back to article Virgin Media blames scruffy students for HUGE drop in cable subscribers

Virgin Media reported flat second quarter revenue this morning as it presented its first results since falling into the clutches of US cable giant Liberty Global. The telco attributed its tiny 0.6 per cent sales growth (£1.03bn) during the period ended 30 June to VM's decision to jack up prices for its cable business earlier …


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  1. Bit Brain

    They're going to notice another large drop now that they've fucked up getting BT Sports on cable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'd sooner not have bandwidth devoted to crappy sports TV. Haven't people got dishes for that sort of thing?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. the spectacularly refined chap

        I'd sooner not have bandwidth devoted to crappy sports TV. Haven't people got dishes for that sort of thing?

        Fine, so you'd rather have that... so bloody what. It isn't the case that providing these channels is going to affect your speed one way or the other. The bandwidth available to TV and Internet comes out of separate pools, it isn't a single common pot. You could scrap ALL the TV channels and your broadband wouldn't get any faster. Even if they did TV is multicasting writ large - the bandwidth consumed by an extra TV channel is completely negligible when amortized over millions of customers.

        But then, who pays for that fibre network? It isn't the people on £15 a month broadband deals but the mugs spending £60 on cable packages. That's what caused the network to get built and provided the competition finally needed for BT to roll out DSL nationally.

        In other words, engage brain cell or enjoy your dial up.

  2. Gordon Pryra

    Doubt sports has much impact

    But their customer services does.

    If it wasnt for BT really (really) screwing me over I would have never gone back to Virgin.

    They are one of these companies in which customers can exist in one of two states. Either brilliant, or fucking aweful.

    If you are in the latter group, then you need to talk to customer servicves or pay for techical support, neither of which will help you.

  3. Jon Green

    Just sayin'

    Maybe if their supposedly fast cable data connections weren't so contended that it's like using a 2G mobile connection at peak times, they might retain more users?

    Just a thought...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just sayin'

      I'm on VM. Headline speed is 20Mbps. Every time I have measured, I get 20Mbps. Even at peek times.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just sayin'

        I wish. My connection tanks to 2Mb or less at peak. Unfortunately it's the landlady's responsibility to take care of that, and she's (1) away most of the time, and (2) not the most computer-literate person (being kind) in the world.

  4. BentleyRaccoon

    Surely misguided?

    I'm much more inclined to believe VM's drop in subscriber numbers is more due to how awful their service has been lately. I post this having just regained a stable connection after a good 12 hours of downtime and intermittent service.

    1. The BigYin

      Re: Surely misguided?

      My connection has been going wonky too, but as I have a new router and have been having the power trip; I didn't put it down to VM

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surely misguided?

      Same here.

      The reason people are going for higher broadband offerings is that they make the mistake of thinking it'll improve their service.

      I'm quite lucky as I mainly use my connection for work, during work hours. However, on the rare occasion I need to work late, everything takes twice as long.

  5. Rampant Spaniel

    A reasonable cause, but I wonder if they play the student card when net adds are up in q3. :-)

    1. stratofish

      My flat is not listed in the VM new customer enquiry system despite the other 6 flats in my building being there. So I have to fill in a form to request my flat to be added if possible and I should get a reply within a few days with a result. I've done that maybe 4 times now over the last 2 years and they have ignored it every time.

      On top of that, if I choose one of the other flats at says I can only get ADSL, But if I choose the actual house number with no flat, I can get cable broadband.

      Luckily I'm generally happy with the ADSL that I have now, just would like it a bit faster in the evenings so I'm not too fussed if they are too dumb to want to new customers.

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        It could be a screwup with the address register but they do hate MDU's. They are a royal pain to deal with in some cases although you think they would be easier. Good luck getting it sorted, it might happen. Perhaps a few tweets at their account might stir their social media team into action?

  6. Kubla Cant


    the "sequentially higher churn" was largely due to student movers at the end of the academic year

    Doesn't the same thing happen every year?

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Eh?

      Erm yes, sequentially would refer to the previous quarter not year on year :-)

      1. Kubla Cant

        Re: Eh?

        Really? I didn't know "sequentially" only applied to quarters.

        What word do you use to describe a sequence of days, months or years?

        1. Rampant Spaniel

          Re: Eh?

          With End of Quarter reports the results will be compared to the previous quarter (sequentially) and the same quarter the previous year (YoY). It isn't, or rarely is compared to a full previous year due to seasonal factors.

          Yes students leave each year and they come back each year. The reason it is compared both sequentially and yoy is to show growth and take into account seasonal factors such as students. They mention students as a sequential impact because frankly even though it is bleeding obvious they have to anyway as they can track it and they do have an effect. Similar to how farm work affects job totals (and why farm \ season work is sometimes excluded from or compensated for in employment figures).

  7. EddieD

    Downward spiral

    I've been a customer of Telewest/Blueyonder/Virgin Media/Liberty Whatever and their customer service, which used to be exemplary has deteriorated - I used to be able to specify a 2-hour window in the evening service for support visits, now I have a 6 hour window, I used to get knowlegable and helpful folk in telephone support, now I just get thickly accented voices reading a list of questions, and so on.

    And still, in spite of my speed doubling a couple of weeks ago, BBC iPlayer still craps out with "insufficient bandwidth" over half the time...

    If you give a lackluster service, you'll get lackluster returns.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Downward spiral

      Same here, but as currently cable is stable and fast I have not moved. Still, following the recent price hike and the censorship in the name of "protecting children of moronic parents" I might look at a move to Zen or Andrews & Arnold with ADSL as it might be better overall.

    2. Rol

      Re: Downward spiral

      Been with VM for a while now and the service has worked absolutely flawlessly, until recently.

      After porting my landline over to a VOIP service and downgrading to broadband only, they just had to stick the knife in.

      One month after the change, they cut my connection, saying it was my request. Well you can imagine my first thoughts were not of VM's total incompetence, but that someone had hacked my account, so many calls to banks and others stopped any further problems, but then I found out the VM operator had written the cut off request during our conversation a month previous!!!! Dozy f##king %&$&()&*&607, argghh!!

      Come here there's more.....

      We agreed a price of about £18 for broadband only, after I rejected the initial offer of £24,

      "It says on your website £18"

      "Yes, but that is for new customers"

      "I am out of contract, I have paid for all of the set-up costs years ago, I refuse to be treated like a cash cow because I am a long term customer"

      "Ok we'll do it for the offer price"

      One month later the contract arrives for £56!

      A week after damaging several managers eardrums a new contract for £24 arrives

      Oh f##k you very much VM.

      All's well for now, but as already stated by others, just wait a little longer.

      Serious question here

      Is their anyone in the UK who has a VM contract that isn't different to everyone else on the same package?

    3. Sirius Lee

      Re: Downward spiral

      It's all relative. We've just moved back to VM because BT is terrible and because it's expensive.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Count Me In

    I'm one of the 23,000 and I'm not a student. Been with Virginmedia since it was NTL. But for the last 18 months their broadband cable service has been so unreliable, we've been using an ADSL connection from BT instead! Plus their customer service that was previously merely dreadful has now plunged to the lowest depths of incompetence.

    The final straw was our last bill which was over £60 more than the previous month. When I contacted them they said a change had been made, without my knowledge or authorisation, to our package at an offshore call centre.

    They have no one to blame for losing customers but themselves.

  9. Danny 14

    Perhaps not being so shite

    Being shite and FTTC catching up is probably the main reason. Throttling, shitty superhub and crap customer service might be to blame too. The mobile side isnt too bad though, for sim only at least. T mobule coverage and rhey beat t mobile for features.

  10. john devoy


    I suspect they're about to see a big drop in mobile as well since they just cancelled the unlimited data options and will now impose a 1gb monthly limit; I was willing to put up with shitty flakey connections and completely lost signals for the ability to watch tv on the bus but i'll be back to my old provider once the limit comes in.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I didn't ditch Virgin because I'm a student, I got shot of them after 4 months of my 100meg cable broadband slowing down to 0.5 meg for most afternoons / evenings. Even after 4 months they were still telling me a fix could be a" few" months away, and having finally cancelled the contract I then had another battle with them after they started to add new extra charges on the contract they mutually agreed to cancel because of failure to supply the agreed service.

    Virgin are a useless company - you're ok till something goes wrong and at that point you're stuck in the depths of Virgin's non-existent fault resolution process.

  12. IHateWearingATie

    Nervous posting this...

    ... in case the gods of Sod read it and strike me down, but my Virgin connection is rock solid and has been for ages.

    *Ducks and waits for the inevitable broadband wrecking thunderbolt*

  13. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


    err virgin err liberty whatever been fine here (except when the useless plonkers working on a bridge for the council decided to put a JCB through the VM main feed for the city

    But then I'm one of the VM customers who says "go forth and multiply" when ever they want to tear out my NTL STB and replace it with a super fail hub.

    "But you can use your wireless laptap in the garden"

    "my house is wired already"

    "But its quicker"

    "my STB works"

    "You can download faster"

    "and hit your download limits sooner"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NTL

      Been a customer for five or so years and have been reasonably happy.

      When I considered faster speeds recently though and learnt that I'd have to have my old modem upgraded (or is that downgraded?) to their superhub and strolled the forums for people's successes/lack thereof wrt using the superhub as just a modem and connecting their own router to it, I decided I'll live with the speed I have for the foreseeable future.

