LONDON: Farewell old, tired and unloved US cable operator NTL, indelibly identified in the minds of the British public with abysmal customer service. Now, let's hear it for the youthful, all-new, dynamic, consumer-lovin' Virgin Media, as personified by the perma-grinned visage of the people's favourite businessman Sir Richard Branson!
As of today (Friday) NTL shuffles off its scaly old skin to rebrand as Virgin Media, offering a quadruple-play package of cable TV, broadband internet, telephony and cellphone services.
It was the latter - and especially the magic of the Virgin brand - that triggered NTL's £962 million ($1.90bn; €1.46bn) agreed takeover of Virgin Mobile last year - a move that left the Branson's holding company, Virgin Group, as NTL's largest shareholder [WARC News: 05-Apr-06].
There is also a third party involved: Germany's T-Mobile network which hosts the Virgin cellphone offering.
With the exception of an interesting new premium product, Virgin Media looks to be peddling exactly the same range of packages as NTL. The newcomer is Virgin's VIP (Very Impressive Pack), an executive club version of the standard offerings.
VIP, at a cool £85 per month, comprises a new Vplus digital TV with 129 channels, a PVR and high definition signal, plus Sky Sports and movie packages.
It also includes a second settop box for use elsewhere in the home, a new VoD service, a10Mb unlimited broadband connection, and a home landline with unlimited calls to other UK numbers.
Meantime, Branson will be keeping a 24/7 watch on NTL's customer service performance - lest its failure causes the transfusion of brand values to go into reverse and impact adversely on other Virgin enterprises.
Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff