Virgin reaches for Sky Q with fully loaded TV service

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The Virgin TV V6 set-top box is compatible with High Dynamic Range (HDR) content(Credit: Virgin Media)

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Virgin Media has launched a new TV and entertainment service to UK consumers. Virgin TV comprises a set-top box, a mobile app for anywhere-viewing, an HD tablet for viewing around the home, a kids app for TV, games and books and a new store for movies and box sets.

Virgin's new offering has been unveiled 10 months after its main competitor, Sky, launched the newest version of its service, Sky Q. Much of the functionality is similar, like the ability to watch and record multiple programs at the same time and to watch content away from home. Where Sky trumps Virgin with its own content, the Virgin service has a few additional elements of its own.

Central to the service is the new Virgin TV V6 set-top box, which Virgin Media says is its smallest, smartest and fastest box to date. It is based on TiVo software that is said to provide lagless menu navigation and is compatible with other TiVo boxes.

As with the Sky Q box, the V6 is UHD-ready, allowing users to watch 4K content. Having said that, whereas Sky is already broadcasting entertainment, movie and sport content, in UHD, it's not clear what Virgin will be offering in the way of UHD content itself. It's only gone so far as to say that users will be able to watch 4K content on Netflix and YouTube and that additional 4K content is planned.

The box is also compatible with High Dynamic Range (HDR) content, which basically means blacker blacks and more vibrant colors. A software update enabling this will be rolled out before HDR content becomes available.

The V6 offers 1 TB of storage, which Virgin says will accommodate around 500 hours of SD content or or 100 hours of HD content, and it's possible to record six programs while watching a seventh or using a streaming service. Additional boxes around the home will allow for more storage and more simultaneous recordings and it will be possible to view recorded content on other V6 or TiVo boxes.

In a similar way to Sky's "Fluid Viewing," content can be recorded in one room, watched in another and then paused and resumed in another. Users will also be able to switch between devices when viewing, with the updated Virgin TV Anywhere app.

The app is available for iOS and Android and, among its other features, allows users to watch on-demand content and V6 box recordings at home over Wi-Fi, watch live TV and some on-demand content over Wi-Fi away from home and sync some recordings from the V6 box to watch offline. It also allows users to set, cancel and delete recordings and to control the V6 box with a remote control.

As for the kids app, available on iOS, Android and Kindle Fire, there's 1,500 hours of on-demand programming, as well as games and picture books. There's a child-friendly menu for easy navigation and a lock to avoid kids leaving the app and exploring other content on the mobile device. It's also ad-free and has no in-app purchases.

For those who like the idea of a dedicated device for kids viewing or for families watching different programs in different rooms, Virgin has introduced its so-called TellyTablet. The device runs on Marshmallow Android OS and has a 14-in screen, with a 7-8 hour battery life. It comes preloaded with the Virgin TV Anywhere app and is, of course, compatible with the kids app should users wish to install it.

If the programming via the V6 box isn't ample enough, the Virgin Media Store will allow users to buy additional movies and content for instant viewing. It will be available via the V6 and TiVo boxes, on desktop computers and as an app for iOS and Android, as well as to non-Virgin Media customers.

The Virgin TV V6 box is priced at £99.95, with content bundle subscriptions to be charged separately. It will be possible to buy the TellyTablet with a mobile bundle to spread the cost over 24 months, or to pay £299 in one go. The new service will be available to UK customers from next year, with other markets to follow.

The video below provides an introduction to the Virgin TV V6 set-top box.

Source: Virgin Media

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