back to article Virgin Media boss in shock exit

Steve Burch, the chief executive of troubled UK cable monopoly Virgin Media, surprised industry watchers today by quitting the firm for "family and personal reasons". The company said it would soon begin a search for a permanent replacement. In the meantime chief operating officer Neil Berkett will take the reins. Burch …


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  1. Chad H.

    If TV has taught me anything....

    "Family and personal reasons" is code for the Board isnt happy with his performance, but dont hate him enough to actualy fire him, and ruin his career.

    Thank you Sir Humphrey.

  2. Joe K

    Good riddance

    Now hopefully all the other NTL nazis will piss off too so the company, formerly a quite nice Telewest i was happy with for 7 years, will be free of their seemingly customer-hating antics.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If TV has taught me anything....

    It hasnt, Virgin blew my STB up over a week ago and cant get another to me till next week.

    I'm getting really fed up of this mediocre service is acceptable culture. Good riddance, now sack the lot of em and bring back Nynex/Videotron/Telewest et all.

    Even C&W wernt this bad.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'd be happy if I thought that as a consequence VirginMedia's behaviour toward their customers would improve up to the standard of "awful". I'm an ex-NTL customer and even I think VirginMedia is appalling.

    Oh well. One down...

  5. Karl Lattimer

    reasons to be cheerful

    The main reasons virgin are loosing the plot are in no particular order;

    The TV has turned to crud, not only with the loss of Sky channels but the general programming has become thinner on TV in general, so unless you spend a fortune on your TV you get the same crap over and over again. For instance, paramount comedy insists on that program "everybody loves raymond", e4 insist on "friends" both are crap american 'comedies' whatever happened to MASH!!!. Sci-fi channel doesn't appear to show any actual sci-fi anymore (firefly, twilight zone, outer limits etc...) instead we get angel all day long, followed by other crud like medium etc... So its more of a spooky-style-prime-time-brain-dead-tv than sci-fi

    The virgin central service has like 5 shows on it, non of them are up to date, and non of them are any good, and they aren't archived either, so unless you run the red button every day you miss shows.

    They've started throttling people back from 4pm to midnight. Which is simply sick, my 4Mb line turns into dialup after 4pm. I recently downgraded from 20Mbit because I only ever got 20Mbit when I wasn't home.

    They ring people up and tell them they can apply the savings they're offering to new customers to existing customers, then tell you that you can get a 10Mbit line for the price of your 4Mbit, and they'll upgrade that to 20Mbit, and as a result you find yourself paying an extra £12 a month for what was supposed to be a free upgrade.

    Things were generally better when it was telewest, at least you knew where you stood with your bills.

  6. Stephen

    And they fail to attract customers because... places like Milton Keynes they are still refusing to upgrade the analog cable system.

  7. Liam


    and dont even mention the randomness of 'on demand' that hardly ever works..... at least i phoned up and bitched so i now get the full works for 21£ /mth.... its still shite tho!

  8. Les


    That's on Paramount Comedy 2, 7pm weeknights.

  9. john killion

    Another Rat leaving...

    It's not surprising as Virgin Cable is a giant Zepplin on its way down. I have been with them since the Yorkshire Cable days and their service is getting worse and worse. The program information works only about half the time and as for their spat with Sky, it's now beyond a joke. Beardy Branson hasn't got an idea of how to run this company except into the ground. They take my money, reduce the channels available and instead of giving me a rebate talk guff about investing the cash in better and better services which do not turn up and which I do not want. What I do want is a Cable service that works not one that talks and talks. Good riddance to the Burch, bugger off!

  10. David

    An alternative view

    I moved into a new flat a few weeks ago, which didn't allow a satellite dish on the building. Given the choice between "freeview & BT line & random ADSL", or Virgin, I plumped for Virgin.

    I had heard so many bad thing (and remember how bad C&W were as a student) I was crossing my fingers and wondering what would go wrong.

    However, in the month I have been connected, I have had pleasant customer service, installation on time, connection straight away, a better (subjective) internet speed on a 2Mb account than I did on my previous 8Mb ADSL, and a new PVR in the V+ box that let me record both the rugby and the Aussie rules game on Setanta (included for free with the Sky sports package) at the same time, while I was away on Saturday (incidentally at the V festival!). And all for a better price that Sky.

    By the law of sod it will all come crashing down now I have posted this, but so far I would recommend the service. (And no - I have no vested interest in the company or connection to the bearded one).

    Just leaves me thinking on the difficulties of judging a service on online comments, since generally only the disgruntled / fanatics post reviews, and there is little way of empirically saying what chance there is of fault (rather than the total faults)........

