December 31, 2007

No FA Cup 3rd Round in HD

Extremely disappointed to find that none of the BBC's FA Cup third round coverage is coming our way in HD. Last season we had FA Cup and England internationals on BBC HD, but this season's first big games are nowhere to be seen on the schedules. What makes this even more surprising is that the BBC has the pick of the 3rd round games with coverage of the games featuring Man U, Arsenal and Newcastle, all big audience pullers.
I'm at a loss to explain this, especially given the fanfare and promise of the BBC's Head of Sport when the Beeb's HD channel was confirmed (quoted here).

December 30, 2007

Damages, Jan 6

Just been reading about Damages starring Glenn Close and Ted Danson, too. Starts on BBC HD on Sunday Jan 6 at 10.15pm. Radio Times says

Acclaimed American legal drama following a ruthless lawyer's class action suit against Arthur Frobisher, an allegedly corrupt former company CEO. Alleging that he encouraged his former employees to buy the company's stock, only to then sell his own stake after the inflation of the share price, she and her junior associate work to build the case against him regardless of the consequences.

So, is it any good? The American critics raved and it's nominated for four major Golden Globes:
  • Best Television Drama Series
  • Best Actress in a Television Drama Series - Glenn Close
  • Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Mini-Series, or TV Movie - Rose Byrne
  • Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-Series, or TV Movie - Ted Danson
Coming hot on the heels of the BBC HD US quality import The Company this looks like another quality addition to our HD viewing. Thirteen episodes in all, and with seasons two and three already confirmed by FX in the States this could be well worth your time.

December 29, 2007

Missing from BBC HD

Trawling through my double issue of the Radio Times, I've noticed that the majority of prestige BBC dramas are still not appearing on BBC HD, which I find somewhat disappointing to say the least.
Over the Christmas period the following have all been missing from HD whilst we've been treated to repeats aplently on BBC HD;
  • Doctor Who
  • Oliver Twist
  • Sense & Sensibility
  • Ballet Shoes
  • The Shadow of the North
I know the Doctor's special effects preclude its HD filming, but you would have thought the others would have been shot in high definition? I find one of the big benefits of HD is the handling of dark n moody backgrounds, the meat and two veg of winter drama, but these shows are all still being shot on film but broadcast in SD. Most odd.

December 27, 2007

C4 HD on Virgin Media - the votes are in

It’s difficult to know who are the more disappointed with Channel 4 HD – those who don’t have the new channel (Virgin Media customers) or those that do (Sky HD folk). The poll run on this blog received almost 300 votes from VM customers with the vast majority (92%) voicing their disappointment at the absence of the channel from the VM line up despite launching on Sky mid-month. In fact, almost fifty voters sited it as the final straw and have decided to opt for Sky HD, whilst less than 10% declared themselves “not fussed”.

However, a quick look at the Sky HD forums will prove that the other man’s grass ain’t always that much more colourful. Check out the threads here and here: much disgruntlement with the paltry amount of actual HD currently on C4 HD – films apart, there is frankly bugger all HD at the moment. Sky customers say the upscaling is better than the upscaling their boxes do on Channel 4, but we know already that the V+ makes a better job of that than a Sky HD box.

So until Channel 4 start broadcasting in HD, Virgin Media customers ain’t missing that much. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather be complaining about the lack of the HD programmes than the lack of the entire channel, but anyone thinking of shifting to a dish just for C4 HD should perhaps take their time before making any expensive changes.

But come on Virgin – what’s going on with HD services on cable??!


Listings for BBC HD are now available on the Radio Times site through to Jan 9, and I'm sorry to report it's four hours of repeats a day still. For those who missed it earlier in 2007, they're showing the last series of Hustle in HD at 10pm on Jan 9, but other than that it really is a pitiful line up for what is now supposedly a genuine channel.

December 24, 2007

BBC HD reverts to form

Those investing in an HD-ready TV this month better make the most of the longer BBC HD schedules this week, as from Jan 2 2008 it's business as usual.
The promise of more varied programming and longer hours isn't evident in the first days of 2008's schedules, with a weak diet of HD repeats and precious little to excite. Broadcasts start at ... 8pm. Bloody hell. Very disappointing.
So make the most of the next week or so, which features many of the HD highlights of 2007 in their entirety.
Happy Christmas to all fans of this blog - here's to a lot more HD on Virgin in 2008!

ps Fans of Ghost Whisperer should now find 17 episodes from season one in HD under TV Choice on Demand. Not consecutive episodes, but what did you expect?

December 20, 2007

BBC HD over New Year

Anyone anticipating a scintillating HD extravaganza on BBC HD whilst recovering from the previous night's celebrations is going to have sore disappointment to add to their sore head!
January 1st's schedule features The Electric Proms (yet again) and then five hours of highlights from the worthy but counter productive Live Earth concert.
At 8.10pm the second Lara Croft film is shown in HD - hardly a classic. A truly dire day's offering is salvaged by Terry Gilliam's excellent Twelve Monkeys at 10.10pm. Phew...

Lack of HD programming

Interesting piece from The Times last weekend:
Channel 4 begins broadcasting in high definition next month but there are still far too few HD broadcasts to satisfy those of us who shelled out for the new Sky boxes last year. Happily, the BBC is simulcasting Cranford on its HD channel. So it should. It was shot not only on HD but an expensive HD variation called Genesis. The result is that when an interior is lit by candles that really is all it is lit by. But HD does not work for everything. The BBC’s Oliver Twist was going to be shot on HD but has reverted to celluloid. Those famous chase scenes looked blurry, I’m told.

December 19, 2007

Channel 4HD's miserly HD content

Given how little genuine HD is being broadcast on C4 HD, I'm starting to wonder how much UK TV stuff is actually shot in HD. I heard a year or so ago that the BBC and C4 were shooting everything already in HD, but that doesn't look like it's the case by a long shot. The story last week that the BBC is having to rebuild sets (eg EastEnders) for future HD filming suggests that there's nowhere near as much in HD as people may have guessed. I would have thought the likes of Spooks, Oliver Twist, Fanny Hill et al on the BBC would be shot in HD, but apparently not. On C4, Jaimie at Home, Grand Designs, Shameless - surely in HD? Maybe not.
Almost all US shows from the last few years will be in HD, but the BBC only show a handful (Heroes, Medium, 3lbs) and Channel 4 show fewer these days - Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives are the only ones I can currently think of (Scrubs seems to be E4 only these days and even the mighty Earl seems destined to lose its C4 slot after poor ratings for season two). With the writers' strike in Hollywood hitting hard and it looking like most US shows this season will be restricted to around eleven shows each, HD content is going to be very thin on the ground.
Thinking about it, Five would probably have the most HD as it shows a lot of US stuff now. Maybe the next channel to be simulcast should be FiveUS?

