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Virgin Media in Talks to Add Streaming Video to TiVo, CEO Says

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Virgin Media Inc., the U.K’s second-largest pay-television company, is in talks with video-streaming providers to add shows and movies to its TiVo recording service, Chief Executive Officer Neil Berkett said.

While it’s still “early days,” and no announcements are imminent, Berkett said he wants the platform to give customers access to content from services such as Inc.’s Lovefilm and Netflix Inc.

“We want TiVo to be completely open,” Berkett said in an interview. “We’re talking to everyone.”

TiVo set-top boxes record TV programs so that users can view them later. Subscribers to the service, who pay extra to connect their TVs to the Web, helped Virgin Media report a 5 percent increase in fourth-quarter operating profit, beating analysts’ estimates. Berkett, who took over in 2008, has focused on offering faster Internet speeds to win customers from larger competitor BT Group Plc. The company signed up 435,100 TiVo subscribers to the service by year end.

Virgin shares rose 2.2 percent to 1,563 pence in London trading at 9:36 a.m. The stock has gained 13 percent this year.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings last month forecast the company will attract millions of subscribers within a few years to the Internet film and television service it started in the U.K. and Ireland. Lovefilm last month signed a deal to offer Walt Disney Co. shows such as “Desperate Housewives,” “Happy Endings,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Lost” in the U.K.

Rising Profit

Virgin Media’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization and other one-time charges increased to 424 million pounds ($675 million) from 403.6 million pounds a year earlier, the Hook, England-based company said. Analysts had estimated 415 million pounds in a Bloomberg survey. The company today said it will start a new $250 million share buyback program.

Making TiVo a hub for content and selling customers more-expensive bundles of services may help the company win and keep customers as growth in the broadband and TV markets in the U.K. slows. The company added 1,100 TV customers and 17,500 broadband subscribers in the quarter. That’s down from additions of 12,100 TV and 44,100 web customers a year earlier.

Virgin has said it will invest 110 million pounds this year to double most of its customers’ broadband speeds.

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