Virgin Media O2 is about integrate a selection of streaming channels alongside regular live TV channels, blurring the line between traditional channels and new Free Ad-supported Streaming Television (FAST) channels.
This became possible after Paramount and Virgin Media O2 struck a comprehensive agreement, announced late last year. The streaming channels preparing to be integrated are part of Paramount’s free-to-stream service Pluto TV.
For the uninitiated, Pluto TV offers a range of channels often based on a single TV show or franchise, including Baywatch, Come Dine with Me and CSI.
Virgin Media completed the technical integration of the Pluto TV app across all its current boxes earlier this summer. Virgin Media subscribers can therefore already access all the channels if they go via the Pluto TV app, as is already the case for users of other devices that have the app.
But Virgin Media O2 wants to go one further, and actively integrate some of those streaming channels on its main channel list – its Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) – for the first time.
However, it has had to pass one big hurdle before these channels can be made available, and is likely to be an additional factor in the timescale for launching these channels slipping.
From the moment they appear alongside regular channels on the channel list, they require an Ofcom broadcasting licence.
As a result, Virgin Media has taken responsibility for obtaining Ofcom licences for a selection of Pluto TV channels – including channels devoted to Fear Factor, Homes Under the Hammer and Great British Menu.
It’s interesting that Virgin Media has taken out the licences, not Pluto TV’s owner Paramount.
Of course, an Ofcom licence also means certain rules will need to be adgered to, including rules about the watershed. Arguably shows like Homes Under the Hammer won’t have any issues there.
But it does mean Virgin Media will need to ensure any of the other Pluto TV channels it adds do comply. That may limit which channels do get an EPG slot.
Most of the streaming channels offered by the likes of Samsung TV Plus, Rakuten TV, LG Channels and Pluto TV have so far managed to avoid coming under Ofcom’s control. It can only be a matter of time before Ofcom looks into this, as more and more viewing is done online.
In the meantime, if you’re a Virgin Media subscriber, look out for a selection of Pluto TV channels appearing on the Virgin EPG in the coming weeks. Some of the channels are currently testing off the EPG.
PICTURED: Virgin Media O2 logo. COPYRIGHT: VMED O2 UK Limited.