Posts tagged ‘virgin media’

Speaker Interview: Marcus Banks, Executive Director Customer Experience, Virgin Media #CableCongress

Marcus BanksMarcus Banks, Virgin Media’s Executive Director of Customer Experience on innovation, consumer trends and competing for consumer attention

Marcus has been with Virgin Media since early 2007, holding mainly commercial and customer experience roles. Prior to Virgin Media, he spent three years as Strategy Director at Lloyds TSB Group and seven years as a strategy consultant with The Boston Consulting Group. He lives in Hampshire with his wife, four boys and two dogs.

Meet Marcus Banks at Cable Congress 2015 – Register now

What do you think will drive cable’s priorities for marketing as we look at the state of the industry in 2015?

Certainly our biggest priority is to keep growing the business. Virgin Media had a very good year last year and maintaining that momentum is crucial for us. Even better, I believe we are growing in the right way by continuing to build our position in the highly competitive market for new customers while at the same time reducing churn and encouraging our existing customers to stay longer and be more engaged with our products and services. The UK market has probably never been as competitive as it is right now. In terms of broadband, our marketing challenge is all about defining and communicating clearly what our superiority is and how it translates into better ways to meet consumer needs. Our most recent campaign for example is all about Virgin Media being the best for (OTT video) streaming, both because of the speed available and because concurrent broadband consumption in the home is a better experience with us.

What are the big emerging consumer trends?

I’ve already mentioned data consumption. And that won’t be news to anyone in our industry. But the growth rates in data consumption over the last year – and the concentration of that growth in services like Netflix – just stuns me. Data usage on the Virgin Media network is currently growing at a rate of 60% every year which, if this trend continues, will be 10,000% higher in ten years. It’s just so exciting to be part of a business the consumer need for which is growing at that sort of rate.

Device proliferation is another trend. Recent OFCOM data says that 46% of UK consumers now have tablets and 63% have connected smartphones. 60% of Virgin Media customers have three or more devices connected to their home broadband, up from 37% a year ago. And as OEMs get better and better at creating new device categories – and sub-segmenting existing categories (‘phablets’ anyone?) – we will see more and more consumers with multiple devices. This must present our industry with interesting opportunities to bundle devices with traditional services and/or help solve consumer problems around connectivity to local networks, seamless profile management and movement of content and data between devices.

What are your biggest priorities for customer experience at Virgin Media?

For me, great customer experience comes from getting three things right: product, service and value for money. I am pleased to say that for third year running we have just been voted Best Broadband Provider in the UK by consumers and industry experts in the Awards. uSwitch said: “Virgin has hit upon the holy trinity of speed, cost and customer service, year after year winning over broadband users and impressing industry experts.”

There are four things we are focused on to drive our customer experience forward from here. First, we use Net Promoter Score (NPS) across the whole business to keep track of how customers are experiencing us.  All of our employees have some element of their compensation tied directly to NPS. Given that our customers’ experience of us is made up of millions of phone calls, install and service visits, web site visits as well as each time they switch on the TV or use their home network, home phone or mobile, we have to stay focused across all aspects of customer experience delivery, and NPS helps with this.

Secondly, I am firm believer that we need to focus more and more on our customers’ own networks and not just our network, and on our customers’ devices, not just ours. Long gone are the days when cable companies could just drill a few holes in the wall, connect up a few cables to a set top box and modem, and then move on to the next install job. What our customers really care about is a great home network, with reliable WiFi coverage wherever they need it in the home, and simple connectivity to their devices. That means we need to spend more time consulting with customers on how and where they will use connected devices in their home, how to solve coverage issues, and so on.

