Vodafone has paused its plan to enter the pay-television market in the United Kingdom. The project, which was originally supposed to launch in 2015 and then before the end of 2016, has apparently been placed on hold. The Vodafone chief executive, Vittorio Colao, said that the service was ready for launch within weeks but there were no longer any firm plans to introduce the service commercially.
Vodafone was reported in March 2015 to be preparing to launch an online television service in the United Kingdom that November. It was going to be based on a platform provided by Kaltura, which powers video services for Vodafone in Spain and Germany.
The plans appear to have slipped behind schedule but in September 2016 Vodafone was continuing field trials of its service and was reported to be preparing for a soft launch.
In a trading update, Vodafone announced that it had just 129,000 consumer broadband customers in the United Kingdom at the end of 2016, a quarterly rise of 32,000 but it seems not a strong base upon which to build a television platform to take on BT and TalkTalk, or Sky and Virgin Media.
Vodafone has 17.96 million mobile customers in the United Kingdom, down slightly over the year, and 116.07 million across Europe, with a total of 469.57 million worldwide.
Across the group, Vodafone claims its television base increased by 104,000 in the last quarter of 2016 to 9.7 million, while its ‘fully converged’ broadband, mobile and television customer base rose by nearly 200,000 to 3.5 million.
Vodafone has 7.8 million television customers in Germany and 1.3 million in Spain. Vodafone Germany is to offer a new advanced TV platform, GigaTV, available over the former Kabel Deutschland cable network, with multiscreen access on smartphones and tablets.
There was no mention of television or video in the United Kingdom. The chief executive was later quoted as saying that a television service was ready and could be launched “within weeks” if “suddenly TV becomes essential” but that Vodafone now has other priorities.
He said that Vodafone did “not necessarily” need a deal to establish itself as a broadband player in the United Kingdom. There has been continuing speculation of a merger with Liberty Global, which owns Virgin Media, although the company says that no discussions are taking place.