February 09, 2018

Virgin teams up with Amazon for The Feed

Virgin Media has struck its first deal with Amazon to co-fund a £29m+ sci-fi series from one of the creators of The Walking Dead.

The 10-part series, called The Feed, is set in London in the near future. The series, adapted by the Walking Dead writer and co-executive producer Channing Powell, is set in a dystopian society where an implant that nearly everyone has that allows memories, emotions and information to be shared goes horribly wrong.

Virgin has been dipping its toes in some exclusive shows of late, but this is the first time to my knowledge they've actually been involved in new content creation for almost ten years.

We're still waiting for the rumoured Amazon Video app on the TiVo platform - maybe this new deal with Amazon may open the door to that appearing soon on our V6 boxes?

February 08, 2018

Radioline App on the V6

I've just discovered the Radioline App on my V6 box and it's pretty darn neat, giving access to hundreds of radio stations to supplement VM's fairly meagre offering - loving Magic Soul and Absolute 60s and 70s (showing my age, I know!).
Has anyone else used it? There doesn't appear to be a screensaver but I'm not sure that you need one with modern TVs.

February 05, 2018

Sky Atlantic to arrive on Virgin Media "in Q2 2018"

Yes, I know we've heard it all before and, yes, I know it's never materialised despite the rumours, but this time a number of sources are suggesting it could actually arrive before the summer. I'm a little sceptical, having published such rumours before many times since the channel's launch as a Sky exclusive all those years ago - the channel is still missing from our line up.
I hope I'm wrong and it arrives as rumoured, but if I were you I wouldn't put that Now TV box on eBay just yet...

January 29, 2018

Sky Q without the dish

The 2018 launch of Sky Q without a dish was first announced last year, but it doesn't look like it will arrive in the UK quite as soon as some hoped.
The 2018 Q1 Sky Financial Update says it will launch first in Italy, then Austria, followed by other "key markets".
Sky says the new move will allow "millions of homes" currently unable to install a dish to access the full Sky TV experience. Of course, you can get all the Sky channels in HD without a dish through Virgin Media (with one notable exception, Sky Atlantic) and the NowTV experience has all the channels at a lower cost too, but when Sky does finally launch Q without the dish there's no doubt it's a serious challenge to Virgin. I'd expect it to be a Sky broadband exclusive at launch and priced around the same as the satellite service (which VM often match or better if you call them), but Sky will launch aggressively and we should see some attractive offers from all pay-tv providers to compete. Interesting times.

January 27, 2018

Now TV ups its game

Launching at the end of February for just £15 is the Now TV Smart Stick. It will be the first Now TV box with voice search and can also control your TV. Oh, and you can pause live TV for up to 30 minutes.
If you already have Now packages you can buy the stick on its own for £15. If not, £20 will get you a stick and either one month of movies, a two-month entertainment pass or three months of kids' TV. If you want a month of sports thrown in instead, there's a £30 bundle for that.
Now TV still only streams at a maximum resolution of 720p but the Smart Stick itself is capable of outputting at full HD. Sky is finally upping the quality of Now TV to 1080p later this year, but it won't come as standard and will most likely cost more. I think the service has improved considerably from the early days of outages and buffering and have found the 720p on demand picture quality absolutely fine.
Now TV is a low cost and viable alternative to the year-long contracts offered by Virgin Media, Sky or BT if you don't need to record programmes and are happy with catch-up and On Demand services to compliment Freeview or Freesat. I use it solely for Sky Atlantic shows, dipping in and out when there's something I want to watch. I've just renewed my Virgin contract for another twelve months (got a very good reduction in my monthly bill from Retentions) but will consider Now TV seriously next year.
Or Sky Q without the dish. And more on that little temptation soon...

January 26, 2018

A more efficient standard for HD channels

Virgin Media TV is in the process of switching its HD channels to the more efficient H.264(MPEG4) video standard.
According to this thread on Cable Forum a number of customers have noticed that this can be a mixed blessing. Recordings take less space, which means you will be able to get almost twice as many recordings on your TiVo or V6 box*, but FF is now a more delicate beast and you have to be quicker with the remote as it flies through a recording much faster than before.
It appears that HD channel is being carried twice - once in MPEG2 and once in MPEG4 - which VM has confirmed is standard practice when switching to a new standard until all tests are completed.

*Obviously this only applies to recordings made since the switch to the new standard

Free V6 upgrades?

According to TrustedReviews:
Virgin Media is offering its customers a free top-of-the-line TV box upgrade, but you’ll need to check your contract to get the best out of the offer.
The company said it’ll offer its V6 TV box to some 2.8 million existing customers without hiking up their contract costs.
It’s an attractive offer for customers familiar with Virgin’s TV services. However, given the V6 TV box has been out more than a year, it’s likely being offered to customers who are nearing the end of their contract or are already out of contract.
MoneySavingExpert offers the following advice
If your original contract with Virgin Media has ended and you've moved onto a rolling contract, without negotiating a new deal, you could be paying hundreds of pounds a year more than the promotional rate you originally signed up to. This won't always be the case though, so here's how to check:
  • Check your account or call Virgin Media to see if you have passed the minimum contract term. 
  • If you're still in contract, diarise to check for new deals at least a month before the expiry date.
  • If you are out of contract, this means you can leave Virgin Media penalty free.
It's going to be a competitive year for Virgin's TV product. Sky is likely to be under new ownership, Sky Q over broadband is promised and Now TV upgrading its service to 1080p. There have been a number of interesting news items this week and I'll be posting more before the end of the month. Stay tuned.