Third, we continue to focus on our behaviours as a critical driver of customer experience. Through our NPS insight, we realised some time ago that how we behave towards customers is often much more important than whether we actually resolve their issue or concern. So, we put a lot of effort into behavioural training and coaching, and we carefully track customer perceptions of how we are behaving. This sort of thing is not that expensive either, especially compared to upgrading broadband speeds or rolling out new set top boxes. As a Virgin brand I believe we have more permission from customers to be friendly and build rapport with customers, even being a bit cheeky when it’s appropriate. For a few years now we have been running our ‘Random acts of kindness’ programme. This allows our front-line agents to nominate customers for special gifts from us. One of the more famous examples was when an agent had been speaking to a customer and realised that she was lying in the bath while on the phone to us to check her bill! The agent then organised for us to send the customer a Virgin Media rubber duck. It’s a cute programme in its own right, and doesn’t cost much to run. But the biggest benefit to us is that it encourages agents to listen to customers and build rapport with them.

Finally, I am a big believer in the power of marketing to our own customers and not just to sell them more products and services. We now have a programme of communication activities that is focused solely on letting customers know what they are getting for their money and how they could get even more out of them. Again, we use deep NPS insight to guide us on which particular product or service benefits we should promote to customers.

Where are you innovating most on products?

Obviously in broadband. Speed leadership is a crucial part of our market strategy, so we continue to invest and innovate here. The plan is working: our 152Mb broadband product offers twice the speed of any widely available service from any major provider, and our average 152Mb Virgin Media household uses almost double the amount of data as the national average – 112Gb rather than 58Gb. And we are not just innovating on core network stuff but also things like WiFi router development to ensure speed leadership translates into in-home experience leadership. As mentioned above, innovating on the service side will help us to reinforce the superiority of our broadband product too. In TV, innovation is focused on delivering better video on demand mainly to meet consumers’ growing needs for box set viewing.

In your view, is the way you tackle customer experience in the UK unique to that market? How would you describe the typical Virgin Media customer?

No I don’t believe that the way we tackle the customer experience here in the UK is unique. We spend a lot of time with our Liberty Global colleagues discussing many of the same opportunities and challenges.

I really am not sure I could describe the typical Virgin Media customer. We are a mass market player and the UK is pretty diverse place. That’s why I sometimes insist that my job title isn’t ‘Customer Experience’ but ‘Customers’ Experiences’…! Seriously, there is always a temptation in a business like ours for managers to look at problems from their own perspective or the perspective of people like them. Sometimes it’s not until you spend time with customers or our colleagues who help customers day in and day out that you stumble across the insights that can make a difference.

What does Virgin Media do better than its competition from a marketing and engagement standpoint?

Virgin Media is heavily outspent by our biggest competitors – SKY and BT. Despite this we consistently achieve better Awareness and Consideration scores. We do this by following a rigorous communications model that tries to shake passive consumers out of their inertia (for example, by dressing up Usain Bolt in a dress in a recent TV ad) and then following up with clear, benefits-led demonstrations of our products and services. We use online channels to amplify this demonstration. And finally we ensure these campaigns live through the line and are embedded into multiple touch points. I think we are also very good at carefully using big sponsorship opportunities like the V Festivals and our recent lead role in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

What strategies does cable need in order to effectively compete for consumer attention in a hyper-connected world?

I am convinced the market is moving towards us as consumers’ data consumption grows exponentially. So to exploit that, we have to keep shouting that we have the best broadband. And we have to keep our broadband at least two steps ahead of the competition, in terms of raw speed, reliability, service support, etc.

As our stuff – superfast broadband, connected TV – becomes more and more experiential, encouraging positive word of mouth is key to getting attention. My marketing colleagues don’t mind me saying that I would much rather our 5m cable households did our marketing job for us. Just after we launched our TV Anywhere iPad service here, I witnessed my own 5-year old son showing our neighbour (and BT customer) how cool it was, especially how much he enjoyed using it to change the channel on the TV from another room while his younger brother was watching something! That sort of thing is priceless marketing.

Want to hear more from Marcus? Meet Marcus Banks at Cable Congress 2015 – Register now

Announcing the #CableCongress 2014 initial speaker line-up

December is here – we are officially in the run-up for the holiday season.