December 18, 2007

Christmas on BBC HD, 30th and 31st

On Sunday 30th the afternoon "complete series in one sitting" is the absolutely mind-blowing Earth: the Power of the Planet. For me, this is one of the year's HD highlights and should not be missed at any cost. Five episodes from 12.50pm to 5.50pm. That's followed by the Chrissie episode of The Green Green Grass and two episodes of Wainwright's Walks. Culture vultures may enjoy Donizetti's comic opera La Fille du Regiment, but I'll probably be otherwise occupied. Worth having a look back at BBC HD though at 10.50 is Vienna: City of Dreams, a 90 minute tour of the city that promises to be an absolute stunner.
New Year's Eve is a mainly music day, with an afternoon of "highlights" from the Concert for Diana, which is preceded by some Tales from Beatrix Potter, especially for those who enjoy prancing frogs, bunnies and ducks. Be still my beating heart. More of the usual concert repeats in the evening, Electric Proms and Later to the fore, topped off with the movie Girl with the Pearl Earring.

December 16, 2007

What's HD on C4 HD

Actually, not that much. Here's a list of all the stuff actually in HD on the new, Sky-only (for now) C4 HD channel 'til Jan 5:
  • Ugly Betty
  • Conquest of Planet of the Apes
  • Knights Tale
  • The Long Ships
  • Solaris
  • Breakfast at Tiffanys
  • Scissor Sisters at the Dome
  • Changing Lanes
  • Keane at the Dome
  • Sky Capt and the World of Tomorrow
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • League of Gentlemen - Apocalypse
  • The King
  • Explorers
  • Sexy Beast
  • Oldboy
  • Motorcycle Diaries
  • An American Tale
  • Amy Winehouse @ the Bush
  • Night World
  • Mika live in Paris
  • Golden Voyage of Sinbad
  • Home Alone 2+3
  • Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Vice Versa
  • Golden Child
  • Fantastic Four
  • Harry and the Hendersons
  • My fake body (doc)
  • The Dish

What I find amazing is that, apart from the stuff in italic (which is almost all live music shows) there's nothing there except films. Very disappointing if you ask me - I would have expected a lot more genuine HD content given the prestige of it being the first of the main channels to simulcast in HD. Let's hope they add considerably more before we get the channel on VM.

BBC HD Christmas line up - 28th & 29th

It may be now broadcasting twelve hours a day, but BBC HD are hardly pushing the boat out with new material over the Christmas period :o(
On Friday 28th it's all day Bleak House. Now don't get me wrong - I loved Bleak House - but every episode back to back in one sitting? Why couldn't they broadcast something like the new productions of Oliver or Fanny Hill in HD, rather than BH yet again? They look like they're shot in HD.
Anyhoo, for those interested it starts at 1pm and runs through to 9pm. It's followed by the film of Alan Bennett's The History Boys and a repeat of the Extras final episode.
Saturday 29th ain't much better. All five episodes of the Gryff Rhys Jones' Mountain are shown from 1pm, then it's Robin Hood, Norah Jones is session, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Kill Bill vol one. And the obligatory Jools Holland Later to round off the evening.
Has the BBC really got so little HD content to show? Or are they saving it up for a bigger launch of the channel early in the new year? At the moment, the extra broadcasting time is hardly being used to the maximum. Of course, over on satellite it's not much better - Sky One HD is mainly Simpsons and repeats of the Hogfather whilst Channel 4's HD content on the new channel is primarily films and Ugly Betty. I still think the BBC has the best HD programming around, I just wish they'd show more variety and get us out of this wretched Bleak House - Torchwood - Later repeats cycle.

December 14, 2007

BBC HD Christmas line up - Boxing Day and the 27th

Again, disappointing but an opportunity to catch up with two of the HD highlights of the year from the BBC:

Boxing Day:
1.45 Carmen (opera)
4.25 Cranford (all five episodes)
9.25 To the Manor Born
10.25 The Jackal (Bruce Willis remake)

December 27th
1.15 How We Built Britain (six episodes)
7.15 BBC1 Sessions - David Gray
8.00 Top Gear: Polar Challenge
9.00 Extras
10.25 A Little Later - Coldplay
10.40 Billy Elliot

New to HD (except the films) in bold

December 12, 2007

Somewhat disappointing BBC HD programming kicking off the Christmas break

The BBC HD schedules for the first two days of Christmas show extended broadcast hours but not much 'new' HD content. New HD stuff in bold:

Christmas Eve

2.20 Galapagos
3.10 Galapagos
4.00 Galapagos
4.50 BBC1 Sessions - Corinne Bailey Rae
5.30 Carols from King's 2007
6.45 Coast: From the Air
6.55 A Little Later - Arcade Fire
7.00 Pride (movie)
8.25 A Little Later - Snow Patrol
8.30 Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
10.45 Kaiser Chiefs Live at Doncaster
11.10 A Little Later - Paul McCartney
11.20 Shrek the Halls (animation short)
11.45 Later with Jools Holland

Christmas Day
11.20 The Wind in the Willows (Matt Lucas, Bob Hoskins et al)
2.40 A Little Later
3.00 The Queen
3.10 Carols from Kings 2007
4.25 Romeo & Juliet (Prokofiev's ballet, not the Zeferelli film)
6.45 A Little Later - KT Tunstall
7.00 The Electric Proms
8.00 Beyonce Live at the BBC
8.30 Strictly Come Dancing
9.30 Darcey Bussell's Grand Finale
11.55 Later with Jools Holland

No date for C4 HD on Virgin

Over at Digital Spy, a Virgin Media spokesperson is quoted as saying: "Virgin Media does not have a fixed date for the launch of Channel 4 HD yet, though we already carry HD programmes from Channel 4 through our on demand service. Popular shows such as Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Brothers & Sisters and Studio 60 have already appeared in HD for Virgin Media customers, and we will continue to add more HD shows from Channel 4 to the 4oD area. Having these shows available on demand gives Virgin Media customers the flexibility to watch Channel 4 HD shows at a time that suits them rather than being tied to the TV schedule."
That highlighted piece is simply not true: only Brothers & Sisters was available in HD, and then it was 99p an episode (Channel 4 HD is a free channel). Making false statements like this seriously undermines Virgin's credibility (and that of Digital Spy - don't they verify these statements before publishing them?). Pretty poor show all round...
At least the BBC's HD schedules are looking good for Christmas, with the broadcasting hours extending to 12 hours rather than the promised nine for Christmas Eve. More details to follow

December 10, 2007

No C4 HD but...

A few HD tidbits appearing in TV Choice on Demand today - The Ghost Whisperer Season One (episodes 1, 2 and.... 5). As this a continuing storyline series, it does really make you despair that VM can't stick consecutive episodes up rather than this pathetic haphazard approach.

Channel 4HD launches on Sky

...but not Virgin Media, who remain silent as to when/if the service will appear on cable. Whilst there is probably disappointment a-plenty to readers of this blog, some consolation in the fact that there are actually only three programmes this week being broadcast in HD (as opposed to being upscaled) and two of those are Ugly Betty. There's also a showing of Planet of the Apes in HD, and presumably all films are going to be shown in HD now.
From the Digital Spy thread it looks like the launch has not been without some issues - sound dropping, etc. Still, it would be nice to have those kinda problems ourselves...

December 08, 2007

Christmas highlights on BBC HD

Haven't got my Christmas Radio Times yet, but picked this up from the BBC's website. There's a fair amount here, which suggests extended broadcasting times are a-coming.

* Strictly Come Dancing Special. Simulcast with BBC One.

* Extras Christmas Special. Eagerly awaiting in the Nialli household. Simulcast with BBC One.

* After You've Gone - Simulcast with BBC One.

* Jam And Jerusalem - From BBC One.

* The Green Green Grass - Simulcast with BBC One.

* To The Manor Born - one-off 60-minute special return of the "classic" British comedy. From BBC One.

* The Queen's Christmas Speech - in HD. SkyOne are making a big song and dance about them having this in HD, but Virgin will have it too.

* Festival of Nine Lessons And Carols . Simulcast with BBC One.

* Jool's Annual Hootenanny - welcoming in the New Year on the 31st. Simulcast with BBC Two.

* Romeo and Juliet - Kenneth MacMillan's adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy. Simulcast with BBC Two.

* Tales of Beatrix Potter - Royal Ballet performance, simulcast with BBC One.

* Darcey Bussell's Farewell Performance - Bussell's series of farewell performance at the Royal Opera House. Simulcast with BBC Four.

* Carmen - Francesco Zambello's production of Bizet's opera. Simulcast with BBC Two.

* La Fille du Regiment - broadcast of Donizetti's comic opera. Simulcast with BBC Four.

* Vienna - City of Dreams - Writer and presenter Professor Joseph Koerner explores Vienna during its Golden Age. Simulcast with Four.

* Wainwright's Walks. From BBC One and BBC Two.

* Wonder Boys
* Pirates of the Caribbean - The Curse of the Black Pearl (simulcast with BBC One)
* The Santa Clause Two (simulcast with BBC One)
* Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
* The History Boys
* Girl With A Pearl Earring
* Kill Bill Volumes One and Two
* Billy Elliot
* Twelve Monkeys
* The Jackal

Updated: HD in Video on Demand

Here's an update (Saturday, Dec 8) on the HD programming available currently to ex-NTL customers. I've put the new stuff in bold, but there's not a great deal of change to report. Lost Season Two is the main one, but it's not quite all there yet (in typical Virgin style). For those who aren't sure where to look, please see my earlier post.

Free TV

Ant Attack
Desert Lions
Diana - Last Days of a Princess
Hotel Babylon episodes 2 - 8
Planet Earth: episodes 1-5
The Blue Planet: Frozen Seas
The Blue Planet: Coasts
The Blue Planet: Coral Seas
The Blue Planet: Frozen Seas
The Blue Planet: Open Oceans
The Blue Planet: Seasonal Seas
The Blue Planet: The Deep
The Blue Planet: Tidal Seas
The Innocence Project 1-8
Rick Stein and the Japanese Ambassador
Superstorm 1-3

Filmflex HD
(all £4 unless mentioned)
Alpha Dog
Amazing Grace
Apocalypto (£4.50)
Arthur & the Invisibles
The Breed
Gone in Sixty Seconds
The Illusionist
The Messengers
The Painted Veil
Until Death
Wild Hogs

"Hidden" HD Programmes
Check under the TV Choice On Demand High Definition
Criminal Minds Season One 1 - 22 (exc. 7, 17)
Day Break 1-12
Grey's Anatomy Season One 1,2,5,6,9,10
Lost Season One 1-25

Check under the TV Choice On Demand A-Z
Dog Fight 2 episodes
Engineering an Empire 3 episodes
Lost Season Two 1 - 24, missing 12 and 21 and 3 is listed at the end! The full season is listed in SD, btw
Mega Movers 3 episodes

December 04, 2007

Some tinkering with the On Demand stuff

The double listing of episodes of Lost etc in the HD TV Choice on Demand category has been removed, and three more episodes from Grey's Anatomy have been added from season one. But they're random episodes rather than in sequence from the first two, so I wouldn't recommend anyone start watching just yet until Virgin get their act in gear.

December 03, 2007

BBC HD this week

Well, it's now officially a proper channel, but you wouldn't know it from the schedules. Still running from 8pm til around midnight (except at weekends), the schedules are very much business as usual this week. Which ain't bad as there's some real gold there, but ain't exactly exciting either.
Anyway, highlights this week:
Monday: more Bleak House; the Monarchy thing, Silent Witness, Twenty thousand streets under the sky
Tuesday: documentaries ahoy, mainly repeats but with Earth: the Power of the Planet as a real gem in HD
Wednesday: the conclusion of season one of Heroes!
Thursday: Electric Proms, the marvellous Cranford and the not-as-marvellous Who Do You Think You Are?
Friday: Glastonbury (Manics), the Green Green Grass, the Tudors, Not Going Out, The Visit, Lead Balloon and Later

December 01, 2007

Finding the HD On Demand programming

I've been asked to clarify where you can find the Virgin Media HD on demand programming as Virgin seem to be doing their darnest to hide it, so here's where you go (at least in the ex-NTL areas):

Press the Home button to access the On Demand Home menu.

Under 3. Movies On Demand there's no specific HD category, but the HD versions of around a dozen of the Filmflex films are listed in 7. All Movies A-Z next to the SD versions. They are normally £4 a pop, 5op more than the SD ones.

I can't be fussed to go through all the Music On Demand listings, but there may be some HD content in there; I've never noticed it though.

in 5. TV Choice On Demand select 9. More>. Under 1. High Definition you'll find Lost Seasons 1 and most of 2, some episodes of Grey's Anatomy and the first seasons of Criminal Minds and Day Break. For some reason, most are currently listed twice but they'll sort this out. The same programmes are listed in 2. A-Z alongside their SD equivalents (where they exist) plus there's some documentary programming like Mega Movers and Dog Fights (full details here).

Finally, there's the second listing of HD under 6. More On Demand in the Home menu, option 2. High Definition. This is where you'll find five pages of the BBC HD stuff (which gets changed pretty regularly, albeit subtly), the FilmFlex HD stuff all together, the lone Music On Demand offering and some 4OD Pay TV in the form of Brothers & Sisters.

Hope that helps. Virgin say they're adding more each week (and so far they are good to their word, though we all want MORE!). Still no word on the Channel 4 HD simulcast which is now imminent on Sky HD, nor any Channel 4 HD on demand.