December 15, 2017

Sky Atlantic to Virgin Media at last?

From a Sky press release this morning:
Sky has concluded an agreement with BT which means Sky customers will have their choice of the best sports all through a single Sky TV subscription, while also broadening the reach of Sky’s leading entertainment channel brands to all major Pay-TV services in the UK for the first time.
Under the agreement, Sky will receive wholesale supply of the BT Sport channels enabling it to offer its customers access to every single match of the Premier League, the UEFA Champions League and Europa League shown on Sky and BT channels through one simple Sky contract. This will be the first time Sky is able to provide BT Sport to its customers directly as part of a Sky bundle or on a standalone basis and across all Sky platforms including Sky Go. BT Sport will also be available as an app on NOW TV boxes.
Sky will make its NOW TV streaming service available on the BT TV set-top-box. As retail agent, BT will sell NOW TV on Sky’s behalf, offering BT TV customers access to Now TV’s most popular content including Sky Atlantic, Sky One, Sky Living, Sky Sports and Sky Cinema.
This agreement is a further step in Sky’s strategy to maximise distribution of key channel brands and to monetise its content investment further across all TV platforms. By adding Now TV to the heart of BT’s TV offering, Sky’s portfolio of TV entertainment brands will be available to all UK consumers through each major Pay-TV service, reaching new customers and expanding the appeal of our channels to advertisers.
So far, so mildly interesting, but Sky Chief Exec Jeremy Darroch is quoted as saying:
"UK consumers will have even more ways to watch great Sky entertainment content with our leading portfolio of channels – Sky Atlantic, Sky One and Sky Living – available on all major Pay-TV platforms for the first time.
"This is all part of our stated strategy to enhance our customer offering, to broaden our appeal and to open up new revenue streams for our business.” 
Run that passed me again…did the boss at Sky just say that 'our leading portfolio of channels – Sky Atlantic, Sky One and Sky Living – available on ALL major Pay-TV platforms for the first time'??? There's no arguing that Virgin's TV pay-TV platform is a major one (6m households using VM's services in the UK and Ireland) and Darroch can't tell big fibs on these announcements, so I can only conclude that Sky Atlantic, either as a channel or as part of a VM Now TV offering, is on the way any day now.
(Either that, or Sky reckon that this BT deal and the Sky Q over internet service launching next year will kill Virgin TV once and for all…)

December 04, 2017

Two new Virgin Media Apps to launch on December 7th.

Virgin Media has announced that the existing Virgin TV Anywhere service will soon be replaced by two new apps on Apple iOS and Android: Virgin TV Go and Virgin TV Control.
Virgin TV Go
Lets you watch telly, at home or on the go anywhere in the UK. You can now watch selected live TV channels (including BT Sport), On Demand and Box Sets on 3G/4G as well as on Wifi, on two of your mobile devices (compatible mobiles, tablets or web browsers).
Virgin TV Control
Manage and set recordings on your Virgin TV V6 or TiVo® box  from anywhere in the world with Wifi, 3G or 4G. Plus, turn your mobile or tablet into a handy extra remote to browse the TV Guide or change channel when you’re at home. With a Virgin TV V6 box, you can even stream selected recordings to a mobile or tablet around the home.
When the new apps launch on Dec 7th your Virgin TV Anywhere app should automatically update to Virgin TV Control when it’s connected to WiFi. If this doesn’t happen, open your Virgin TV Anywhere app and follow the on-screen instructions to update it.
The new TV Go app is a big step forward from what we've had with the limited TV Anywhere app. Both apps are long overdue and, much like the V6, finally make the VM service comparable to Sky Q.
(Just don't mention the lack of 4k programming on Virgin…)

UPDATE, 9.40am 7 Dec

Both apps are now available. From what I can see, Virgin TV Control is just a re-badged Virgin TV Anywhere with the playback facility removed. I have two iOS devices (an iPad Air 2 and an iPhone 6, both running iOS 11.2). Neither updated to the TV Control App automatically but I deleted the old App and manually downloaded the new (it's in the App store - search for Virgin Media and you'll find it). Works fine, but if you try to watch anything it points you to the Virgin TV Go app.
Virgin TV Go app is also available for download.

November 03, 2017

Sky Cinema downloads for Virgin Media customers

Did you know VM subscribers can download movies to their iPhones or iPads? It used to be a service exclusive to Sky Go customers but the latest version of the Sky Cinema iOS app has 'download' as an option. 
Downloaded movies stay on the device for a month but once you start watching it they expire after two days. 
I haven't been able to check if they can be viewed on a TV via HDMI and sorry but I don’t know about Android devices.