Is there anything left on ITV (LSE: ITV) worth time-shifting? Apparently so. The broadcaster’s shows got four million views in their first month (March) on Virgin Media’s on-demand cable platform. To put it in context, however, that’s less than half the 10.5 million views BBC iPlayer shows reached in their first month there (June 2008), and only a third as popular as BBC was this March.
ITV’s online director Ben McOwen Wilson, in the release, declared himself “really excited”. Virgin’s 3.6 million TV customer base may be relatively small, but ITV needs initiatives like this – Virgin’s VOD service, which also includes Channel 4, E4, More4, Bravo, Living and Virgin1, pulled half a billion total views in 2008, 58 million in March and is now offering a split on ads placed against programming. ITV itself also says ITV.com video views were up 359 percent from last year in Q1.
Virgin may have fewer customers than rival BSkyB’s five million-strong Sky+ userbase, but its automatic VOD offering is far and away better – Sky customers must either record shows themselves using Sky+ or watch shows on the portion of their discs to which Sky pushes its own selection of on-demand shows. Sky last week said its it sees 17 million instances of time-shifting each day using these methods. But Virgin’s fibre optic network is still its trump card – Guardian.co.uk runs speculation it could unbundle that network, just as BT’s Openreach has offered rivals access to its copper wire network, to rent it to green-eyed rivals.