November 30, 2007

More content being moved under the HD category

Virgin have now moved the first seasons of Lost, Grey's Anatomy, Day Break and Criminal Minds under the correct High Definition category in TV Choice On Demand (in my area at least). No new episodes, and for some reason each episode is listed twice, but the intent is there even if the execution is somewhat flawed this time around!

November 28, 2007

How should Virgin Media deliver High Definition programming?

This month’s blog poll asked “How should Virgin Media deliver High Definition programming?” We had a majority (52%) vote for “full” channels like BBC HD or C4 HD. Sadly, that’s not where it appears Virgin are going strategically at the moment, preferring to offer HD selectively via (the undervalued) Video On Demand. So, how many voted for Virgin’s preferred option? A measly 2%! Bloody hell, Berkett - listen to your customer base!
Interestingly, 44% felt that a combination of the two would be most appropriate. That’s not insignificant and is demonstrates that if VM can strike a suitable balance they’ll appease almost half of their customers’ HD needs.
My personal view is that VoD is a great way of delivering HD content, but a number of additional regular HD channels will be essential to remain competitive with the new FreeSat service when it launches in 2008. We have to be realistic that VM under its current management (and with some technical restrictions due to the adoption of Mpeg 2) will never offer as many HD channels as Sky HD. But then, what is Sky offering in HD that appeals to the masses? HD football has limited appeal, the movie channels have weak programming and Sky One HD is running out of new content thanks to the Writers’ strike in Hollywood. Which’ll mean even more Simpsons. In HD. Be still my beating heart…
Much as I like the idea of Nat Geo, History, Sky Arts and Discovery in HD, I never actually watch them in SD, preferring the BBC’s factual offerings. FX in HD? MTV in HD? Hardly compulsive stuff. Compared to VM’s 100+ hours of HD on demand, Sky’s offering isn’t that strong. And the Sky HD box struggles to record two concurrently btw – check the various forum threads on it on Digital Spy. Like the V+, erratic recording and limited disc capacity will be an issue with more linear channels - another plus point for VoD HD.
If VM secure at least C4 HD, ITV HD and maybe a future Five HD offering, that plus whatever the BBC serves us will just about do me if they keep adding to the On Demand library too. Maybe I’m easily satisfied, but that would mean the majority of my regular viewing would then be in HD. A guy can dream, can’t he?
(Incidentally, the poll respondents were 290 in total, two of which voted for the “HD is a dead duck” option. This blog, in its first full month, has attracted over 3,500 page views and has had over 1,700 unique visitors. Steadily growing over the month, we’re averaging now 200 hits a day. Wake up Virgin…your public's hunger for HD is growing!)

Virgin uncovering its hidden content?

May be old news to some areas, but SE London's TV on Demand menus seem to be being fiddled with. If you go to TV Choice on Demand, there's a new category 9, "More>", which then takes you to two options: "1. High Definition" and "2. A-Z". The only thing in the former is currently Lost season one (all 25 episodes). All the other stuff that's been hidden in the A-Z is still in the A-Z, but hopefully VM are in the process of moving it all under the single category now. And then there's the other HD listings; Free TV (BBC), Filmflex, Music (Gorillaz at the Apollo) and Pay TV (a few episodes of Brothers & Sisters).

November 27, 2007


Rumours over at Cable Forum that Virgin Media won't be carrying the forthcoming C4HD channel any time soon but we may get some HD content via VoD. Disappointing - surely carrying a second HD channel isn't going to choke that much bandwidth?

Having said that, it may not be too long a's an interesting post from Sirius on Digital Spy. What he's saying is that the new Scientific Atlanta equipment being purchased by VM for its headends will be able to take any HD feeds from FreeSat, regardless of whether they're MPeg2 or (more likely) MPeg4, and carry them on Virgin. He also points out that a single analogue channel from the legacy network being dropped will free up enough capacity for three HD channels, so bandwidth ain't a reason to hold back. (It's been suggested on Cable Forum by the engineers who post there that VM intend to close the analogue network down Q1 2008, though I've seen nothing definite on that from VM)

November 26, 2007

Lost Season Two in HD - update

Seventeen episodes in HD are now listed in TV Choice on Demand's A-Z, but ex-NTL currently has 1-18 minus episode 12 and with episode 3 right at the end of the list. Odd, but fairly typical of the way this stuff is appearing. Carol is reporting ex-Telewest areas also have 18 episodes (again minus 12 and with 3 'floating') so it looks like we'll have the whole of season two by the end of the week.
Of course, for Lost fans missing Sky One, season three is the one you're waiting for...

November 24, 2007

Why some HD content is "hidden"

Just picked this up from the newsgroup

We have now received an update from our Support Team and they wished to thank you for your feedback. Please read through the reply below:

All HD cannot be put into the same folder as some are transactional (Pay Per View), some content is free only to XL customers. Our current architecture cannot support mixed propositions in the same folder.

We are aware however that the current way we are managing HD in the user interface is not as intuitive as it should be and we are actively looking at how better to organise this. However we will always want to put HD programming next to its SD counterpart where possible, as this benefit customers looking for a film title( for example) and seeing there is also a HD version available.

HD on Demand surpasses 100 hours!

At some point in November Virgin Media quietly added more HD content to their On Demand service and tipped over the 100 hours mark. No fanfare, and almost half of it is completely unpromoted, appearing just in the A-Z listing rather than under the 'High Definition' classification. Here's the latest listing of all the HD content I've been able to find.
(n.b. this is a listing for ex-NTL customers: experience suggests ex-Telewest will have pretty much the same but maybe additional stuff)

Free TV

Ant Attack
Desert Lions
Diana - Last Days of a Princess
Hotel Babylon episodes 2 - 8
Planet Earth: episodes 1-5
The Blue Planet: Frozen Seas
The Blue Planet: Coasts
The Blue Planet: Coral Seas
The Blue Planet: Frozen Seas
The Blue Planet: Open Oceans
The Blue Planet: Seasonal Seas
The Blue Planet: The Deep
The Blue Planet: Tidal Seas
The Innocence Project 1-8
Rick Stein and the Japanese Ambassador
Superstorm 1-3

Filmflex HD
(all £4 unless mentioned)
Alpha Dog
Amazing Grace
Apocalypto (£4.50)
Arthur & the Invisibles
The Breed
Hannibal Rising
The Illusionist
The Messengers
The Painted Veil
Until Death
Wild Hogs

Pay TV (99p each)
Brothers & Sisters Season One 21 - 23

"Hidden" HD Programmes
Check under the TV Choice On Demand A-Z listings
Criminal Minds Season One 1 - 22 (exc. 7, 17)
Day Break 1-12
Dog Fight 2 episodes
Engineering an Empire 3 episodes
Grey's Anatomy Season One 1 -2
Lost Season One 1-25
Lost Season Two 1,2,4,5
Mega Movers 3 episodes

November 22, 2007

Two more episodes of LOST season two in HD

In VoD A-Z, we now have episodes 1,2...and 4, 5! Go figure...

