Virgin Media COO Defends Walled Garden TV Apps Ecosystem

written by: Richard Kastelein

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In a recent piece in Paid Content Virgin Media COO Andrew Barron calls most third party app development by smaller parties 'fodder', and defends the companies approach to only allowing incumbents space on their platform - thereby closing the doors in innovation driven by smaller developers.

In a lengthy meeting with City analysts on Wednesday, company executives re-iterated its belief that the box, which is designed to lure Sky customers and head off the emergence of connected TVs, is “an open platform”. But, if Virgin’s TiVo is so “open”, why does it still carry only 15 handpicked “apps”, compared with the 1,000 Samsung Smart Hub has in Europe? That question specifically was asked by an analyst from Cazenove…

“You will see a few apps every month,” he was told by company COO Andrew Barron. “They will be heavyweight apps, not just fodder. It’s easy to publish all sorts of things to it, because it’s got Flash - but we want to the real heavyweights.”

It appears that London City analysts are also curious why Virgin is crawling behind other connected devices when it comes to opening up the platform for more innovation and offerings from other third party developers working hard in the new connected TV space.

The question is - is Virgin's rather empty, high walled garden approach of their app landscape better or worse for consumers? How will their app offerings compete with people who have a Smart TV and a Virgin Box? Are they destined to become the Blackberry of the TV apps world? Will they ever open up SDKs and APIs to the greater development community or keep them behind locked doors?

The unofficial Virgin Media Tivo Blog apparently thinks the glacial rollout pace and lack of apps is not good:

...I wouldn't imagine for an instant that TiVo would or should have hundreds of apps by now, 13 months later. But a quick look at the apps page for TiVo reveals just 13 apps in total. To be fair, 2 apps have been recently removed, these were promotional movie apps for Harry Potter and Twlight.

...Lets hope that the number of apps increases and soon, because TiVo is in serious danger of being left behind in this area when compared to other devices - my Samsung TV has 19 apps just for watching VOD content, while games consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3 allow you to watch streamed movies from Lovefilm and Netflix, which isn't an option Virgin's TiVo provides.

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