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Sky boss questions ntl/Virgin deal

# 19 January 2006, 18:51 by Frank

BSkyB’s CEO James Murdoch has questioned the fit between ntl and Virgin Mobile as he laid out reasons why he thinks Sky will win in the long term over the rebranded cable company and other players like BT and Freeview.

Murdoch was taking part in a Q&A session on the Financial Times website, and was invited to react to the arrival of Richard Branson on the broadcasting scene and the prospectl of ntl/Virgin Mobile’s “quadruple play” offering, a market first in the United Kingdom.

It was understandable, Murdoch said, that ntl should react to the threat of its voice customers migrating to mobile networks. “The key question,” he said, “is how one fits, if there is a fit, the pre-pay individual choice of a mobile pay-as-you-go customer with the deeper, more considered choices a family makes with respects to entertainment and communications for the home.”

Murdoch contrasted the strategy of rivals with BSkyB’s approach of putting entertainment “at the core” and “making things easy” for families, and went on to say, “Bringing together content with customer service and innovative, friendly technology has always been central to customer services.”

Virgin Mobile is what is known as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) and uses the T-Mobile network in the UK to provide service. Clearly the overhead of using T-Mobile’s infrastructure inhibits the company’s ability to compete fully in the British mobile marketplace, but Vigin has signed up approximately 5 million customers since launching in 1999 and is worth nearly £1billion according to ntl’s latest offer.

However, ntl previously had a crack at the contract mobile maket with an offering called ntl Mobile, but this was scrapped back in 2002 after it failed miserably. Perhaps this time around, they will be more successful, or perhaps it is more about rebranding the combined company under the Virgin brand and doing away with the ntl brand for good.

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