More than just a Mobile Provider or ISP, Virgin Media provides the stuff with which people fill their time. They are the largest provider of broadband internet, mobile and home phone operations, and television in the UK. Though managed in the US (NYC) and not part of the original mega-corporation founded by Sir Richard, the company operates under the larger Virgin auspice, benefiting from its identification with one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
The company has been around since 2006, but under a different name. When NTL and Telewest merger, they became a new company. And they called it: “NTL:Telewest”. Just a couple of months later, they were to merge with UK media giant Virgin Mobile UK. As an acquisition, NTL:Telewest was as strategic as it was useful. With them on board, Virgin Mobile became so much more than a mobile company. Now they could provide television, phones, and internet, as well as all of the sideline services these main categories contain. The whole swarm of services became known as Virgin Media in 2007. Stockholders rejoiced. Richard Branson’s smile gleamed.
Some of Virgin Media’s advantages are not well known. For one, they possess the UK’s only nation-spanning fiber-optic network of cables. Simply put, they can be everywhere for everyone, and no other company can. By the end of 2012, they had nearly 5 million customers for cable, a single channel through which they could pump all of their services. This is a profound change in the landscape of service providers. In days of yore, each service had a markedly different mode of delivery, but with innovation and a single nervous system of fiber-optics, Virgin was able to be everything to everyone.
Because of their ties to the US and because their stock is traded primarily on the NASDAQ, few doubt that the company will try to have a similar portion of market share in America. Perhaps the brand will one day be subsumed into an international mega-provider. Their competition in the States, like Comcast, certainly is trying for the same level of exposure, and in tech, common wisdom says that there is only ever one winner. Only time will tell, but the efficiency, speed, and confidence with which they have become the UK’s largest SP leaves little doubt that they could make trouble for the much-maligned Comcast.
Virgin Media has shown its talent at absorbing and dominating new technologies. In a consumer landscape where a new device or technological behavior has only to emerge for days before it is adopted by millions, Virgin is uniquely poised to own these new markets. The next frontier is almost certainly international, not just America but emerging economies like India, and softening international relation conditions like China. The future is unknown, but whatever it is, Virgin will be a player.