Grey's Anatomy in HD

Browsing through the TV Choice on Demand A-Z last night I noticed a couple of High Definition additions: Criminal Minds Season One is now complete except episodes 7 and 17(!) and Grey's Anatomy Season One is now available, albeit just the first two episodes in HD.

November 20, 2007

The Company, Saturday 9.40 BBC HD

Auntie seems to be on a roll...only a few weeks ago I was bemoaning the lack of original programming on BBC HD and now, hot on the heels of the excellent Cranford and Earth:The Power of the Planet comes The Company, a cold war thriller with a cast iron cast. Chris O'Donnell, Michael Keaton and Alfred Molina star in an adaptation of Robert Littell's excellent novel about CIA activity in the fifties. It's a three-parter, and it's in HD. Excellent stuff!

November 19, 2007

BBC HD Confirmed

BBC Trust announcement details here

Those excellent Digital Spy guys are reporting the following (here):
The BBC Trust has approved the BBC's proposals for a dedicated HD service.

The BBC HD channel will essentially be a continuation of the test service that has been available on satellite and cable for the last 18 months, although both transmission hours and range of content offered are to significantly increase.

The Trust has also approved the launch of the service on Freeview "as soon as possible", but ruled out immediate proposals to launch a cut-down version of the channel by borrowing overnight capacity from the likes of BBC Four and BBC Parliament. "There was a feeling that the risk of consumer confusion was too great if the interim service was launched," explained the Trust, adding that BBC Parliament "must take precedence over the BBC HD channel if capacity cannot be found for both".

On satellite and cable, BBC HD is expected to transform into a channel broadcasting for nine hours a day - more in the event of sporting or other live coverage - by the end of next year. The Trust has approved a schedule comprising up to 20% of film and sports content and has insisted that showcasing HD content from across the BBC's portfolio should take precedence over aims to simulcast primetime BBC One.

"[BBC HD] will showcase a rich mix of the BBC's programmes from across its channel portfolio in true, native, high definition," said Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision. "HD is the next generation of television, offering the richest, most intense viewing experience imaginable. BBC HD will embody the range, variety and ambition of our public service broadcasting, which is what audiences value."

November 18, 2007

Day Break

The US series Day Break now has twelve episodes in HD, again hidden away in the A-Z listings of TV Choice on Demand (thanks to Carol Steele for spotting this).
Day Break was an ABC series from 2006 starring Taye Diggs that ran for half a season (thirteen in all) before the axe fell, which means we are one short! Haven't seen it myself but you can find more background on it here.
Carol also reports that in ex-Telewest areas a few episodes of Lost Season Two have appeared. They're now showing in ex-NTL too.

November 17, 2007

Lost Season One

Lost Season One is now all there in HD, but still tucked away in the TV On Demand, A-Z. It's not listed under Drama nor High Definition - that would be too easy! All 25 episodes are free to XL customers.
They've also added more HD episodes from the first season of Criminal Minds - up to 22 now, but still oddly missing 5, 6 and 7.

November 13, 2007

Virgin quietly adding more HD on demand content

Whisper it quietly, but the HD fairy has been adding more content to the TV Choice On Demand service.
And, as before, they've not added it where you would expect to find it (under "High Definitiion") but only under the "A-Z" listings. Bizarre. Or just incompetent?
Anyhow, let's be grateful that this additional stuff is free to XL customers.
Criminal Minds Season One HD now has episodes 1-4 and 8-15 (don't know what's happened to 5,6 and 7)
There's something called Day Break, episodes 1 & 2
And Season One of Lost is now almost all there: 1-22 are now in HD and free (there were 25 episodes in the first season in case you were wondering).
There may be more - please let me know if you find other stuff hidden away.

November 07, 2007

Virgin Media announce Q3 results

Details and comment from Digital Spy here. Essentially it's good news, but there's a sting in the tail: check out the comments to investors (slide 15 of the 7/11/07 presentation here) and you'll see no mention of expanding HD services whatsoever. In fact, quite the reverse; "Premium TV" is conceded as being a market dominated by Sky, low growth opportunity, heavy investment and poor content economics. Uh oh: "limited opportunity" to Virgin Media.
Bad news? Not necessarily. Here are my first thoughts...
Thinking about it, Acting CEO Berkett is probably right. If it was my business, I'd look for what differentiates my product from the opposition, and as he says, that's higher speed, reliabe broadband services and the excellent Video On Demand. The former they're promoting heavily but the latter remains a well-kept secret that knocks the socks off the opposition from Sky, Tiscali and BT. It's not perfect (the menu system's a nightmare and inconsistent) but it works great on the V+ and Samsung boxes, and those who don't see it as a viable delivery method of delivery HD content are living in the twentieth century. Especially when you consider how ill-suited the V+ is when recording HD broadcasts - limited disc space and rocky when handling more than a single HD channel. And don't think the Sky box is any better - there are Digital Spy threads reporting hardware failures when recording two HD channels simultaneously. VoD is the way in our new, when-I-want-it world.
I'm still hopeful that VM will add more 'linear' HD channels, but I expect they'll be the free ones from the BBC, C4 and ITV in the short/medium term, the same stuff that'll be on offer on FreeSat. But more VoD HD is essential and I've come round to the opinion that Virgin is right to prioritise that over, say, the linear Nat Geo or History Channel in HD. 99p for an episode of Brothers & Sisters in HD? Only if it's the latest episode. Virgin need to sort out their pricing as well as the all-over-the-place menus. Also, I won't pay £4 for a film in HD when it's going to be on DVD discounted for £5 in a few months and the difference ain't that great on my 32in LCD, so they need to price that more competitively.
But the good news is they're getting their priorities right at VM and the thinking's straight, even if it's not immediately attractive to those wanting more HD. Berkett's offering Sky an olive branch - expect the return of the Sky basics soon as both sides step down from the head-on confrontation earlier this year - and a stronger VM is good for everyone, and more HD will follow, albeit perhaps in a different form from that offered by Sky.

Petition for more HD content on Virgin Media

Some like-minded soul has opened a petition to send to Virgin Media regarding its lack of HD channels: you can add your signature here.

I don't necessarily agree that we don't need more HD via Video on Demand ... we need more HD, period! Channels would be good. Anything will be good

November 06, 2007

Exciting new stuff on BBC HD in the next seven days...

...if only...
It's the same old stuff. Torchwood. Old bits of Later and Coast. Robin Hood. Bleak House. Strictly Come Dancing. Antiques Roadshow. Bloody hell...and we're in the middle of the autumn season when Auntie has all the big stuff on its regular channels!
No Spooks. No Long Way Down. No Top Gear. Neither of the new Poliakoff dramas. Even the new series of Lead Balloon isn't listed as HD in The Radio Times (the last season was shown in HD several times).
I hope they're saving up all the new stuff for BBC HD proper when it launches. They have decent stuff in the archive in HD but for some reason it's the same old stuff broadcast week after week. Strewth...

New Poll

I've added a new poll (right); should Virgin be looking to add HD content as full channels, Video On Demand content, or a combination of the two?
Personally, I'd like the combination approach, albeit with much more stuff that we currently have. I'm really looking forward to the full BBC HD service when it launches, and hope Channel 4 and ITV HD services make it to Virgin Media as free services to XL customers soon after. Other stuff though I'd be happy with as Video On Demand, though they'd have to price it right (free would be good!). Much as I like HD and Brothers & Sisters, I balked at the 99p per episode price for the HD versions after the broadcasts on E4. Now if they were shown a week earlier than the regular broadcasts and in HD, I'd consider it.

November 05, 2007

The +1 vs. HD debate

Last month I ran a small poll on this site regarding the proliferation of "+1" channels on Virgin Media and whether that bandwidth would be better used delivering a handful of linear HD channels in addition to the BBC HD trial channel. (For those new to the Blog, my original post on the matter is here.) I also posted a thread on the topic on Digital Spy and Cable Forums.
As you'd probably expect for a blog on HD services on VM cable, the responses to the poll were heavily in favour of the notion of the +1 bandwidth being used for additional HD channels:
  • 85% agreed with the notion
  • 10% said that the +1s were not dispensible but were essential
  • And 4% said that HD was not going to take off in the UK
  • (There were 48 respondents in all)
The debates on the threads though was more surprising: a number of correspondents felt that the +1s were invaluable, and when I checked out the BARB viewing figures I was taken aback by some of them - some +1s get almost as many viewers as the real-time channels! For example, Challenge +1 is almost on a par with its parent. Bizarre
Whilst I'm not questioning the value of the +1s for the bigger channels (C4+1, E4+1, Virgin 1+1, Sky Movies Premier +1) some really are a 'luxury' which could be sacrificed for the more forward looking adoption of more linear HD channels, notably the imminent C4HD and ITVHD services. I was talking to a friend in the US and he tells me that he has over 30 HD channels now on his cable set up...and NO +1s. His cable supplier (I can't recall if it's ComCast or TW Cable) now ships its V+ equivalent as its standard box, so he couldn't see why they would have them, especially with VOD content available FoC. Having said that, once I explained to him what they were, he thought it would be good to have them for some channels, which I guess is true as long as "some" doesn't restrict the delivery of other services.
Anyway, for now I'm taking the poll offline. Thanks to everyone who responded. 10% of the blog's visitors in October took the time to voice their opinion, so sincere thanks to all.

November 04, 2007

MPEG4 on Virgin Media

There's a lot of discussion in a Digital Spy thread about the use of MPEG2 for HD transmission on Virgin Media rather than the more efficient compression technology of MPEG4 (thread here), but here's a thought: When the V+ launched earlier this year, it wasn't marketed as an HD box, nor did VM promote the (sparse) HD content available. And they're still not pushing it. Not surprising given that they have so little and they're doing their best to hide the VoD HD content they've got (see previous posts).
So, pure speculation this, could they be considering a fuller HD service launch using MPEG4 boxes sometime soon? Then they could 'upgrade' the boxes of those seeking HD content, maybe with one of the new generation Scientific Atlanta boxes charging similarly to Sky a £10 premium for the service, whilst the V+ becomes the middle tier box for customers on the XL package, lower tier getting the Samsung boxes. They could keep BBC HD on MPEG 2 so everyone gets a taster, but only those subscribing to the new box would get the additional MPEG 4 linear channels.
Just a thought...a man can hope, can't he?

New HD content in TV Choice on Demand

Bloody hell Virgin, you don't make it easy for us HD cable customers, do you? Not only do you charge a premium for HD Filmflex movies (why?) and keep an ancient analogue network running, restricting newer services, but you hide what little HD content you have in the hardest to find places! Strewth...
Anyway, in addition to the programming listed under 'High Definition' in TV Choice on Demand, if you go to the A-Z listings for TV CoD you'll find the following HD programming:

Criminal Minds Season one episodes 1-4
Dogfight (two episodes - I think it's a National Geographic programme)
Engineering an Empire (three episodes - Nat Geo again)
Lost Season one 1 - 15
Mega Movers (three episodes, not sure which channel but suspect another NG one)

I haven't spotted any 4OD content apart from the later episodes of Brothers & Sisters (at 99p a pop) but I'll have a root around. Let me know if anyone out there spots some I've missed.

October 26, 2007

First Seasons of Lost and Brothers and Sisters in HD

Looks like Virgin Media has added more episodes of both Lost and Brothers and Sisters in High Definition to its Video On Demand listings. You still have to hunt around for Lost HD (it's not under 4OD or High Definition, but only appears in the A-Z listing for TV Choice on Demand) but they've now added the missing episode and you get 1 -13 inclusive, all free.
Brothers and Sisters season one is where you'd expect it: under High Definition, Pay TV. They've added the missing episode and it now runs through to the end of the season, episodes 13 - 23. 99p each. The earlier episodes are similarly priced in Standard Definition.

October 25, 2007

BBC HD highlights for the rest of the Autumn

The BBC's trial service is due to run another month until the findings of the Public Value Test evaluation by the BBC Trust is announced at the end of November. Here is the final list of highlights for the trial service:

Not Going Out
The Royal Television Society and Golden Rose award-winning sitcom returns to for an extended second series this autumn. (already broadcast on BBC ONE)

Live at the Apollo
The BAFTA nominated series Live at the Apollo returns with guest hosts Jack Dee, Joan Rivers, Jo Brand, Jimmy Carr, Lee Mack and Dara O Briain. (From BBC ONE)

The Green Green Grass
The third series of the comic spin-off from Only Fools and Horses (Simulcast with BBC ONE)

The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle
Jennifer Saunders stars in this new comedy drama. (From BBC TWO)

Fairy Tales
Four comedy dramas made in Northern Ireland make up this anthology of modernised fairy tales. (Simulcast with BBC TWO)

The Tudors (Simulcast with BBC TWO)

Robin Hood (Simulcast with BBC ONE)

Strictly Come Dancing (Simulcast with BBC ONE)

The Antiques Roadshow (Simulcast with BBC ONE)

Heroes (Simulcast with BBC ONE and BBC THREE)

England v Croatia (Simulcast with BBC ONE on November 21st)

For those wondering what happens once the trial is over it was reported in September that the BBC Trust has given a provisional go ahead to launch a full HD channel "as soon as possible". OFCOM also gave the new BBC HD channel the green light. As reported in Digital Spy;

The Trust said the channel should have a mix of genres, which will be specified in the service licence. It said that the service must not become a "head-on competitor for sports and movie HD channels".