Before the holiday rush reaches fever pitch, now would be a good time to secure your delegate experience at Cable Congress 2014. Taking place on 12-14 March at RAI in Amsterdam, the event brings together top executives from the cable, technology, content and new media industries. Register here.

cable congress testimonialsCable Congress offers an extensive programme featuring the most influential and visionary leaders from the industry. With more than 80 speakers coming from Europe, the US and Asia, this conference provides international insight on the latest developments in the fields of strategy, investments, technology, marketing, content and regulation.

Programme update

The 2014 Cable Congress brochure is very soon to be published. The agenda is shaping up nicely, with a C-Suite-rich set of industry leaders confirmed to speak, including:

  • Dee Forbes, President & MD, Discovery Networks, Western Europe
  • Manuel Cubero, COO, Kabel Deutschland Holding AG
  • Robin Bienenstock, Senior Sell-Side Equity Research Analyst, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
  • Rosalia Portela, CEO, ONO
  • Jordan Casey, Founder & CEO, Casey Games
  • René Obermann, CEO, Ziggo
  • Paul Hendriks, CTO, Ziggo
  • Phil McKinney, President & CEO, CableLabs
  • Josh Sapan, President & CEO, AMC Networks Inc.
  • Jesus Perez Agua, President & CEO, FOX International Channels
  • Dale Barnes, Director of Advanced Technology & Innovation, Virgin Media
  • Bruce Tuchman, President, AMC/Sundance Global Channel AMC Networks
  • Marisa Drew, MD, Co-Head of EMEA Investment Banking Departmen/Global Co-Head of Global Markets Solutions Group, Credit Suisse
  • Annet Aris Adjunct, Professor of Strategy, INSEAD and Board Member, Kabel Deutschland Holding AG
  • Manuel Kohnstamm, Senior VP & Chief Policy Officer, Liberty Global, Inc. & President, Cable Europe
  • Babita Sharma, Presenter, BBC World News
  • Guy Bisson, Research Director, Television IHS

Stay tuned for the full detail of the presentations and the extensive top level speaker list.

In the meantime, visit for event information, join the our LinkedIn Group, and follow the event Blog.

Cable is the new cinema

The Net Effect:
Evolving Landscapes on What We Used to Call Television Encouraging Investors

A net effect imageCable is the new cinema. Or so AMC’s CEO Josh Sapan says in this issue of Cable News when talking about TV’s second golden age which many attribute to long-arc shows that define modern TV today. But Sapan calling cable TV the new cinema is more than just pithy CEO talk. It is shorthand for an evolution in how people watch television and connect to the internet.

TV: Hey, We’re Trending!
Consumers are also using a second connected device when watching the long-burning plots that have come to define the television landscape of today. A recent study by Ericsson ConsumerLab tells us that 75% of people multi-task by using mobile devices while watching TV. It’s not hard to guess why Twitter is testing “TV trending”, has teamed up with Neilsen for Nielsen Twitter TV rating and even acquired a social TV analytics firm earlier in the year. It’s easy to make stats sing the right tune but at the same time, it’s impossible to not spot the trend when considering that the number of connected TVs in Europe has exploded by over 120% in the last year according to IHS (see the back page for more detail).

Are you experienced?
Cable industry leaders like to refer to the melded TV/internet offering as an “experience” given the reworking of what was once a mono-directional broadcast into a viewer’s home that has now evolved with the consumer at the centre. Holding the remote control these days means holding a lot more power than even just ten years ago – the viewer can decide when and on which device they want to watch whatever they want. TVs are smarter and they have to be given the increased sophistication of the cable consumer.


Cable Congress 2013: Cable is the Place to Be

Clearly, the cable industry has become the place to go if you want an easy life. At least, that’s the impression one could get from listening to Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries at this year’s Cable Congress, and from the news that Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann is set to join Dutch cable player Ziggo when he steps down from his current role at the end of the year.

