Boosting GB’s broadband: Rebecca Adlington hits gold medal speeds

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Olympic medal winner Rebecca Adlington today launched Britain’s fastest widely available broadband on Virgin Media’s very own fully connected mobile living room.

The 800m freestyle world record setter quenched her thirst for speed on London’s South Bank where she unveiled the UK’s fastest broadband…on wheels.

Rebecca enjoyed gold medal speeds of 152Mb while unbeatable Virgin Media TiVo® entertainment proved more captivating than views of the Thames, all from the comfort of a sofa in her very own supercharged mobile living room.

The UK’s first road legal living room can be connected to Virgin Media’s supercharged fibre optic cable network so passengers and passers-by can experience the benefits of superfast broadband and next generation TV. The supercharged living room will now embark on a regional tour around the UK as Virgin Media unveils its new speeds at key locations across the nation.

Virgin Media’s 152Mb top speed means you can download an entire TV show in a minute but the ultrafast service really comes into its own in satisfying the burgeoning demand for bandwidth in Britain’s households as people use multiple connected devices online at the same time. 152Mb is far ahead of BT and 19 times faster than regular broadband.

Joe Lathan, Virgin Media’s broadband director, said: “Just like Rebecca, Virgin Media’s award-winning broadband is faster than the competition and, as we supercharge our network, we are extending our lead as Britain’s ultrafast broadband provider. People are increasingly connecting multiple gadgets to their home broadband so a supercharged connection is essential to boost your online entertainment experience.”

Unlike BT TV, YouView or other connected set-top boxes, Virgin Media TiVo has its own dedicated internet connection so has no impact on the broadband speeds that are delivered to Virgin Media customers.

 

 

 

 

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Virgin Media launches ‘twice as fast’ broadband

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Virgin Media today unleashed broadband speeds 19 times faster than regular broadband. The new 152Mb top speed instantly becomes the fastest widely available connection in the UK and is launched alongside new parental controls technology and advice, designed to support families in getting the most from the online world.

 As the UK’s leading broadband company, Virgin Media has introduced an ultrafast speed which is far ahead of BT or any other major provider. In addition, Virgin Media’s entry-level service is now increased to 50Mb, setting a new standard for internet connectivity that is five times faster than regular broadband from Sky or BT.

Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media’s chief executive officer, said: “Overwhelmingly people tell us the internet is a force for good. From daily life to the bigger aspects of society, culture and economic growth, digital is making a significant, positive difference to people’s lives. We’re supercharging our incredible network to ensure that Virgin Media customers can make the most of the online world.”

Virgin Media’s award-winning broadband is delivered by its superior fibre optic network, available to 12.5 million UK homes. The new 152Mb top speed means you can download an entire TV show in one minute but the ultrafast service really comes into its own in satisfying the burgeoning demand for bandwidth in Britain’s households as people use multiple connected devices online at the same time.

Peak internet use by Virgin Media customers has grown 55% in the past year and has increased by almost 1000% since the company’s launch in 2007. It is for this reason that Virgin Media will boost broadband speeds for existing customers over the next twelve months: 30Mb customers can boost to 50Mb, 60Mb to 100Mb and 120Mb can get 152Mb.

Virgin Media’s broadband boosts have been recognised by Ofcom as helping to double the number of UK households benefiting from superfast broadband since 2011. A further one million customers signed up to get 30Mb or faster with Virgin Media in 2013.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller MP said: “Faster, safer home internet from Virgin Media is great news for families across the UK. Families are now downloading films, streaming music and playing games through phones, laptops, tablets and consoles. Higher speeds will enable the whole family to use the internet at the same time.”

Virgin Media’s new whole-home parental controls technology, Web Safe, allows the account holder to restrict access to types of potentially age-inappropriate websites. Free for every Virgin Media broadband household, Web Safe works across all devices connected to the family’s home internet service. From today, new Virgin Media customers will be offered Web Safe when they install their broadband connection. The technology is available to existing customers and Virgin Media will proactively offer the technology to all its customers by the end of 2014.

Web Safe works in conjunction with F-Secure SAFE, software available from Virgin Media which can help protect consumer devices out of the home too.

To support this, Virgin Media is launching Switched on Families. This new interactive guide is designed to support parents, grandparents and guardians in making informed choices about the online world. The guide has clear, honest and useful advice on a range of issues such as who to trust, inappropriate content, cyber bullying and digital addiction. Developed with expert support from The Parent Zone and F-Secure, the guide is available to anyone online at virginmedia.com/switchedonfamilies.

Vicki Shotbolt, CEO and Founder of The Parent Zone, said: “Switched on Families puts Virgin Media ahead of the game – it’s the best content I’ve seen in this space for a long time. Parenting in a digital age is a constantly evolving challenge. The invaluable advice on this site will help empower parents to figure out what works for their family and how to best support their kids as they grow up.”

Maria Miller added: “Parents will now be able to make a simple choice to activate family friendly filters that will cover all devices connected to the family’s home internet.”

 

Tom Mockridge added: “With the power of Virgin Media’s network, we can ensure digital really does makes good things happen for our customers, the communities around us and the country. Technology can help but we want every family to feel confident, informed and able to choose what online experience is right for them.”

 

 

 

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MtGox bitcoin exchange files for bankruptcy

The MtGox bitcoin exchange has filed for bankruptcy protection, reports say.

 
The MtGox bitcoin exchange has filed for bankruptcy protection, reports say.
 
The application was made in Japan by lawyers acting on behalf of the exchange and comes only days after MtGox went offline.
 
On Tuesday, the exchange’s boss said he was working hard to find a “solution to our recent issues”. Before going offline, technical troubles meant it prevented customers transferring digital cash to other exchanges on 7 February.
 
Details of the bankruptcy are scant but the application for protection has been accepted by a district court in Tokyo, reported AFP. At the court hearing, the company said it had outstanding debts of about 6.5bn yen (£38m).
 
MtGox’s lawyers are believed to have decided to apply to the court for protection after US regulators filed a subpoena against the company. Reports suggested the site shut down after it discovered that an estimated 744,000 bitcoins – about $350m (£210m) – had been stolen due to a loophole in its security.
 
MtGox’s troubles have put pressure on the price bitcoin owners can get for their holdings. Currently one bitcoin is worth about $561 (£334), a price far lower than the high of $1,000 per coin it hit in November 2013.
 
Meanwhile, Vietnam has banned its banks from from handling the crypto-currency saying the virtual cash is not legal tender. The country’s state bank said trading in bitcoins carried “potential risks” for users.
 
At the same time, Japan’s deputy finance minister said any regulation of bitcoin would have to involve international cooperation to avoid opening up loopholes that traders could exploit.
 
 

Virgin Media rolls out porn filtering system

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Virgin Media has turned on a filtering system to help parents stop children seeing inappropriate material online.

The firm is the last of the UK’s big four ISPs to turn on the government-mandated filtering system.

 

Initially only new subscribers will be asked whether they want the filters turned on or off.

Like other ISPs, Virgin has pledged to ask all its customers by the end of the year whether they want to use a filtering system or not.

All the UK’s big four ISPs, who between them have more than 20 million subscribers, agreed to implement the filters following government pressure to limit children’s access to adult material.

Virgin’s system works at a network level which means all devices in a house which connect via its router will be subject to the same filtering system.

Called “Web Safe” the system currently blocks all access to sites featuring pornography, drug use, hate speech, violence, self-harm and suicide. Virgin is still working on a more flexible system that will let customers exercise more choice over which sites customers can and cannot reach.

Virgin has also produced a series of guides for parents, called Switched On Families, to help them set up and administer the filtering system.

Web Safe will work alongside software from security firm F-Secure that can be installed on laptops, tablets and smartphones to protect users when they are away from home.

The government’s plan to get all big UK ISPs using filters has proved controversial as studies suggest the filters are not very effective. Some educational and charity sites that try to inform children about sensitive subjects have been blocked while other clearly adult-oriented sites are not filtered out.

The government is setting up a scheme to sites alert ISPs when they are wrongly blocked.

 

 

 

Ofcom takes action to avoid mobile number shortage fears

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Almost 400 million UK-issued numbers now inactive or dormant; new proposals may include recycling deactivated numbers and financial penalties.
 

Ofcom is holding discussions with operators in a bid to reduce the 21 million* mobile phone numbers deactivated or left dormant in the UK each year.
 
According to the regulator, SIM allocations have now surpassed 470 million since 1997 – around seven times the UK population – but only a fraction of those remain active today.
 
A spokesperson told Mobile News it has now begun discussions with UK operators, which have a combined customer base of around 77.7 million customers, as part of its new “mobile management project” that was launched last month.
 
It warned the growth of M2M, such as smart metering, could lead to a shortage unless a more “efficient” method of issuing and recycling mobile phone numbers to customers is found.
 
The Ofcom spokesperson said: “Mobile operators have an obligation to use numbers allocated to them effectively and efficiently.
 
“We are working with them to gain further understanding of their recycling programmes and to investigate any opportunities to increase their efficiency. The main aim of the project is to establish whether we have sufficient mobile numbers for future use, particular in the M2M sector, as those machines may need mobile numbers.”
 
Ofcom revealed there are currently no specific rules on how operators should manage mobile numbers.
 
Proposed measures may include setting specific guidelines on how to recycle and “sterilise” inactive inactive numbers. Ofcom may also propose charging operators for mobile numbers –they are currently free – in a bid to curb wastage.
 
An investigation by  Mobile News revealed O2, Vodafone, EE and Three have to date requested a total of 444.5 million phone numbers since 1997 – with the remaining 26 million going to MVNO’s such as Lebara, Virgin and BT.
 
Mobile numbers are dispatched in 100,000 number “blocks” at the request of the operators.
 
Findings show O2 (and its previous brand identities) has so far received around 152.3 million numbers (including M2M) – but just 15.4 per cent (23.4 million) of those are active today.
 
Similarly, EE (which includes Orange, T-Mobile and previous brand identities) has around 133.6 million SIMs, with only 20.6 per cent (27.5 million) of those being active.
 
Three has so far been given 77.7 million numbers but only 10.8 per cent (7.8 million) are active today.
 
Vodafone is currently the most efficient, with 22 per cent (19 million) of the 86.5 million numbers it has still active.
 
EE confirmed it does send out free SIM cards with mobile numbers regardless of whether the card has been activated, but said it did this because customers demanded it of them.
 
It added that Orange prepay plans are the exception to this policy: with numbers allocated only after the SIM has been activated.
 
“We do send out SIMs with active numbers, as it reduces the process to switch on a new SIM further down the line, something customers were repeatedly asking us to do. Occasionally this leads to dormant numbers, but these are not ‘counted’ as live, until calls are being made or data used. This applies mainly in the prepay market,” EE said.
 
Similarly, O2 confirmed it sends out free prepay SIM cards with assigned mobile numbers regardless of whether it has been activated. However, with contract customers it only allocates numbers once the contract begins. It recovers numbers after six months if they have not been used (made or received a call, text, or used data).
 
Three said it sends out SIM cards with mobile numbers allocated. It is however reviewing its mobile number allocation process in the second half of 2014.
 
Vodafone declined to comment.
 
*Figures based on annual averages since 1997, dividing 370m by 17 (years).

 

 

 

 

Nokia launches first Android phones

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Nokia has unveiled its first family of Android phones at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona. The X, X+ and XL will range in price from 89 euros (£74) to 109 euros.

Nokia’s most recent suite of smartphones had used the Windows operating system. The announcement had been widely expected despite Microsoft detailing plans to buy Nokia’s mobile division at the end of 2013.

Analysts have called the announcement a “perplexing strategic move”.

The entry-level X model will feature a 4in (10.2cm) screen with 512MB Ram and a three-megapixel camera. The X+ will have 768MB Ram and a 4GB MicroSD card.

The top-end XL will have a 5in screen, a front-facing two-megapixel camera and a rear five-megapixel camera.

The X will go on sale immediately in several territories including Europe and Asia Pacific. The X+ and XL will launch in April.

Users who buy one of the X models will be able to use Microsoft’s free cloud-storage system, OneDrive. The software giant’s email software, Outlook, will also ship as standard on all models.

The messaging service BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) will be pre-installed on the phones as will social network Twitter, video app Vine and the game Plants vs. Zombies 2.

More than 1.1 billion devices running Android are expected to ship this year compared with 360 million using the Windows operating system, according to data from research analysts Gartner.

Microsoft agreed to buy Nokia’s mobile phone business in a deal worth 5.4bn euros ($7.2bn; £4.6bn).

At the time, the company’s then chief executive, Steve Ballmer, called the deal a “big, bold step forward”, adding the company was in the process of transforming itself from one that “was known for software and PCs, to a company that focuses on devices and services”.

Critics say Microsoft has been too slow to respond to the booming market for mobile devices.

Nokia was once a leader in mobile phones but has struggled in recent years.

The growth area for mobile phone companies is now in emerging markets, where low-cost Android models sell particularly well.

Analysts CCS Insight head of research Ben Wood said: “Nokia was caught between a rock and a hard place. Non-participation‎ in the low-cost smartphone market where Android is rampant leaves a lot of money on the table but turning to Android must have been a bitter pill to swallow.

“If you stand back, for a soon-to-be Microsoft-owned company to embrace Android is a perplexing strategic move. I believe it was a ‎decision where Nokia felt it had few other options given Android’s entry-level dominance in phones and apps, particularly in emerging markets,” he added.

The deal between Microsoft and Nokia has not yet been finalised, and at a Microsoft press conference on Sunday the vice-president of operating systems for Windows, Joe Belfiore, was asked what he thought about Nokia’s decision to launch an Android phone.

He replied: “Some things we’re excited about, some things we’re less excited about. Whatever they do, we’re very supportive of them.”

Mr Wood believes that despite Monday’s announcement Nokia’s primary focus remains its Windows phones.

“Given its looming ownership by Microsoft, it will be doing everything it can to get Microsoft to push Windows ‎Phone down to the entry-level smartphone space and will be hoping it’s flirtation with Android does not dilute this,” he said.

Nokia’s senior vice president Stephen Elop confirmed that the Lumia remains “our primary smartphone platform” and that the X range would be used as a “feeder system”,

 

 

  

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O2 Wifi connects 10 Million customers

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O2 Wifi today confirms it has signed-up 10 million customers, less than three years since launching its first hotspot, making it the UK’s fastest growing wifi operator. O2 Wifi signed up one new user every six seconds in 2013

The rate of growth has driven nearly 500,000 new registrations per month in 2013, or one every six seconds. This highlights the increasing importance of wifi among consumers and wider uptake of digital services as a result.

O2 has disrupted the public wifi landscape and established partnerships with leading retailers nationwide including McDonald’s, Debenhams and Costa Coffee. The service has also been installed in major landmark locations and outdoor districts such as The O2, Bluewater, the Central London boroughs of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, and Canary Wharf. It now offers premium hotspots in 10,000 locations across the UK.

The success of O2 Wifi’s accelerated growth is down, in part, to its “free for everyone” user model which delivers the same experience for all users, regardless of either their broadband or mobile network. O2 Wifi has a broad user base and around half of registrations do not have an O2 mobile contract. 25% of registered devices are not SIM-based, giving the operator a better understanding of how mobile digital consumers engage with wifi services.

Free from data charges, wifi users are voracious consumers of digital services. Wifi users who have an O2 mobile device are up to ten times more likely to take O2 digital services like O2 Tracks or TU Go and five times more likely to engage with offers and digital loyalty programmes, like Priority Moments.

An engaged digital community is extremely attractive to venue partners and retailers as it allows them to better understand their customers and form insights on how they can better connect with them in store. It enables retailers to adopt an omni-channel approach, connecting the digital and physical experiences in store for the consumer.

Venues can integrate digital services such as wifi to allow users to pay for products, contact services channels or even request help from staff. Wifi can also underpin the ability to directly communicate with users through digital channels including SMS or mobile Apps, for example welcoming consumers in store, sharing venue information, promoting offers or asking for customer feedback.

Gavin Franks, MD for Commerce at O2 commented: “When we started our wifi business in 2011, we set ambitious goals. We promised to change the wifi industry and have the biggest user base in the industry. Signing up 10 million customers is a significant landmark milestone for us and shows the scale we’ve achieved since launching in 2011, less than three years ago.


“Now we’re on a mission to work closer with venues to help them connect deeper with users. We want to help our portfolio of partners bring their brands to life for customers. From promotion with our partner Weve, to compelling retail offers through Priority, mobile payment capabilities such as Charge to Mobile and broader data analytics from Smart Steps, it’s about making customers lives better through our digital services.”


O2 Wifi is free for everyone, regardless of network or broadband provider and once registered, customers can automatically connect each time they enter a coverage area.

 

 

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Britain loves a chinwag (but only when it’s good news)

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Brits deliver good news over the phone but are four times more likely to text if it’s bad. 

A quarter of all Brits deliver good news by a phone call but leave ad news to text it was revealed today.

Research showed that whilst a large percentage are more likely to send a SMS when taking a sick day off work or cancelling plans with friends at the last minute, the personal touch still counts with people three times more likely to pick up the phone than tap out a message when passing on something positive.

7 out of 10 questioned in the survey by TalkTalk said they couldn’t wait to share good news about a job promotion, new baby arrival or marriage proposal over the phone but bad news was a different story.

Nearly half the study confessed they had texted someone when they knew they should have called, but lost their nerve. Top instances include calling off a date and sending condolences, with one in six questioned admitting to breaking up with a partner via text message to avoid a difficult conversation.

1 in 3 of those who have text their boss about being ill and unable to come into work said it was guilt that drove their decision not to call – just 7 per cent was because they were too ill to speak.

Celebrations and happy announcements such as birthday wishes and Christmas greetings ranked top in ‘good news’ delivered over the phone and the sound of a friendly voice was found to still hold a great deal of comfort with ‘a tough day at work’, ‘being far from home’ or ‘in need of some much needed cheering up’ cited as the most common reasons to get dialling.

And, it would appear that the comfort of our home is where we are most likely to make these calls as the research revealed that a third of us are using our landline rather than a mobile to avoid noise distractions, loss of signal or run-down battery.

Tristia Harrison of TalkTalk, said: “Whether or not you’re sharing good news, nothing can replace hearing a friendly voice at the end of the line. We all enjoy a good catch up, be it with loved ones close to home or abroad. These calls don’t have to come with a hefty price tag, as we can now get lost in conversation without the worry of racking up a big bill.”

TalkTalk, Britain’s best value TV, broadband, mobile and home phone provider, has a range of Call Boosts to enhance existing landline packages and help control the cost of calls. Starting from just £3, the flexible Boosts provide additional minutes for landline, mobile and international calls for 30 days at a time, with no ongoing commitment.

 

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Quarter of EU travellers switch off to avoid roaming charges

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A survey by the European Commission has found that more than a quarter of Europeans traveling outside of their home country switch off their mobiles to avoid roaming charges.

The EC questioned 28,000 people across 15 countries/regions, including 3,290 people in the UK, and said that telecoms companies are missing out on a market of around 300 million phone users because of current pricing strategies.
 
The survey found that almost half (47 per cent) would never use mobile internet in another country, while only eight per cent use their phone abroad in the same way as at home making a call.
 
Just under a third never make calls when being in another country.
 
A fifth would text while abroad in the same way as their home country, with a quarter never texting when going to another EU country.
 
Frequent travellers are more likely to switch off data roaming than the occasional travellers, with 33 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. The EC said this was because frequent travellers are better informed about the real costs of data roaming in Europe, than those who travel less.
 
Last July, roaming charges dropped by 36 per cent as part of the EU’s plan to gradually cut the cost of using mobiles abroad.
 
In September, the EC announced that incoming call charges while travelling in the EU will be banned from July 2014, with operators having to choose between offering phone plans that apply across the EU or allowing people to choose a different operator that offers cheaper rates.
 
