New Virgin Media packages pass on price rises

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A NEW range of Virgin Media triple play bundles go on sale today, with higher prices or slightly different components than the Big Bundles they're replacing.

Only the VIP Bundle - which offers everything Virgin Media do in terms of TV - has remained the same in content and name, although it's risen in price by £2.

People looking at getting one of the smaller bundles will need to look closely to see the differences - but those who want more from Virgin could find themselves surprised by how much prices have changed since yesterday.

Existing customers are also being told of the new prices they can expect to be paying come November 1st - but they do at least have the option to leave if they don't like the news.

Farewell "Big" bundles

The new triple play bundles look like this:

Package Includes Contract term Upfront price Monthly price
Virgin Media Player Bundle 50Mb fibre +
70+ channels +
weekend calls
12 months £14.99 £29
for 12 mths,
then £45
Virgin Media Mix Bundle 50Mb fibre +
150+ channels +
weekend calls
12 months £14.99 £42
for 12 mths,
then £50
Virgin Media Fun Bundle 100Mb fibre +
190+ channels +
weekend calls
12 months £14.99 £49
for 12 mths,
then £60
Virgin Media Full House Bundle 100Mb fibre +
245 channels +
weekend calls
12 months £14.99 £55
for 12 mths,
then £76
Virgin Media VIP Bundle 200Mb fibre + 245+ channels
plus Sky Sports in HD and Sky Cinema + V HD box + anytime calls
12 months £14.99 £85
for 12 mths,
then £120

After offering all their products, even the triple play deals, on 12-month terms for a while, Virgin have decided to bring back the 18-month contract for both these bundles and any broadband plus phone bundles sold from today on.

Only the VIP Bundle looks to have come through relatively unscathed, as it offers everything it's possible to get from Virgin in TV terms.

Drawing broad parallels with the old bundles gives us some idea of what's changed beyond the names, and what's stayed the same.

Old Big Bundle Includes Monthly price New Bundle Includes Monthly price
Big Easy 50Mb fibre, 60 channels £41.99 Player Bundle 50Mb fibre, 70+ channels £45
Big Bang 100Mb fibre, 70 channels £51.99 Mix Bundle 50Mb fibre, 150+ channels £50
Big Fun 100Mb fibre, 130 channels £57.99 Fun Bundle 100Mb fibre, 190+ channels £60
Big Kahuna 100Mb fibre, 230+ channels £66.99 Full House Bundle 100Mb fibre, 245+ channels £71
VIP 200Mb fibre, 260 channels £116.99 VIP 200Mb fibre, 260 channels £120

The first thing to note is that compared to the old packages, all bar the VIP Bundle offer more channels. It's not just the number of channels that's changed, but in some cases the channels themselves have moved around.

What else has changed

Virgin told us the intention was to "make it simpler and easier for people to buy TV... based on the genres they love".

But they also say themselves that the 70 or so channels people will get with the Player Bundle are "all the essential free to air channels", and that the catch up services are also only those found on free TV.

To get any of the Sky channels Virgin offer requires getting the Mix Bundle at the very least - although there are far more paid for channels alongside them now. The Mix Bundle looks cheaper than its predecessor too - but note that Virgin have downgraded the broadband from 100Mb to 50Mb.

The Fun Bundle has more channels than the old "Big" version, for not much more per month; it looks like a similar story with the Big Kahuna to Full House transition.

It's a different story when it comes to the offshoots of the Full House Bundle however.

Package Includes Contract term Upfront price Monthly price
Virgin Media Full House Movies Bundle 200Mb fibre + 245+ channels plus Sky Cinema + weekend calls 12 months £14.99 £55
for 12 mths,
then £80
Virgin Media Full House Sports Bundle 100Mb fibre + 245+ channels plus Sky Sports + weekend calls 12 months £14.99 £75
for 12 mths,
then £106.50
Virgin Media Full House Sports & Movies Bundle 200Mb fibre + 245+ channels plus Sky Sports and Sky Cinema + weekend calls 12 months £14.99 £81
for 12 mths,
then £113.50

Compare those prices with their Big Kahuna equivalents:

Old Big Bundle Includes Monthly price New Bundle Includes Monthly price
Big Kahuna Movies 200Mb fibre + 230+ channels plus Sky Cinema £77.99 Full House Movies Bundle 200Mb fibre + 245+ channels plus Sky Cinema £96
Big Kahuna Sports 100Mb fibre + 230+ channels plus Sky Sports £97.49 Full House Sports Bundle 100Mb fibre + 245+ channels plus Sky Sports £106.50
Big Kahuna Sports & Movies 200Mb fibre + 230+ channels plus Sky Sports and Sky Cinema £109.99 Full House Sports & Movies Bundle 200Mb fibre + 245+ channels plus Sky Sports and Sky Cinema £113.50

The big shock is in the difference in price between the Big Kahuna Movies and Full House Movies Bundles - an increase of £17 per month.

Being generous, it's possible that a good £8 or so of that price rise is because the Full House Movies package comes with 200Mb broadband as standard.

Virgin referred to the Big Kahuna Movies deal as a "limited edition", as the standard and Sports versions of the package came with 100Mb fibre - as do their new Full House equivalents.

Even so, it's a steep increase to swallow.

When we asked Virgin about the size of those increases, they told us that the new deals were being priced to fall in line with those that'll be paid by existing customers after November 1st.

Price rises for existing customers

The observant may have noticed that in the top table above, the price of the bundles including line rental is £19 higher than without.

What new customers face now, existing Virgin Media phone customers will experience from November - Virgin's line rental will be increasing from £17.99 per month to £19, even more expensive (just) than BT's line rental (which is £18.99).

Line Rental Saver will also be increasing, from £184 for 12 months to £196.

All broadband-only packages will increase in price by £2.99 per month - but those who take broadband with phone, or a triple play bundle, will see their entire bill go up by £3.49.

Product Price now (inc line rental where applicable) Price from November 1st (inc line rental where applicable)
Line rental £17.99 per month £19 per month
Line rental saver £184 per year £196 per year
Broadband on its own 50Mb £30.25 to £32.25 per month £33.24 to £35.24 per month
100Mb £35.25 to £37.25 per month £38.24 to £40.24 per month
200Mb £43.25 to £45.25 per month £46.24 to £48.24 per month
Broadband + weekend calls 50Mb £36.99 to £38.99 per month £40.48 to 42.48 per month
100Mb £41.99 to £43.99 per month £45.48 to £47.48 per month
200Mb £49.99 to £51.99 per month £53.48 to £55.48 per month
Big Bundles Big Easy £41.99 per month £45.48 per month
Big Bang £51.99 per month £55.48 per month
Big Fun £57.99 per month £61.48 per month
Big Kahuna £72.99 per month £76.48 per month

Customers whose bundle or package was sold to them on special offer terms - most likely those still within their minimum contracts - will see their monthly bills rise in line with the terms of their special offer.

Say they signed up to the Big Fun deal for £30 instead of £40, with the discount in place for 12 months.

Their bundle costs 75% of the usual price - so from November, as long as they're still within that discount period, their bill will rise by 75% of £3.49 per month (about £2.60 a month).

Everyone affected should be receiving letters explaining how their bills will change - and those who really don't like what they're being told have two choices.

The first is the simplest: under Ofcom rules, they have 30 days from being notified to cancel their contract without penalty - and if that's the case there are plenty of alternatives to choose from here.

The other is for the braver out there: stay put but be willing to haggle a better deal. We've a guide to tactics here.

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