Virgin Media takes on Sky with free streaming box

A Virgin Media Stream box is seen in an undated handout image. (Photo courtesy Virgin Media, Graphic by The Desk)

Virgin Media says it will include its new Stream hardware with certain Internet packages and is waiving activation fees for eligible customers.

The move is intended to help Virgin Media better compete against Comcast-owned satellite service Sky, which recently introduced a streaming television package and associated hardware of its own.

In a statement this week, a Virgin Media executive said the move is intended to help its broadband Internet customers save money on streaming television services.

“Stream from Virgin Media was built on three core principles – value, flexibility, and convenience,” David Bouchier, the chief entertainment officer at Virgin Media O2, said on Thursday. “Entertainment should be easy, and we offer our customers the very best way to stream and enjoy their favourite content with the UK’s fastest widely available broadband speeds.”

Virgin Media customers who have the company’s M350, M500 or Gig1 broadband packages can get a Stream box for free as part of their service, the company said. Stream offers access to a handful of streaming television services and apps, including Netflix, Disney Plus, Sky Cinema, BT Sport and Sky Sports.

Customers subscribe to pay services straight from the Stream box, with the subscription charged to their broadband Internet bill. Each subscription earns customers a 10 percent discount on their overall bill, which helps offset the cost of the streaming services.

Some subscription-based services are priced lower on Stream by Virgin Media compared to its rivals. For instance, BT Sport typically costs £18 per month (about $20 per month), but it only costs £10 per month (about $11 per month) when subscribed to through Stream.

Curiously, the same is true for Sky Sports, which is priced at £38.75 per month (about $43 per month) on Sky Stream, but costs just £18.75 per month (about $21 per month) on Stream by Virgin Mobile.

“At a time when every penny counts, we’re offering our customers even more value, so they squeeze the most out of their money with discounted streaming services or Stream credit giving them extra money back,” Bouchier said.

Stream by Virgin Media also offers more than three dozen live channels, including BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, with 28 channels available in high-definition. The Stream device includes several popular catch-up services and free online apps as well, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My 5 and YouTube.