It may be a facile comparison, but contrast Fries with his counterparts at Telefonica and Vodafone, based on comments they made at Mobile World Congress at the end of February: Telefonica’s Cesar Alierta took OTT players to task for not investing in the value chain, while Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao has long expressed frustration at the level of regulation imposed on telco players in Europe.

Fries, on the other hand, noted that the cable industry is not suffering from these problems, and indeed that they have a good relationship with regulators at the EU level (though national regulators remain a little less enamored of the cable industry, particularly as regards consolidation). More tellingly, after having talked about what a great position the cable industry finds itself in, he said that the next ten years will “present issues we’ve never encountered”. Imagine Alierta or Colao saying that, and sounding like they relish the prospect?

Clearly, Colao has thought of all this, which may have something to do with Vodafone’s German operation looking at buying the country’s top cable player, Kabel Deutschland. This potential merger also highlights another point Fries made at Cable Congress, namely, the growing importance of quad-play.


Liberty Global plots cloud Horizon updates, dismisses Netflix threat

CNN Interview with Mike Fries Liberty Global at Cable Congress_SMALLLiberty Global is planning updates to its Horizon platform that include a cloud-based interface, and a better remote, CEO Mike Fries revealed, adding that OTT players like Netflix did not pose a competitive challenge.

Speaking at Cable Congress last week, Fries said that, with Horizon, Liberty Global is aiming to establish a platform “that gives consumers no reason to go anywhere else,” and said that while Netflix has taught the business valuable lessons about how users wanted to access content, its business model was challenged.

Fries said that several new features were coming in the next iteration of Horizon. “One will be a better remote. We have a remote that has a keyboard on the back, for example, so you can easily search for things without poking through a screen.”

Fries also said that Liberty would update Horizon’s user interface, moving it from the set top box to the cloud, allowing Liberty to update and manage it over the web.

“Horizon as a concept is here to stay, but Horizon as a technology will evolve. The user interface will move to the cloud. Network PVR elements of it will be enhanced. Things will get smaller. The UI will evolve as well and get slicker. We’ll bring in new apps and pieces to the puzzle,” said Fries.

However, he would not comment on whether Virgin Media would adopt the Horizon platform or stick to its current TiVo offering, on completion of Liberty’s planned buyout of the UK operator.


Cable Congress Sessions Highlight Market-Winning Strategies


Cable Congress Sessions Highlight Market-Winning Strategies

(London 7 March 2013) Continuing to consolidate, harnessing the power of mobile, up-selling fibre-rich telecoms services, and taking the cable experience out of the home are among the market-winning strategies that will position cable to capitalize as the industry takes on new competitors and increasingly moves towards content provided over the internet, said members of cable‟s C-suite and other industry experts on the second day of Cable Congress in London.

Andrew Barron, COO of Virgin Media, said, “Only the paranoid survive. Innovation, being close to our customers and finding any advantage over the competition is key. The next decade of cable is about mobile, B2B and extending the relationship with the customer beyond the home.” He added: “We are a very innovative industry and we should be proud of this.”

According to Guy Bisson of IHS Screen Digest, “Telecoms services are becoming core because of the way cable has positioned itself through bundling.” However, he noted that cable is now moving beyond the mobile quad play and toward bundling of Wi-Fi services in and outside the home. Bisson‟s research shows that there are 1.4m fewer cable homes than five years ago, but 17.7m more RGUs – that is because for every analogue customer lost, 13 new RGUs are added.

A recurring theme has been the need for operators to keep the customer at the forefront – innovating to deliver products they want and at a competitive cost. Discussions on the pan-European C-Suite panel showed that these customer strategies can differ market-by-market. Manuel Cubero, COO, Kabel Deutschland Holding AG highlighted the importance of fibre, network capacity and speed: “In Germany the customer wants to download as much as possible through their network. We are investing 26% of our revenues in CapEx every year and most of it is on fibre.” This contrasts to the UK market where consumers give preference to selecting the package that best suits their needs. Luis Lopes, COO of Portugal’s ZON, added: “We are trying to sell an experience not products,” an approach that helped his company grow revenues 3 percent in 2012 despite an economic downturn in Portugal.


