrand as something that will lead to “enhanced delivery of great customer experiences.” Whether that turns out to be true or not remains to be seen but one thing’s for sure, change is definitely on the way one way.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist