Virgin Media goes shopping as rivalry with Sky mounts

Virgin Media and BSkyB's battle for TV audience and broadband users has spread to the internet, with both media owners ramping up their online presence.

Virgin Media has turned to food shopping in its latest bid to drive revenue streams online. It has teamed up with shopping comparison site Mysupermarket, which has provided a dedicated shopping channel on Virgin Media's portal.

The link-up offers Virgin Media users the chance to shop at Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Ocado, as well as comparing prices of goods from each store. Mysupermarket's tools enable users to fill a trolley, and compare the prices of the goods, before directing them to the supermarket where they will get the best deal.

Virgin Media has also added a Christmas Shop feature on its portal after partnering with gift and gadget site Prezzybox. As well as shopping features, the company has been investing in online content.

Virgin Media is attempting to develop its advantage over Sky in the online stakes. It attracted 5.5 million unique users in September 2007, compared with Sky's 4.9 million, according to research company Nielsen Online.

Sky's drive to develop Sky.com from a corporate site into a consumer-facing portal has been raised several notches in recent months, however. The site now has 12 channels of content - largely through third-party deals.

Last month, Sky launched a motoring website through a partnership with car websites, including Auto Trader, which signed up to provide used-car listings to the site.

Sky's aim is to create a series of websites around Sky.com to run advertising and offer its customers a range of content. This summer saw the broadcaster create a dating site through a partnership with Dating Direct and a property site with Propertyfinder.com.

Mysupermarket's deal with Virgin Media is the second high-profile deal the site has signed recently after launching on The Sun's website last month. The comparison site is seeking to strike deals with more national newspapers, as well as a range of portals.

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