Virgin Media and Liberty Global leaders meet at Cable Congress #CC2013

The big news that Liberty Global has secured a deal to acquire Virgin Media for US$23.3 billion signals a change at the top of the global cable business and has stoked excitement and interest well beyond the tech sector. Such a combination translates into a world leading broadband communications company with 25 million customers spanning across 14 countries.

In less than two weeks’ time, executives of Virgin Media and Liberty Global and other leading cable executives will convene at Cable Congress to give an inside edge on the latest news that you won’t get anywhere else, share their opinions and predictions and, together with other key industry leaders, discuss the bright future of cable and its customers.

Watch our exclusive CEO interview with Mike Fries, the President and CEO of Liberty Global at 16.30 on Day 1 when Becky Anderson, CNN presenter takes the stage to ask the burning industry questions everyone wants to hear.

Also, be sure not to miss the CEO Keynote Speech at 14.00 on Day 1 when you will hear from Neil Berkett, the CEO of Virgin Media.

Cable Congress 2013 will feature the launch of new industry data with the contribution of fresh IHS Screen Digest data, the latest trends and an incredible line-up of industry all-stars across cable, content, technology and new media. New content, programme updates and speaker interviews are being added regularly to www.cablecongress.comwe’re getting hundreds of hits a day so come see why.

The Online Networking Tool is now live and by registering to attend the conference, you have the opportunity to spend the next two weeks scheduling one-to-one business meetings with Cable Congress delegates.

CABLE CONGRESS GALA PARTY hosted by Virgin Media_small

The Cable Congress Gala Party is an informal get-together for all participants, taking place on 5th March at The London Film Museum. The evening is not only an ideal networking opportunity, but will also offer quintessentially British culinary and cultural experiences, with a sprinkling of entertainment throughout. Read more here.

Gapa party photos


You will be treated to a special screening of the first episode of ‘Rectify’ from the award-winning producers of Breaking Bad, taking place on Day 2 during a special drinks reception. Watch this special sneak peak of Rectify, which premieres exclusively on Sundance Channel this spring!

European Cable Industry Spreads the Love in Digital Capital

(Brussels, 14 February) Cable Europe, the trade association for the European cable industry, today celebrates consolidation and the role it plays in building strong cable players, stimulating healthy infrastructure and promoting competition ahead of its annual flagship industry gathering.

In keeping with the spirit of Valentine’s Day and ahead of Cable Europe’s annual conference with 69% of attendees at C-level, Director and Board Level, Cable Congress, takes place in London from 5-7 March 2013.  We look back over the past decade at how successful pairings have resulted in the consolidation of the European cable landscape. Where Europe once boasted around 10,000 providers, today this number is closer to 7,000 stronger, more efficient and more competitive operators.

Yet, despite the wave of combinations in recent years, the cable industry still remains highly fragmented. It will need further consolidation to compete over the long term and to help meet Europe’s Digital Agenda policy objectives of increased connectivity for consumers.

Cable Europe Executive Chairman Matthias Kurth added:  “Cable’s investment in fibre- rich high speed networks plays an important if not sometimes invisible role in meeting the entertainment and connectivity needs of Europe’s sophisticated consumers. As the unique crossroads of technology and content that keeps us entertained, informed and connected, it’s entirely fitting that this year’s Cable Congress will take place in London, Europe’s undisputed Digital Capital and one of the most connected cities in the world.”

