May 21, 2016

Virgin Media to stop ability to buy Sky Sports 1 or 2 on their own from June

[Virgin Media] is getting rid of the option to add individual Sky Sports channels to a Virgin TV package, forcing customers to opt for a bundle of channels instead.  
Currently you can take Sky Sports 1, home of Sky’s Premier League football coverage, or Sky Sports 2 for £21.50/month extra. This is cheaper than going for the Sky Sports Collection - which gives you Sky Sports 1-5 plus Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports News HQ - for £29.25/month.  
Virgin TV packages start at £20/month on their own, with no line rental needed. This means at the very least, you’ll be paying £51.75/month at the very least if you want to watch Sky Sports on Virgin TV.

May 11, 2016

The end of the TiVo STB is nigh?

Liberty Global to create single advanced set-top for all Europe
Liberty Global is to consolidate its next-generation set-top platforms, including ultimately that of Virgin Media in the UK, as part of a project dubbed ‘Eos’ by the company.
Eos is in turn part of the wider strategic plan, formerly known as ‘Liberty 3.0’ and now, according to president and CEO Mike Fries, to be known as Liberty Go. This will see the company reduce costs across the board through, among other things, common technology platforms, and build revenue through marketing advanced services.
Speaking to analysts as Liberty Global reported strong first quarter results yesterday, Fries described Eos as “a set-top we plan to roll out everywhere at some point, including in that market [the UK]”.
Virgin Media announced yesterday that it planned to roll out a new 4K-ready box that will be based on its existing TiVo platform. Speaking on the analyst call, Liberty’s chief technology officer Balan Nair said that this would be a “pretty high-powered box that will get a refreshed TiVo UI on it later this year” but added that “our goal is to get Horizon across all of Europe” ultimately, referring to the advanced set-top platform already in use in multiple Liberty Global markets. He said that Eos would be the “engine for next generation video” for the company.
Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge, also on the call, said that the TiVo-based box would “give us a lot more functionality for our customers” and enable the operator to remain competitive with Sky. The latter has recently launched its own high-end box, Sky Q.
Mockridge said that Eos would be “a big part” of the company’s plan to improve its TV offering in the future.
Earlier on the call, Fries described Eos as a “project name for our cloud-based set-top box” that would be “trialing later this year” and would be “faster, cheaper and provide more functionality than today’s Horizon box”.
He said that Liberty’s new Wi-Fi router, the Connect Box, which is now available in multiple European markets, “sets us even further apart from the competition” by providing up to 1Gbps across in-home networks. “This is a big issue,” he said. “When you’ve driven average customer speeds up to 100Mbps but you don’t control the in-home WiFi router, customers complain.”
Touching on the broader Liberty Go project, Fries said that this would encompass measures to increase revenue as well as trim costs, with about 60% of the value creation coming from the revenue side. On the cost side, the company is centralising elements of its operation including product development, core network management, IT and its supply chain, including consolidation of its customer care operations.
Increasing revenue will be based on upping prices thanks to new products based on Horizon, WiFi and faster broadband speeds. The company is targeting building out to seven million new homes over three years, having added 210,000 new build homes in the first quarter.

May 10, 2016

Virgin confirms new 4k box for 2016 to What Hi-Fi

Virgin Media has confirmed a 4K set-top box is in development and due for release in 2016. A spokesman told What Hi-Fi?: “There will be a new set-top box coming later this year, and it will support Ultra High Definition video.
“Before that we will be updating the existing TiVO set-top box to make its menus slicker and more picture-based.”
The recent Telegraph article suggests that Virgin is preparing on an upgrade to its existing series link feature that will include on-demand programmes from Netflix and other sources.
What Hi-Fi adds that “The new Virgin 4K box is expected to offer a similar ability to Sky Q, allowing users to start watching a programme on a TV in one room, and then continue watching on a smartphone or tablet elsewhere.”
But will the new box be a TiVo or the LG standard Horizon beastie?

May 07, 2016

Virgin expands network and is planning to introduce fibre to the premises

Virgin Media has committed to provide fibre-to-the-premises to at least a quarter of the four million new homes and businesses being added to its network as part of its Project Lightning investment.

Virgin Media has said it will connect a total of 17 million premises to its network by 2019. The operator said the move would make it the largest wholly fibre broadband network in the country.

The operator has already begun rolling out FTTP in Cambridgeshire and Leicestershire, with work expected to begin soon in West Yorkshire, Devon and East Sussex. Virgin Media issuing new techniques including ‘narrow trenching to deploy fibre at lower cost and with greater speed than has hitherto been the case.

“While some companies talk a good game, Virgin Media is putting its money where its mouth is and laying fibre to the premise alongside our superior HFC network – delivering the fastest widely available broadband speeds,” said CEO Tom Mockridge.

“In just over one year we’ve laid enough new cable to stretch all the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats, reaching a quarter of a million more homes and businesses – and there’s much more to come.”

May 03, 2016

Rovi Acquires TiVo

Press Release from April 29th 2016

  • Two of the industry’s most influential players join forces to transform media and entertainment technology 
  • Best-in-class products and services to capitalize on evolving entertainment marketplace 
  • Combined IP portfolios of over 6,000 issued patents and pending applications $100 million in annual cost synergies – accretive to Rovi’s Non-GAAP EPS within the first 12 months 
  • Adopting “TiVo” as new company name 

Rovi Corporation (NASDAQ: ROVI) and TiVo Inc. (NASDAQ: TIVO) today announced that Rovi will acquire TiVo for $10.70 per share in cash and stock for total consideration of approximately $1.1 billion.
The new company combines two media and entertainment technology innovators with complementary products, services, and intellectual property assets and a common mission to write the next chapter of the consumer entertainment experience.
The company will continue to be led by Tom Carson and upon closing of the transaction will adopt the iconic TiVo brand as the new company name.
“Rovi’s acquisition of TiVo, with its innovative products, talented team, and substantial intellectual property portfolio, strengthens Rovi’s position as a global leader in media discovery, metadata, analytics, and IP licensing,” said Tom Carson, CEO of Rovi. “It’s an exciting time as the media and entertainment landscape undergoes a significant evolution. The combined capabilities of TiVo and Rovi place us in a tremendous position to extend services across platforms and to a customer base that includes traditional, over-the-top and emerging players across the globe. By working together, Rovi and TiVo will revolutionize how consumers experience media and entertainment and at the same time build value for our stockholders.”
“We’re proud of TiVo’s strong innovation history and of the ongoing efforts of our team to provide best-in-class products for our loyal consumer and service provider customers,” said Naveen Chopra, Interim CEO and CFO of TiVo. “This transaction is the culmination of those efforts and the logical next step for TiVo. In joining forces with Rovi, our customers, employees and stockholders will benefit from being part of a more diversified industry leader with significantly greater market opportunities. Our combination creates a more influential global player with a commitment to product innovation, which will be incredibly well positioned to redefine television.”

Full press release here

April 29, 2016

Virgin doing the okey cokey with UKTV

According to the Telegraph, Virgin Media is weighing a bid for the BBC’s stake in UKTV. It’s only a few years ago that Virgin sold its stake in the company, a legacy from its Telewest heritage, in order to get out of the content game. Now it’s looking to dive back in as David Bouchier, the company’s television chief, said it would “absolutely” be able to take on the 50pc stake in a joint venture with the US media group Scripps.

April 27, 2016

HDR television explained

I've just come across an article at What Hi-Fi that explains the science and benefits of HDR (High Dynamic Range) television:
Every few years, manufacturers come up with a whole bunch of new tech, most of which has a confusing acronym. UHD and 4K. HDCP. OLED. And those are just the first few that come to mind.
The latest? HDR. But what is it and why it will make your TV picture look better than ever? Read on for all you need to know about HDR TV technology...


April 25, 2016

New TiVo boxes delayed until 2017

According to an article in Sunday’s Telegraph, we’re not going to see the new TiVo hardware until next year:
At the turn of the year Virgin Media will launch a new set-top box to rival Sky Q, with ultra-high-definition pictures and a similar ability to sling programmes to tablets and smartphones around the home. Beyond that, there will be a major overhaul of the ageing plumbing that powers Virgin Media’s broadcasting, to allow it to shift to Liberty Global’s next generation distribution system, Horizon, which is already in use elsewhere in Europe.
That’s disappointing to say the least as the initial rumours were of a new TiVo for this summer’s Olympics.
Whilst I appreciate that there may be considerable challenges in rolling out new equipment to the cable network Sky’s Q technology has hardly been a trade secret, and Virgin/Liberty aren’t really in a position to give Sky a year’s head start on modern technology and retain customers.
The Telegraph article also talks about ‘making the pipes sing with content’, which is a poetic turn of phrase but pretty meaningless when a subscription to NowTV Entertainment delivers more compelling content (Sky Atlantic, ITV Encore, etc) and better curated box sets for £6.99 a month on a cracking little badged Roku box that costs £14.99, less than Virgin’s hard sold monthly fixed phone line cost.
With Q stealing away VM’s last remaining high end customers and NowTV and BT luring the core middle of the TV market the Virgin television business is relying on the apathy of customers reluctant to change suppliers rather than any compelling USP to keep us on board.
Virgin’s answer, according to Chief Digital Entertainment Officer David Bouchier, is to go back to the content market again. But in returning to that particular table Virgin will find only slim pickings indeed as Sky has tied up the US networks HBO and ShowCase whilst BT has AMC. Throw in the competition for programming from a rejuvenated Five (now owned by Discovery) and the occasional big US swoop by Channel 4 and there’s precious little left worth talking about.
Virgin does have Netflix of course, but today’s smart TVs deliver over the top services much slicker than the TiVo, and often have the Amazon Prime network available too. There’s no mention of Amazon coming to the TiVo these days, which means the odd underwhelming pick up like Kingdom and Ash vs Evil Dead are hardly going to sustain existing customers or attract new ones.
It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs. Although the Telegraph can run some puff about how efficient Liberty Global is with it’s economies behind the scenes it can’t really hide the reality of a TV offering that has lacked the necessary vision, attention and investment for far too long, a typical example of a media company that’s been run by accountants who have turned a blind eye to the opportunities of today’s technology and compelling content.
Jam tomorrow maybe whilst raising prices today? Who is gullible enough to fall for that?

