In a week that was supposed to be celebratory for Disney+, with the highly anticipated launch of its new ad-supported tier, Virgin Media TV customers have found themselves facing an unexpected snag.
The launch of Disney Plus’ ‘Standard with Ads’ tier this week, a move aimed at broadening the platform’s appeal with a price tag of just £4.99 per month, has instead sparked frustration among users of Virgin Media’s devices.
As part of the launch, Disney+ unveiled a trio of new subscription plans, including the headline-grabbing ad-supported tier, and a new ‘Premium’ tier which brings with it higher costs.
However, the lower-cost alternative has proven to be incompatible with Virgin Media’s TV devices, including the Virgin Media Stream and the TV 360 box – and that’s not likely to change soon.
This has left Virgin Media’s customers with the sole option of subscribing to the more expensive, ad-free Premium tier through Virgin Media, at £10.99 per month.
If they choose to subscribe to the ad-supported tier directly via Disney+, they’ll face another problem – that tier simply doesn’t work on Virgin Media’s TV boxes, and they’ll have to get a separate streaming device, just for Disney+ (see more details below).
In contrast, Sky customers, while also restricted to the Premium plan through Sky’s billing, face no hardware incompatibility issue and can still access the ad-supported tier directly through the Disney+ app on Sky’s devices.
The New Disney+ Ad-Supported Tier: A Mixed Bag?
Disney+ has restructured its subscription model this week, to offer more flexibility to its UK audience.
The new lineup includes a Standard with Ads plan (Join Here), a Standard without Ads plan, and a Premium tier. The ad-supported option, priced at £4.99 per month, offers Full HD 1080p video quality and two concurrent streams, but does not support downloads.
It includes up to four minutes of adverts per hour, a figure that is less intrusive compared to traditional broadcast channels.
The ‘Standard Without Ads’ tier, at £7.99/month, offers the same technical features (1080p and 2 concurrent streams), but does not contain adverts, and does allow downloads for offline viewing.
And for those seeking the top ad-free experience, the Premium tier at £10.99 per month provides up to 4K UHD and HDR video quality, four concurrent streams, Dolby Atmos audio, and download capabilities.
This tier represents a significant price jump for existing subscribers who were accustomed to the £7.99 per month plan, which used to offer the same capabilities as the newly launched, higher-priced Premium tier.
Existing subscribers will continue to pay £7.99, but only until December 6. At that point, they will be switched to the new ‘Premium’ tier at £10.99/month.
Disney+ On Virgin Media TV: Premium Or Nothing
Virgin Media’s two primary TV boxes – the TV 360 and the broadband-based Virgin Media Stream – support a variety of streaming apps, including Disney+.
In addition to having the app itself on its boxes, Virgin Media has also been offering its customers the option of signing up and paying for Disney+ via their Virgin Media bill.
However, the new Disney+ tiers pose a new complication.
Virgin Media has confirmed to us that only the ad-free Premium tier, priced at £10.99 per month, will be available for subscription through its service
Consequently, Virgin Media customers are unable to access the Standard or the newly introduced ad-supported tiers via the company’s devices or billing system.
But what’s worse, is that even if customers subscribe to the ad-supported tier directly through Disney+, they will encounter an error message when trying to use it on Virgin Media’s boxes:
“You are subscribed to Disney+ Standard with Ads which is currently not available on this set-top box. Please use another device.”
For Virgin Media subscribers, this limitation poses a significant inconvenience.
Those who opt for the new ad-supported tier of Disney+ will find themselves unable to access the service through Virgin Media’s devices at all.
Instead, they will have to use the Disney+ app on other devices – such as a Smart TV or a 3rd party streaming stick like the Amazon Fire TV – but that means having to purchase another device, and having to switch between devices just for the sake of watching Disney+ with adverts.
Disney+ On Sky: More Flexibility
Sky TV offers a similar option of subscribing and paying for Disney+ via Sky’s billing, but things are a bit easier on that front.
First of all, new subscribers can still sign up for the Premium plan for just £7.99/month – and will get to keep that price until December 6.
After December 6, whenever the new Disney+ billing round occurs for them – they will pay the new £10.99/month price for Disney+ Premium via Sky.
Similarly to Virgin Media, Sky only offers the Premium plan – so you can’t subscribe to the Standard or Standard with Ads tiers via Sky.
However, unlike Virgin Media’s boxes – customers who sign up for Disney+ directly, and opt for the Ad-supported tier (or the Standard without Ads tier), WILL be able to use it on the Disney+ app on Sky’s boxes (Stream, Glass and Sky Q).
So, while they won’t have the convenience of paying via one Sky bill, they will at least be able to use Sky’s devices to watch the ad-supported tier they’re paying for.
The launch of Disney+’s new subscription tiers marks a significant shift in the UK’s streaming landscape, providing more choices to consumers.
However, the incompatibility with Virgin Media’s devices has marred the rollout, leaving affected subscribers with a decision to make: upgrade to the Premium tier through Virgin Media or find alternative ways to enjoy Disney+ content.