Other conditions include not replicating the BBC One schedule through simulcasting, but that the service should show programmes from across the BBC's portfolio of channels, in order to "make the best use of the upgrade in quality that HD offers".


Not much change in the BBC HD schedule in the coming week - more Heroes (hurrah!), Tudors (yawn) and the gloriously defined wrinkles of The Antiques Roadshow and Last of the Summer Wine, but there's a little treasure parked at 9pm on Thursday Nov 1 - Galapagos. This has some of the most breathtaking HD photography I've ever seen and is highly recommended if you want to put something on your V+ hard disc to impress the neighbours with. Glorious.

October 23, 2007

HD On Demand changes this week

Just sitting at the box and have noticed some additions and changes in the VM Video On demand offering for ex-NTL areas:

Rick Stein and the Japanese Ambassador
Superstorm 1
Superstom 2
the Innocence Project 1 - 7 (not ep 4 for some bizarre reason)

Filmflex HD (all £4 unless mentioned)
Amazing Grace
Apocalypto (£4.50)
Arthur & the Invisibles
Goal II
Hannibal Rising (1p...yes, 1p! And still you'll feel robbed!!)
The Illusionist
A Knight's Tale (£3)
The Messengers
The Painted Veil
Until Death
Wild Hogs

More from Berkett on his likely Virgin Media strategy

Interesting piece in the FT today on Berkett stepping up his campaign to be made permanent CEO at Virgin. Berkett appears to be suggesting that if he gets the job he may be more concilliatory towards Sky; "fighting the gorilla in its home zone was silly". There's not many customers who would disagree with that, though the stand against Sky's allegedly extortionate price hike for its basic channels was in my view justified at the time, the subsequent tit-for-tat playground fighting lost the plot completely.
But from an HD/premium TV service perspective, we're assured that (according to Digital Spy) Virgin will continue to offer premium television services; the shift will be made in terms of marketing rather than product offering. Whilst that may be true, one must have concerns that the money will fund the growth opportunity (broadband provision) rather than improve the less exciting TV service. I don't pretend to understand the funding of VM, but if money is as tight as analysts suggest, the shift of emphasis away from digital TV is not good news for those of us hoping for an evolution of the V+ and HD services rather than stagnation.

October 22, 2007

Virgin to become Freeview+?

I shared the cynicism of some when a story appeared in The Times this weekend suggesting Virgin Media was focusing on broadband rather than premium TV services going forward, but it's repeated, with quotes, in The Guardian today:
[Neil Berkett, acting Virgin Media CEO] wants to move the focus away from TV and onto more mass-market households who do not need Sky's sports and movie channels but do want more than basic Freeview digital TV. Virgin Media reckons these households can be tempted with services such as video on demand that require fast broadband.
"Despite our technical advantage we are still not really standing out from the crowd," admitted Mr Berkett. "I really do want to re-focus our energies onto the broadband platform."
"Think of Freeview as a nursery and you have millions of kindergarten kids who once they have got the taste for multi-channel TV may upgrade an element of the service."
I, for one, find this v. depressing. So those of us who at the top end of the market (VIP package, V+ dependent) are now going to have to settle for a Freeview+ service? That line about the Sky Movies and Sports channels is particularly concerning, especially at a time when there's a popular misconception with the general public that you can't get any Sky channels on cable. Clumsy or just plain foolish? Or he saying that VM customers may not have the Sky Premium channels going forward?
I have cable out of choice - I do not want a dish on the outside of my house but Virgin Media appear to be going out of their way to push me to Sky with their lack of investment in HD services. If the FreeSat service next year offers more HD than cable I may even go there. Even though I work in IT I do not want or need 50mb broadband at home - the 20mb I currently have is more than sufficient and what use is it if the downloaders of pirated TV, movies and games are capped with download limits? That's the same folly as having a car capable of racing at 250mph with a speed limit on 50 on the roads!
I could be could be that Virgin are planning to shift all their services over to IPTV and everything will be delivered over IP. But I don't think so. I think Burkett is desperate for a strategy that differentiates the VM offering and pulls in some more customers. Freeview+ certainly ain't it and besides, BT Vision is already offering that with limited success.
Somebody buy this company quick!

October 20, 2007

Technical specfication for the V+

Here's a link to the technical spec for the V+. (Actually, it's for the original silver Telewest TVDrive that many of us have been given as a V+ by Virgin Media like the one pictured.) Anyone interested in what may be coming soon (no guarantees) should have a look at the manufacturer's site at, where there's some extremely impressive kit that could hit our shores. Or not...
The good news for those who didn't know is that, whereas Sky customers are likely to have Amstrad boxes in future, Virgin Media's supplier, Scientific Atlanta, are part of Cisco and are regarded by most as the most innovative and reliable set top box manufacturer around.

Recent BBC HD problem "sorted"?

I've been following this thread at Digital Spy with some interest, as I've had a similar problem when (effectively) recording two HD channels* simultaneously myself (as reported in previous postings). Is it sorted? Time will tell - but I think it's a problem with the box being unable to handle two HD feeds rather than a network issue.

*Yes, I know we only have the one HD channel, but if you record one and watch at the same time, you've got two tuners accessing the HD channel. If you want to record an HD programme and watch it, my advice is to actually watch it from your Recorded Programmes listing rather than as live TV. You'll only then have the one tuner accessing HD, and will still be able to pause or rewind without stretching the box to its limits. Well, that's my theory anyway!

October 17, 2007

+1 Channels

One of the reasons Virgin Media have given for not carrying more High Definition channels is a lack of bandwidth whilst they're still supporting the old analogue TV service over their wires. (Understandable, though I really do wish they'd bite the bullet and make the digital switch for the entire network and swallow any churn as a strategic necessity.) And the situation's not helped by the fact that Virgin are using the legacy Telewest HD technology rather than the less bandwidth hungry new .h264 standard; an HD channel on Virgin takes roughly four times as much room as a Standard Definition one and twice as much as HD on Sky.
But hang on, there IS sufficient bandwidth there; believe it or not, at my last count there are some TWENTY FOUR of these dang-fangled +1 channels now littering the Virgin wires. What's more, nine of them are Virgin's own offerings, including the newly launched V1+1 (surely that should be called "V2"?) and Dave+1 (sounds like a party invite).
Now Channel 4 HD is coming in December, but is not confirmed for Virgin yet, and ITV HD will be launched in time for the Euro 2008 finals next summer. And let's not forget BBC HD, now almost certain to be promoted from its "trial" status to a fully fledged channel despite the cuts at the corporation to be announced today. Surely surely surely some of these timeshift channels could be handed over to an expanded HD service? With HD Ready TV sales again likely to leap in sales again in the run up to Christmas, Virgin should be considering what will drive new customers to cable. It ain't gonna be the timeshift +1 nonsense, especially in these days when Virgin are promoting the V+ as the new standard. But three or four linear HD channels, complimented by a fuller HD VOD offering, and people will notice. Anyone disagree?
Come on Virgin, you gotta admit it makes sense!