April 19, 2016

Yet another price rise for Virgin Media customers

From the Community Forums:

We’re raising our prices because Sky is increasing their cost to us
Sky has increased the cost for Sky Movies and Sky Sports to their customers including us, and unfortunately this means we’re having to pass on the increase to our customers too, from June 1st 2016.
This way we can continue to show you all the best sport and movie channels in HD and over 1000 movies on demand.
We’re campaigning for a fairer deal for fans
The way live Premier League rights are sold is continuing to drive up the price for broadcasting live games. We’re campaigning for #moreballs, so we’ve asked the regulator Ofcom to look into the way TV rights are auctioned, to secure more games and a better deal for UK football fans. Currently, an element of these price rises eventually ends up hitting the pockets of fans.
Whilst we don’t agree with the bidding system, the customer is the most important focus for Virgin Media. Throughout 2016, we will continue to increase both the sports and entertainment content on Virgin Media TV.
We’re bringing you an unmissable sports and movies line-up
More Premier League action than ever next season – exclusive live coverage of every available game whether on BT or Sky (including 126 games in total on Sky Sports, 10 more than this season), plus all the new Friday Night football and Super Sunday action.
Exclusive live coverage of all the golf majors from Sky Sports, the new home of golf – including The Open at Royal Troon for the first time, plus all the play from The Ryder Cup, the European Tour and PGA Tour.
Every practice, qualifying and race in the Formula One™ calendar – with more than half of them shown exclusively live on Sky Sports.
More of the latest blockbusters – five new premieres a week on Sky Movies, many shown 12 months before online subscription services, so get ready for Jurassic World, Ricki and the Flash, Hot Pursuit and loads more.
Exclusive pop-up channels and movie seasons – so you can enjoy the greatest collections of Hollywood hits, with the likes of Sky Movies May the 4th Be With You and Queens of Comedy.
So, more balls (to use VM’s own phrase) from Virgin and Sky. Sky satellite customers are getting a similar hike, too, but I’ve not seen anything announced yet for Now customers. Sky Q customers are getting a hike on that service too, just weeks after it started shipping to paying customers.

Interesting that the VM announcement, currently tucked away in their Community Boards, doesn’t mention how much the increase is. I hear it’s £2.50 a month, which is on top of the increase we all saw earlier this year.
Bloody hell.

April 18, 2016

HBO struggles weaken Sky Atlantic

Sky Atlantic is, according to some, the great content differentiator between the TV packages from Sky and Virgin Media. Virgin customers have never had the channel and those hungry for HBO and Showcase content have to either invest in Sky’s 720p NowTV Entertainment package (and, in doing so, may wonder why they fork out so much for Virgin TV each month) or dip into the murky depths of dodgy downloads. With NowTV the clamour for Atlantic on VM has died down; I have it but jump in and out of the service depending on what’s showing on Atlantic. This month I’m in for Game of Thrones, having just watched Vinyl. But the only other show scheduled for this year I’m interested in is the final season of The Leftovers. And after that? HBO, and therefore Sky Atlantic, is looking pretty bare.
I’m not the only one thinking this. Here’s a report from The Guardian that makes a similar observation, and industry watcher Hollywood Reporter has raised the alarm too: Game of Thrones apart, HBO is on the ropes. The new content kings in town are Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, whilst US cable network AMC has a more impressive track record of late (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Walking Dead series and the forthcoming Preacher) and that’s now tied to BT in the UK (some Sky customers get just the SD version and no OnDemand).
I don’t doubt that Sky will flash more cash and buy up more content if HBO continues to fail to deliver popular series, but it’s not the channel it was and, Game of Thrones apart, it’s looking less of a gaping hole on my TiVo’s EPG.
What does everyone else think?