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In Comparison to Sky

    At least they aren't as under-handed and nasty as sky.

  12. John Mangan

    NTL gone . . . but won't let me forget.

    I dumped NTL at the end of last year for a number of reasons and so missed out on the whole re-branding, SKY spat, quad-play b#@@#*s. I still get their mailings though including one telling me that if I ring up because of a problem with my broadband they will now charge me £1.50/minute for the pleasure of listening to their hold music for 30 minutes!!

    I moved to Sky for television and although they are not perfect I have been pleasantly surprised that when I need an engineer they call up on the day and give a two hour window for arrival rather than the whole day you could waste waiting for NTL. They even ring back to let you know if they've been delayed!!

    How many more re-brandings, mergers, management buyouts and re-capitalisations will 'VirginMedia' need before they realise that the way to keep customers is to provide some service? I doubt that the whole thing can actually die because of the physical assets in the ground.

  13. Matt Bucknall

    My solution to the Virgin TV crapness...

    Get rid of your TV! I haven't owned or watched a TV for over a year now and I can honestly say I don't miss it in the slightest.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Throw away your television

    I pay over £20 /month for my quality broadband connection and it gets thrashed every month using it to view the TV we want to.

    No cable / satellite (~£30-40+ /month) and no TV (£10 /month).

    Most importantly, no adverts (other than product placement). No promises of other programs that eat into your precious time, wasting your evening. I just rely on program recommendations from friends.

    Am I a freeloader? Perhaps. But I don't have to put up with all the usual nonsense and that is bloomin' marvellous!

  15. Tom

    Another + vote for Virgin

    Years ago I suffered appalling problems and dire customer service with Telewest. I swore I would never go back. I got sucked in by the Virgin ad campaign and signed up back in March.

    I have had a few teething problems, but the customer service has been good and the 2mb cable internet has been rock solid reliable ( and a lot faster than the flakey "8mb" ADSL service I was getting from Zen and Orange/Wanadoo.

    Admittedly, the tv content is pure shite, but taken as a whole TV, broadband, landline & mobile for £40 pm is a pretty good deal.

  16. Phil

    I've just become ex Virgin

    I got a V+ HD box full of expectations only to find they don't carry any of the HD stuff on Sky.

    About a month later they got rid of Sky1 and Sky news.

    Then my BB which I've been more than happy with for many years started to be throttled. They say it get's throttled after downloading 3GB between 4pm and midnight, but in reality I was getting speeds as low as dialup when I hadn't downloaded anything.

    So I wrote them a letter cc'd to trading standards asking to let me out of my contract as they aren't supplying me with the service I'm paying for. They agreed.

    I got myself a Sky HD box off of ebay brand new for £170, installed it myself.

    I went to ADSL24 for my BB. I'm getting 6.5Mbps connection which is about 4 to 5 times faster than I was getting in the evenings with Virgin on my 20Mbps connection. Yes there's caps.But they're up front with them.

    I pay £20 per month (instead of the £37 I was paying Virgin) for 30GB peak cap and 300GB off peak. Off peak is after 10pm and all day weekends. Which means that if you urgently need to download a 5GB linux distro one day at peak time, it makes no difference as you still have 25GB peak left.

    I'm very very happy with ADSL24, whats more they answer your email questions within hours.

    In all the years I've been with Virgin/ntl EVERY time I altered a package, they messed up my bill and it took months to sort. I haven't missed them in the slightest and will never go back.

  17. paul


    Some people are so intent on knocking virgin media ( ntl) i have been with them for years and have never suffered a loss in broadband or telephone or tv. Also the current tv is in a great position with video on demand and some great channels lined up like virgin sports news and virgin 1 as well as a virgin news chanel in the pipeline. At a time when sky want to charge us the world to watch tv along comes virgin and offers the viewers a great deal at a great price and now with free football from setanta if you have the xl package. Long live virgin media and competition to sky is only a good thing just imagine how much tv would cost if virgin was not around ?

  18. David Neil

    @ John Mangan

    I still get their mailings though including one telling me that if I ring up because of a problem with my broadband they will now charge me £1.50/minute for the pleasure of listening to their hold music for 30 minutes!!

    It's 25p a minute, refunded to your bill if the issue is on their kit and not on your machine. And they cannot put you on hold as its a premium rate line, they do get monitored on it.

    And no, I do not work for them, I just happen to be a customer, still don't let anything like the facts get in the way of a good rant

  19. Sean Ellis

    Not too bad

    But then I only get phone and internet, and I'm not a heavy user of either. We used to have cable, but then we realized that the only things we were watching were on Freeview anyway, so *foosh* away that went.

