Sir Richard Branson enters virgin territory
Paid Content has an item on the launch of Virgin Media, a UK cable company that counts Sir Richard Branson as a big shareholder.
The company, which Branson is rescuing from the scraps of NTL Telewest, aims to compete with Rupert Murdoch's Sky satellite service. The Paid Content post noted that as part of the relaunch, Virgin is launching a new online portal that will go head-to-head with Yahoo, Microsoft's MSN and Time Warner's AOL.
Sir Richard is no stranger to entering new markets, and though his businesses historically have been in more traditional markets such as retail and transportation, he's certainly no stranger to technology, as this fun article by my colleage, David Kirkpatrick, gleefully shows.
But many of Virgin's launches are vanity brands: almost no one drinks Virgin Vodka or buys Virgin travel insurance. In those fields where Virgin does genuinely compete, it's by offering a product that is better, or at least more interesting, than the competition's, and the Browser fears Virgin Media and Virginmedia.com is neither. The old NTL (formed from the merger of NTL and Telewest, two struggling cable operators) didn't have the best reputation for service.
Meanwhile, the portal is just plain uninteresting. Okay, the site is new, and maybe subscribers get a different experience than those of us on the other side of the pond, but call us unimpressed. Particularly offensive is prominently placed but thoroughly insipid interview with actress Uma Thurman. But oops, nowhere does the item mention that Thurman is the mouthpiece for the Virgin Media rebranding campaign.
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