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Virgin chases after Sky in the UK with its new on-demand TV Anywhere service

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Virgin TV Anywhere on iPad
Virgin TV Anywhere on iPad

Anyone in the UK looking to make the jump to premium TV services is essentially stuck with two options: Virgin and Sky. While Sky has been aggressively pursuing mobile streaming for some time, Virgin is finally playing catch-up in the same space today by launching its long awaited Anywhere service. The company is promising live streaming of subscription channels and on-demand content from various providers, but when you look a little closer, the issues start to become apparent.

When you look a little closer, the issues start to become apparent

The good news is that Virgin TV customers won’t have to pay anything extra to use Anywhere, and 25 live channels can be streamed from desktops, laptops, and iOS devices. The problems start when you see that Virgin isn't offering particularly exciting channels to stream. There are some exceptions to the rule such as Channel 5, ESPN, and CNN but for the most part you’ll be saddled with music videos and offshoots like 5 USA and Disney Junior. The biggest missteps, though, are that the available channels can’t be streamed on mobile over 3G, and there’s no Android app available at launch. Not only that, but users are restricted to two registered devices for the service.

TV Anywhere falls short in comparison to Sky Go

Virgin may also be offering some of its competitors channels assuming you already pay for the privilege, of course but Sky isn’t letting the company have its cake and eat it too. The premium movie and sports channels can be streamed online, but won’t be made available on Virgin’s mobile app at all. Even lesser channels such as Sky 1 and Sky News have been marked as "To Be Confirmed," a status that doesn’t inspire much confidence.

It’s understandable that Virgin has been blocked from streaming Sky’s own channels, especially when the latter company is keen to peddle its own service, but there’s no denying that TV Anywhere falls short in comparison to Sky Go. The rival service, for instance, offers apps on iOS, Android, and the Xbox 360, with users able to stream from the console and two additional devices simultaneously. Sky doesn’t place restrictions on 3G streaming either, and there’s a higher quality of on-demand content to choose from.

If Virgin had been able to at least match Sky on a technical level, then it could have at least worked on content issues over time. As it stands, however, the company simply hasn’t made a compelling argument for those looking to move beyond free-to-view TV, nor has it created a viable alternative to Sky's service.