European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes said: “I am honestly shocked by these figures. It shows we have to finish the job and eliminate roaming charges. Consumers are limiting their phone use in extreme ways and this makes no sense for the companies either.
 

“It’s not just a fight between holiday-makers and telecoms companies. Millions of businesses face extra costs because of roaming, and companies like app makers lose revenue too. Roaming makes no sense in a single market – it’s economic madness.”

Koodo’s cartoon wrestler mascot lands his own sitcom

For almost four years, Canadians have been exposed to mobile telecom brand Koodo’s loudmouthed cartoon wrestler El Tabador mostly in 30-second instalments. But will viewers tolerate him for nearly 30 minutes?

 
For almost four years, Canadians have been exposed to mobile telecom brand Koodo’s loudmouthed cartoon wrestler El Tabador mostly in 30-second instalments. But will viewers tolerate him for nearly 30 minutes?
 
A new project is banking on it. Carl DeMarco, former president of global business development for entertainment powerhouse World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE), has struck a deal with Telus Corp. for the global rights to the lucha libre fighter character. Through his company Camillion Corp., Mr. DeMarco is developing a sitcom starring El Tabador’s “celebrity lifestyle,” living in a mansion with his entourage.
 
It will be styled after the “mockumentary“ show format seen in popular sitcoms Modern Family and The Office, and as in the commercials, the cartoon character will be superimposed on a live-action setting.
 
As they have since its ad agency Taxi 2 created the character in March, 2010, Koodo will continue to use El Tabador in its ads.
 
“It was definitely a surprise. It was never our intention to take him further than our TV spots,” said Koodo’s manager of marketing, Kate Robb.
 
According to Mr. DeMarco, one Canadian specialty channel has expressed interest in the show; before investing in the project, he spoke to his contacts in the broadcast industry from his days at WWE to suss out its potential.
 
Next week, he will travel to New York for the Kidscreen industry summit to pitch the show to distributors and broadcasters from other countries as well. He estimates it will be on the air some time in 2015.

 
Building a show around an advertising mascot is rare – it is much more common for characters from television shows to be featured in ads – but it is not unprecedented. In 2007, U.S. network ABC launched a sitcom called Cavemen, based on characters that had been featured in ads for Geico Corp. Critics hated it, and it was cancelled after only four episodes had aired.
 
Mr. DeMarco says his sitcom is more promising, since it has the potential to appeal to wrestling fans looking for something to watch with their children. “Co-viewing” is a buzzword in the industry, as broadcasters pitch family shows to advertisers that are looking for more ways to reach the adults making purchasing decisions.
 
“We need to make sure that it’s funny and that people enjoy it, that it’s a standalone sitcom,” Mr. DeMarco said.
 
That will depend, however, on viewers’ tolerance for his brash – some would say irritating – humour, and off-kilter references to seducing plastic dolls and life-sized human women alike.
 
Ms. Robb acknowledges the character is not to everyone’s taste, but she says the brand receives more positive than negative feedback; in 2010, it released a limited-edition series of action figures that could be purchased or were given away with Koodo purchases – 57,403 were sold raising $190,000 for charity.
 
Mr. DeMarco has plans to feature celebrity guest appearances and says he has already been in talks with several well-known wrestlers. That would not be a first for the character: Last fall, Koodo aired mockumentary-style ads in movie theatres featuring Bret “The Hitman” Hart– for whom Mr. DeMarco once served as manager – reflecting on his time in the ring with the miniature fighter.
 
Part of the deal involves consulting with Koodo and its agency to ensure the character remains in line with the image the brand has developed.
 
While the show will not be integrating mobile phone advertising into its plot lines, Ms. Robb welcomes the exposure.
 
“Entertainment like a television show could fuel conversation about Koodo,” she said. “… That’s good for our brand awareness.”

 
Still, the project will seem far-fetched to some. But Mr. DeMarco argues that his background in wrestling is the perfect foundation for developing a successful sitcom.
 
“There’s great drama in [wrestling], great comedy … it’s entertainment. This project wouldn’t be any different,” he said. “Putting the best producers together and the best distributors, that’s what we know how to do.”