Virgin Media lost 57,100 video subscribers in the United Kingdom in the third quarter of 2019, reducing its total to 3.77 million. It is the fourth consecutive quarterly video subscriber loss, contributing to a decline of 136,400 subscribers over 12 months, wiping out incremental gains over the previous 6 quarters. The company still has around the same number of cable television customers that it had a decade ago. Could a mobile deal with Vodafone indicate the future direction of Virgin Media?
Virgin Media has been losing television customers. Although not at the rate of American companies, it suggests that the United Kingdom is not immune from television subscriber losses.
Virgin Media gained 7,500 video customers in Ireland, but it has just 276,900 there in total. The company has 5.27 million internet customers in the United Kingdom, and a further 380,000 in Ireland.
Liberty Global reported a net loss of 59,400 enhanced video customers across its continuing operations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Poland and Slovakia and Switzerland. Its total across these counties is now 7.55 million.
The group now has 10.77 million cable customer relationships, out of 25.58 million homes passed.
Liberty Global also has a 50% joint venture in VodafoneZiggo in the Netherlands, where it has 3.39 million enhanced video subscribers, with a modest gain of 4,800 in the third quarter, against a loss of 6,100 basic video customers.
Liberty has divested a number of its European operations, selling those in Germany, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic to Vodafone for $21.3 billion in July 2019. In December 2018, Liberty Global announced the sale of its satellite television operations in Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia to M7 Group.
Liberty Global has now dropped out of the top 10 groups in the informitv Multiscreen Index, a list headed by Comcast, with 44.34 million video customers.
Virgin Media has agreed a five-year mobile deal with Vodafone for the United Kingdom. The current agreement with BT will end in late 2021, after which the Virgin Media mobile offering will transition to Vodafone. Virgin Mobile 5G services are set to launch on the Vodafone network before the transition takes place.
There are 3.14 million Virgin Media mobile customers in the United Kingdom and just 98,000 in Ireland.
Virgin Mobile became the first company in the world to become a virtual mobile network operator, retailing the services of another provider, originally One2One, subsequently rebranded T-Mobile.
The relationship with Vodafone is interesting, given other transactions and partnerships with Liberty Global. A joint venture with or acquisition of Virgin Media could yet be on the table.