    I have always found with NTL/Virgin that you're OK as long as nothing goes wrong, but that their error handling is pretty poor. This is, sadly, a problem I see with more and more companies I deal with.

  20. gayle kohut


    Been a customer for a while now,ex NTL customer have tv,phone and broadband services with virgin,had a problem with a second set top box had to wait a week for a engineer to call and fix problem,had another problem with same box wouldnt accept my pin number to access the movie channels after endless calls halfway round the world and back by that i mean the call centre in india,i was very annoyed to find that they hardly spoke a decent word of english and i had great difficulty in understanding them,the call centres were moved to india so they could save even more money and get away with paying cheap wages to service personal,i can't see virgin media improving much unless they make some drastic changes starting from the top,changes i would like to see a improvement on call waiting times for a start at a english based call centre,faster callout not waiting a week for a engineer to call,personally i am going to reconsider my options even thought about changing to sky for television,richard branson might improve the service starting from the top but at this rate he have to perform a miracle on virgin media!

  21. mike

    wish we could

    We had NTL until we moved now we cant connect to them the cable runs 25 metres from the house but they wont bring it down how stupid.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Call Centre

    Now only if they would move the Call Centre back to the UK.

    I have rung Virgin's call centre more times since they took over Telewest than I did when I was originally with Yorkshire Cable. And the number of times I got "please repeat" from the operator, bloody frustrating...

  23. Anarchy

    TV pic quality is sh1te

    It's so poor you get jaggies and pixellation whenever you have a image which moves. Rippling water and sport it astrocious

  24. TLA


    Amazingly, Virgin don't have digital cable where I live...


  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One down, more to come ... I hope!

    If I had a say then I'd sack the entire board - negligent fat cats the lot of them. (I was going to say "make them staff the complaints line", but that counts as cruel and unusual punishment for VM)

    It'd be nice to think that Mr Burch's replacement might want to try and sort out some of the problems, e.g.:

    a. Get a new supplier of the TV boxes, (especially the V+ ones). Pace seem to be the worst kind of Amstrad "pile 'em high and shift 'em cheap" barra boys.

    b. Fire/close their Indian call centre. The folks there are a bunch of muppets, (but without the comedy turns). I've always found that the UK-based centre(s) are much friendlier, easier to understand, and get the call progressed quicker;

    c. Fix the EPG and On-Demand services. It's a lottery whether the EPG works or not from day-to-day and channel-to-channel;

    d. Get SOMETHING on the Virgin Central channels (these replaced Sky1 - which, by the way I don't miss). The content on the VC channels seems to be the same as it was when Sky told Virgin to get their coats;

    e. Start talking to customers - I have no idea what's happening to the service, what's planned etc. Which makes it difficult to justify staying with them;

    f. Start talking to customers - yes, I know that's (e) too, but VM are absolutely crap at communicating with customers. At least Telewest did send out the occasional leaflet or advert, (in addition to putting stuff on channel 890). I'm still trying to find out how to subscribe to Disney Cinemagic - they won't tell me!

    g. Support their engineers. VM seem to be following Sky's lead in disempowering their engineers. The last couple I've had visit (to replace Pace's crappy boxes) had to borrow basic stuff (fuses and screwdrivers) for heaven's sake. And it seems to be more difficult for them to get "spare" boxes (for when yours blows up - see (a)). The engineers are the "front line" with the customers - so they should get the maximum support from their management - assuming that management actually wants to retain their customers (which I'm starting to doubt);

    Apart from the stuff above I'm quite happy with the service. The broadband - even with the occasional cap - is pretty good and a whole lot better value for money than I could get from the ADSL route.

    It'd be nice to think that they'd get someone with a brain cell to replace Burch - maybe even el Branson himself - but I'm not hopeful. I suspect that another one of the ex-NTL "gang of losers" will be brought in. So the service will continue to go downhill... <sigh>

  26. Alan

    If TV has taught me anything...

    it wasn't actually Sir Humphrey, it was Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, but yes, the man wasn't hated enough to fire him...

  27. richard

    Not Surprised

    @ TLA & Mike

    Same here on both counts till I moved. Couldnt get it in the old place in West End despite there being a NTL/Virgin manhole marked CATV right outside my door.

  28. Outcast

    Blessed be you


    Quote by TLA

    "Amazingly, Virgin don't have digital cable where I live...