      It seems to be a pretty strong trend for internet providers to force their choice of router onto their customers.

      Don't like it.

      1. Richard 81

        Re: NTL

        @AC: How are you connecting to your VM modem now? When we moved and got a silly super hub I stuck with it for a while, until I got fed up. I then set it to modem only mode and connected to the same old router I used at our old flat. I generally get the 30Mb connection I pay for now.

    2. Amorous Cowherder

      Re: NTL

      I upgraded and they gave me a Superhub ( isn't a VM "super hub" close to an oxymoron? ) anyway the thing never got to see my internal network as there is a Linksys with custom DDWRT firmware sitting between it and my network, the only ports allowed in or out are ones I know I set. The Superhub is a piece of cack with no redeeming features, so mine's set to its simplest settings and acts a modem with all options locked down or off.

      The biggest advantage is that VM can happily faff about with their Superhub's firmware all they please as the only thing they can bugger up for me is the routing point into the big wide world, the internal network is completely separate. If my wife or kids can't stream off our media NAS boxes my life could well be in danger, life's hard enough as it is and I don't need VM's incompetence making it harder!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No need to plagarise work using Google once academic year ends


  15. zaax

    Not doing fibre is their main problem, capping is another

  16. Spogfrawn

    they just won't be straight with you

    They lose customers because it would kill them to be straight and honest with you up-front!

    2 yrs ago I had VM for phone and BB, sky for tv. Decided to go all in one as money was tight, rang VM, explained I was dumping either them or Sky because of this and asked for their very best price for the tv/bb/tel package I wanted. Ditto for Sky. There were slight differences in the TV channels but otherwise identical packages. VM quoted £30pcm more than Sky. I explained this, said I preferred to stay with VM as my phone/BB had been rock solid, and high speed throughout. I emphasized that once I chose a provider I wasn't changing my mind. They refused to budge on price, absolutely, definitely no cheaper ever under any circumstances. I went to Sky. A week later they rang and said, oh no we can do much better on price and quoted £20 less this time. Too late, especially as I'd have taken that quote if they'd offered it the 1st time

    At contract renewal time last November I got quotes again, Sky were higher than before but still £25 less than VM, on a 12 month contract, compared to VM's 18 months.

    Still with Sky and their service has been truly grim, although the customer service people have always been excellent!

  17. goldcd

    Throttling connections can't help in shared houses.

    At least I can choose to download 10 gigs now, or later.

    Share with half a dozen other people, who are born into the IP-on-demand world, and you'll get home and find they've eaten your bandwidth. Doesn't help that pretty much all TV is consumed through the ubiquitous student laptop (although I curse their youth for not having to trail ever more complex configurations of RF cable and boosters around the place, just to get passable reception on your 14" TV).

  18. Arachnoid

    So all scruffy students use Virgin,,,,,,,,what do the rest use?

  19. ted frater

    Currently in the middle of discussions to resolve slowdown at peak times on national adsl

    did lots of line checks with and

    Average d/load is 4.5mbps. over a rural line of 6km from exch down to 1,5 evernings

    So no fault in line. Sync to exch at 6mbps.

    My guess is that

    1. theres been a big increase in internet users over the past few yrs

    2 theres been very little investment in the national backbone by BT till recently such as fibre to the cabinet.

    3. VM wont pay for more bandwidth from BT.

    BT business will give a better service but at a much increased cost.

    Most of their customer service is now routed to india. etc. Nice girls by terrible english. Cant follow them at all.

    Had to call their HO to request connection to their Swansea call centre.

    Looking for another isp . however, We have 2 pairs of copper to the house, ie 2 seperate phones may get BT to the second pair and compare results at the same time.

    Then dump the worst one.

    1. MonkeyCee

      Are you comparing home (contested) lines with business (dedicated) lines? Because a dedicated line should get you, at all times, close to what it was sold to you as. Certainly you can spec minimum speed there.

      Home lines, you get to share with however many others on the same exchange. Regardless of what you actually paid, you just get your caps set differently.

      The country folks which I help out have gone from getting 80kbs on a good day, to 12kbs. Same package, just the house down the lane got the super BT package. No upgrades to lines, or kit in the exchange.

      Other crazy situations are a little village where my Mum lives, has fibre to the industrial estate (~1km from village) and to the school. But everyone else is on copper that's about at it's limits from exchange. Oh and the cabling gets broken/nicked about every 18 months. The "tearoom" on the estate (greasy spoon with no food) became very popular, an impromptu net cafe :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      BT: voice and data services to the ill-informed and naive?

      "VM wont pay for more bandwidth from BT. BT business will give a better service but at a much increased cost."