Cable Congress 2013 will feature the launch of new industry data with the contribution of fresh IHS Screen Digest data, the latest trends and an incredible line-up of industry all-stars across cable, content, technology and new media. Highlights include:

  • BBC World News Presenter Babita Sharma as Master of Ceremony
  • CNN anchor Becky Anderson’s exclusive interview with Liberty Global CEO Michael Fries
  • Keynote speech by Neil Berkett, CEO, Virgin Media
  • Ed Vaizey, MP & UK Minister for Culture, Communications & Creative Industries
  • CEO panel featuring Berit Svendsen, Telenor Norway, Rosalia Portela, ONO and Dana Strong, UPC Ireland
  • Lorenz Glatz, CTO, Kabel Deutschland

New content, programme updates and interviews are being added regularly to and don’t forget that 22 February is the last day to submit nomination entries for Cable Europe’s 2013 Fellow and Innovation Awards.

Interview with Luis Lopes

Luis Lopes COO Zon Cable Congress BlogAhead of Cable Congress 2013 we speak to Luis Lopes, COO of Zon about cable priorities for 2013, Zon’s vision of broadband anywhere and more…

From your operational standpoint, what do you think will drive cable’s priorities as we look at the state of the industry in 2013? In my view some of the key priorities will be to (1) continue to drive innovation in particular in the TV experience area – cable has to have the uncontested most innovative and best tv experience; (2) Continue to push broadband speeds well ahead of ADSL and (3) continue improve efficiency to be able to continue improving the bottom line particularly in the context of a very difficult economic environment. I also believe that cable will continue to pursue market share growth in the SMEs leveraging on superior broadband products

Tell us a bit about the ZON’s vision of broadband anywhere and why WiFi is increasingly important to cable. We want our customers to continue to use ZON services even when they leave their homes or offices. Adding a mobile broadband offer was an important part – we did it through an MVNO deal several years ago – but we thought that was not enough so we have been developing a very extensive Wi-Fi network using dual Wi-Fi Routers that we install in our customer premises. If the customer enables the second Wi-Fi network he can use for free any other Wi-Fi “hotspot”. We have currently around 500.000 hotspots with a very impressive usage and customer satisfaction.

Can you tell us a bit about what the competitive landscape for the European cable industry looks like and how it has changed over the past few years? Cable became a very strong challenger to most European fixed incumbents and in many cases with significant competitive advantage. We have seen most players starting to launch multi-screen strategies and improving their core TV product experience bringing more innovation to the end consumer and in some markets fixed-mobile convergence become an important trend that will shape our competitive landscape.

What sorts of strategies have you noticed cable executives adopting to stay ahead, especially where innovation is concerned? In the last two years in particular we have seen a lot of innovation…


Luis Lopes will join Manuel Cubero, COO, Kabel Deutschland, Gunnar Evensen, CEO, GET, Paul Hendriks, CTO, Ziggo and Andrew Barron, COO, Virgin Media for the C-Suite Panel discussion, taking place at 16.15 on Day 2 of Cable Congress 2013. Click here for the latest agenda.

Liberty Global to Acquire Virgin Media

Liberty Global and Virgin Media have agreed a deal whereby the international service provider will acquire the UK’s sole large-scale cable operator.

liberty global virgin media_smallThe merger of the two companies will create a service provider with 25 million customers across 14 countries.

“Adding Virgin Media to our large and growing European operations is a natural extension of the value creation strategy we’ve been successfully using for over seven years. Virgin Media will add significant scale and a first-class management team in Europe’s largest and most dynamic media and communications market. After the deal, roughly 80% of Liberty Global’s revenue will come from just five attractive and strong countries – the UK, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands,” said Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries. “Like all of our strategic acquisitions we expect this combination to yield meaningful operating and capex synergies of approximately US$180 million per year upon full integration. But just as importantly, Virgin Media’s market leading innovation and product expertise, particularly in mobile and B2B, will accelerate our own development of these business segments.”

“This deal is good news for the company, its customers and our people. Together, Liberty Global and Virgin Media are in a great position to shake up the industry and bring the full power of digital technology to UK consumers,” said Richard Branson.

More information in Liberty Global’s press release:

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