Virgin Media readying to launch belated second-screen intiative

Two years after it first promised it would release an iPad controller for its TiVo TV box, UK cable company Virgin Media has finally shown a working version that it is about to release.

The app forms part of the provider’s upcoming “Virgin TV Anywhere” strategy, which will let subscribers view live and on-demand TV from their subscribed bouquets on devices other than their cable-connected TV.

Both an iOS app and a website will let subscribers schedule and manage their TiVo recordings, discover TV show content and share viewing habits with social networks.

But, given all the “second screen” buzz going on, it is the app which is most interesting. Just like TiVo’s own app, it will also let Virgin Media customers see a programme guide, change channels on their TV set and pause and rewind live TV.

Given that the TiVo-branded iPad controller app on which this is based has existed for almost as long as the iPad has, it is surprising Virgin Media has taken so long with its second screen, out-of-home strategy, with several promised launch dates having been missed. CEO Neil Berkett last said in March that the app would be out by September. An Android version is now scheduled for a March 2013 release.

Rival BSkyB’s out-of-home proposition is surging in consumer mindset, with marketing that makes clear how subscribers can watch shows from Sky Movies, Sky Sports and others on mobiles and tablets. Its separate Sky+ app, for controlling TV and scheduling recordings remotely, has a million unique monthly users, BSkyB told paidContent. Virgin Media’s Virgin TV Anywhere will carry 30 channels, which it is not yet naming.

One thing both apps are missing is the ability to view shows recorded on PVRs.