      Your diagnosis is probably right but your solution isn't. Your DSL (and its support) needn't necessarily be provided solely by BT.

      Even if you're in an expensive "Market 1" (Ofcon terminology) area where BT Wholesale have no competition, you can still buy your retail service from another ISP using BTwholesale's exchange equipment and core network. AAISP and Zen have already been mentioned. Yes it will cost you. Yes you will get more shared bandwidth allocated per punter where the ISP connects to the BTwholesale network (this will likely be one of Virgin's problems, as you speculated).

      In other areas, BTwholesale have competition from cable, "local loop unbundling", or (frequently) both. If you pick an LLU ISP, they don't use BTwholesale exchange equipment or core network; they have their own exchange equipment, which allows them to set their own prices and standards of service.

      BT Retail are traditionally the default provider of voice and data services to the ill-informed and naive. For a while their FTTC (VDSL, BT Infinity, etc) deals looked quite attractive. Not sure of the current picture.

  20. john devoy

    ted frater: Try talking to them with a Scottish accent, there's an exercise in complete futility.

  21. Syntax Error

    Students Fault

    Blaming scruffy students for a fall in revenue. Bigoted and pathetic.

    Virgin must think the sun shines out their orifices.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Students Fault

      Virgin fail to realise that these same 'scruffy students' are the home broadband and BOFH IT provisioners of the future.

      "Ah Virgin Media. Used them as a student. They called me scruffy. No deal."

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you don't expand the network

    You don't get more customers.

  23. grs

    Here's a solution for VM...

    How about they start laying down new bloody cables? I live less than 100 yards from houses that have Virgin Media cable, yet the lazy bastards won't even bother extending their cable for an apartment complex that has 100 residences. We've been trying to get them to do it for years, yet they still won't, even though more residences are under construction.

    If VM wants more subscribers, then they have to extend their network.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Here's a solution for VM...

      "How about they start laying down new bloody cables?"

      The problem being that it can't be done profitably - or not in a timescale that the company's shareholders (whoever they might ultimately be) will support. It costs about £1k to wire a house to the network, give or take. If you're paying £18 a month it will be years and years before they break even, let alone make any kind of profit on the work. If £18 drops to £15 or £10 in the next few years Virgin might never see a profit on the work.

      In that type of situation the shareholders will insist that no money is spent on network rollout, under threat of them having the board replaced if they do. It's really hard for private enterprises to make the business case to support utility type investments - investors expect commercial rates of return in timescales of much, much less than a decade.

  24. Cableless

    I live in Church Langley, North Essex. When this area was being developed the now defunct NTL cabled quite a few properties but a much larger number were never cabled, my property included. BT has told me

    that they will not bring FTC to the local exchange because is not economically viable for them. Virgin has been regularly bombarding me with literature urging me to subscribe. Over the last 5 years I have called them to ask if they would be prepared to lay cable to my property, seeing that they have FTC in the exchange and some properties in our cul-de-sac already have it. Their answer has always been that this would not be possible. It seems they are not prepared to invest in increasing the cable coverage in an area where many people living in modern housing would readily abandon BT's atrocious low speed internet service if they were offered a better alternative.. Not surprised people leave them. In this business it's either invest to expand or you are dead in the water.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " In this business it's either invest to expand or you are dead in the water."

      The thing that will leave you dead in the water is investing. Broadband pricing is so low that anyone putting money in the ground will go bust before they see that money back, unless they can be near certain that a large proportion of households passed will take up the service.

      If Virgin won't serve your street, and BT won't serve your street - whatever separate analysis has been done by the two have reached the same conclusion.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing to do with

    Nothing to do with their shoddy customer service at all?

  26. Sirius Lee

    I've another possible explanation

    BT introduced Infinity widely during the period. With us they 'offered' Infinity at our existing rate (£13/month for 75MB/s who would refuse?). And I'm sure there are many who thought the same thing.

    However come time to renew the contract the price shot up to £28. No thanks. Even worse the service would drop out every few minutes making impossible to watch on-line content. To be fair, if a laptop was under the stairs directly connected it was OK but if it was connected via the new hub's wireless connection it just didn't work. Now, talk about customer service. "Yes your connection is fine". No wasn't not.

    So we're with VM now and everything is rosy at the moment.

  27. GeekinOrpington

    You phone Virgin media because you have a fault, eventually after answering the 'technical support' persons irrelevant scripted question they finally agree that there is a fault but unfortunately they can't access the system to book an engineer so you will have to call back later, when you call back later there is no record of the previous call so they insist on going through the script again and and then thay tell you that they still can't book an engineer so, call back again.

    They are so poorly trained that they see nothing wrong with that request so it's no wonder that so many people kick them out!

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