    Reading all these rants it would appear that that's actually a blessing in disguise !!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I was with Blueyonder 7 years ago, and have stuck with them (with a little period where I wasn't in a BY area). I recommended to my fiancee when we moved in together that we use Blueyonder and everything was fine. We pay for the package of phone, net and TV. In general we were happy. We don't watch that much TV (in fact, pretty much only the channels you would get on Freeview), however we watched Lost and 24 on Sky One, and when we got it, I don't think E4 et al were on Freeview. The internet was 'ok'. Quite often I'd be getting wildly swinging pings, or huge packet loss, and there were several occasions when the European pipe seemed to go down completely. As a gamer these things are pretty annoying, because I can cope with a constantly high ping, but one which swings about (from 30 to 250 on occasion) doesn't allow the game to calculate lag predictions. Since the spikes were very brief, when I phoned up and asked about it I was told to download a file from their servers, which of course had an average speed well within the speeds advertised, so I was essentially told to deal with it. Since I work, playing games in the late evenings (it would settle about 12-1am) wasn't a terrible problem, just annoying. The phone package was great, we got free phone calls at weekends, and as we both live quite a way from our parents it meant we could catch up.

    Since things switched our internet connection has actually improved greatly and is vastly more stable. However this is the only good thing I can say. Like I say, I work, so I don't download huge things during the day and never hit my throttling cap. I have my own views (ie why double speeds then cap them to the old speeds) on that but moving on, the TV is pointless to us now. We only watch stuff that is available on Freeview. While VM are smokescreening about legal battles with Sky, we aren't going to see the next season of Lost, and we got cut off right in the middle of a season of Lost and 24, which are the only shows we actually tried to watch every week. As for Sky wanting our money, I don't really care anymore. They offer far more channels for a lower price. The phone is pretty much the last straw, we received a letter from them telling us about their new lower phone prices, including £4 for the package we have currently, however at the bottom of the letter they were helpful enough to tell us that because of our contract our phone price would stay at the same £12 level.

    The only reason I stay with them is because their internet connection is actually pretty good comparatively, and because of the nature of my work it can be pretty useful. I'm just working out what to say when I phone to complain now, but we're paying £40 for a package we originally paid £30 for, and we've lost content. Whoever thinks they have a good service is seriously deluded. If I had the time to sort it out with seperate providers I would.

  30. Tim Browning

    Virgin - Pah!

    I have had no end of trauma, including a 3 month delay in getting connected to ADSL BB, then 3 months of no service at all as the line dropped frequently.

    Funnily enough, a letter to OFCOM about the 3 month wait I had for my mac code, plus a threatening letter about the compensation I would have to pay them for leaving their non-service , has resulted in my line working occassionally which is a bonus.

    The things that stick in my throat is the lengendary poor customer service, and the fact that when I did get my mac code eventually, they also sent me a mail saying I could take advantage of the great offer they had on, which was the sh*tty package I was already on, but for £5 more a month.

    I would have laughed, but Virgin media are beyond a joke.

  31. Law

    I got an idea

    Why don't NTL/VirginMedia/Whatever to all pitch in with BT and the government who all seem to think it will cost too much, then get them to convert our old copper system to a fibre system.... then they can sell us all the services under the sun on our 8gb connections!! :)


  32. Robert Taylor

    £1.50 for broadband support? Not True

    John: "I still get their mailings though including one telling me that if I ring up because of a problem with my broadband they will now charge me £1.50/minute for the pleasure of listening to their hold music for 30 minutes!!"

    Not true at all.

    Yes, they charge for broadband support, but a 25p/min and that doesn't start until you are connected to a customer services rep. Also, provided the call is about a problem with your broadband they actually refund you the cost of the entire call.

    I've had to call them a couple of times, and although I was initially against the idea of them charging, I have to say that the service has improved a lot. It now only takes 2-3 minutes to get though, and you get the cost of the call back anyway. I call that a result.

  33. Chris O'Shea

    (mostly) happy Virgin customer here ...

    I've got phone, 20Mb broadband and cable TV supreme package here and while there are a few glitches, I'm happy in general, and between their Telewest days and now I've had to phone up a few times with problems and they've been fantastic at getting them sorted out.

    The worst one was a broadband problem which they took me step by step through testing all the kit and it turned out to the be the ethernet card in my PC ... and even on a free call (Telewest) they stayed on the line while I changed the card, rebooted the machine and made sure that the MAC address (which was used for identification in those days) updated through their database and I was back online. That sort of service has made me stick through the rebranding and Sky problems.

    And following advice from other people, after the sky fiasco I phoned up and threatened to cancel and they gave me a £30/month discount for six months, dropping to at £20/month discount for as long as I stay with them. It did take hanging on hold for 30 minutes to get it, but I reckon that saving £300 the first year and £240/year thereafter is worth the 30 minutes effort!

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