October 15, 2007

V+, HD and Delay TV

A word of warning for anyone using the Delay TV function (ie pause and rewind) when viewing the HD channel. I guess cos the amount of data for the HD transmissions are around four times as much as a regular standard definition one, the buffer used for Delay TV seems to fill up after around twenty minutes. I was using it for the Michael Palin broadcast last night and it came out of pause after about 20 minutes and I couldn't re-pause it. When I then started watching again, the box did a complete reboot after half an hour's viewing. I was recording an SD channel at the same time, but I would have thought the box could cope. It couldn't.
I've seen posts on the Sky HD forums that suggest a similar issue on Sky boxes, especially if recording two HD channels simultaneously (we should be so lucky!) - I think it would be fair to say that the current generation of HD PVRs are very much 'first generation' and there's a limit to their capabilities at the moment.

October 13, 2007

England v Estonia

Well, Virgin may have just the one HD channel, but they can still manage to bugger up the showcase broadcast of the week. What should have been a visual treat was badly marred by a problem throughout the entire match with awful red blocking and colour distortion. According to the posts on Digital Spy, the problem was widespread and put down as a 'network-wide' issue. No problems reported on Sky HD, so it looks like Virgin's fault not the BBC's. Bugger.

Lost Season One in HD

Yes, it is there...but not in the HD season for some reason.
Look in the A-Z listing in TV On Demand under "L". Free of charge are episode 1-12 of the first season except episode 4. No idea where 4 is...Virgin's loading of VOD content can often have these annoying oversights (Brothers & Sisters HD also has a missing episode from a consecutive run).
There may be other bits tucked away - let me know if you find anything yourself.

BBC HD highlights for the coming week

Er....more of the same I'm afraid. Aside from the England Estonia game this afternoon it's pretty much as last week: The Tudors, Heroes and the usual suspects. Big disappointment in that the new series of Spooks and the Titchmarsh series aren't being shown (yet) in HD - maybe they're saving them for the launch of the non-trial version of BBC HD coming "soon".
No sign on my box yet of the promised 4OD HD content apart from half a dozen episodes of Brothers & Sisters at 99p a pop. Hopefully not too long before it appears - there's normally a TV refresh on VOD early in the week, so keep 'em peeled.

October 11, 2007

HD on Virgin Media Broadband

Another HD announcement from Virgin Media, but this one's more intriguing rather than exciting as it's for the on-trial 50mb broadband trialists, rather than the TV or VOD service:

VOOM HD Networks has inked an agreement with UK quad-play operator Virgin Media, to trial the global VOOM HD channel starting in October 2007 as part Virgin Media's 50Mbs Broadband Pilot in the UK. The deal, brokered by international broadcaster and distributor of thematic channels Chello Zone (formerly Zonemedia), marks the initial delivery of a VOOM HD channel in the UK. Since initiating its global expansion effort at MIPCOM just two years ago, VOOM HD Networks has seen exponential growth in the international marketplace. More than 1,100 VOOM HD programming hours have been sold into more than 150 countries, and the global VOOM HD channel is now available in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Now, having had a quick look at, I wouldn't get too excited about the content - these are channels that wouldn't even make Sky's EPG, but you have to wonder what VM's HD strategy is: TV, VOD or now IP? I'm not a fan of watching the programmes or films on my laptop, but I can see that VM are covering all options to a degree, albeit at a snail's pace.
There's more on the company and its offerings at this entry in Wikipedia

October 10, 2007

Wot, no Spooks?

The BBC's HD highlights announcement for the rest of Autumn had a few notable omissions, notably NO SPOOKS, which is disappointing to say the least. I'd hoped that the Beeb would follow the earlier HD broadcasts of Hotel Babylon and Hustle earlier this year with an HD presentation of its more popular dramas, but it doesn't look like it will be. Also missing is The Nature of Britain, surely crying out for HD (even if I do intend to watch it without the sound of Titchmarsh). Instead, the schedules reveal yet more repeats of Torchwood, Bryan Ferry and bits of Later. Hopefully when the service is properly launches, we'll get a bit more variety and some of the better shows.

Anyway, here's the BBC stuff announced so far for the rest of the Autumn:

* The new series of Strictly Come Dancing (Simulcast with BBC ONE)

* The new series of Robin Hood (Simulcast with BBC ONE)

* The Tudors (Simulcast with BBC TWO)

* Michael Palin’s New Europe (Simulcast with BBC ONE)

* The Antiques Roadshow (Simulcast with BBC ONE)

* Who Do You Think You Are? (Simulcast with BBC ONE)

* The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle (From BBC TWO)

* After You’ve Gone (From BBC ONE)

* The Story Of India (From BBC TWO)

* Ganges (From BBC TWO)

* Saira Khan's Pakistan Adventure (From BBC TWO)

* Cranford (Simulcast with BBC TWO)

* The Company (Simulcast with BBC TWO)

* Fairy Tales (From BBC TWO)

October 09, 2007

Confirmation of Channel 4 HD coming to Virgin

Kinda. Digital Spy are reporting that a deal's been done with Channel 4 that will give us Virgin customers free access to some HD content via VOD and most likely carriage of the new 4HD simulcast of C4 (though not 100% confirmed - capacity needing some management before full announcement, perhaps?).
Here's the DS story:
Virgin Media is to offer Channel 4 programmes in high definition via its on demand service.

Cable customers can see a selection of Channel 4 shows, which now includes some in HD, free of charge for up to seven days post-transmission via the 4oD service.

The deal also gives Virgin Media the option of carrying the new Channel 4 HD linear channel, which will launch in December.

Malcolm Wall, Virgin Media's chief executive of content, said: "We are delighted to be adding Channel 4 content to our growing line up of high definition programming. Virgin Media is at the forefront of technology advances in television and is not only offering its customers higher quality pictures in HD, but also the ability to watch what they want when they want it via the on demand service."

Virgin Media's on-demand library already includes HD assets from FilmFlex, the BBC and History Channel.

Channel 4's head of VOD and channel development Sarah Rose said: "Demand for HD is increasing, and befitting our ambition for viewers to be able to access our programming when they want it and in a format of their choice, it's important for us to be meeting this demand wherever we can. We are delighted that HD versions of some of our shows will be available to Virgin TV on demand users and look forward to increasing the amount of HD programming in our schedule over time."

(Actually, the bit about us having the History Channel in HD is wrong.) Personally, I would like to see them round up all the +1 channels and use that capacity to expand the HD offering. I also think it's time VM bit the bullet and axed the analogue service that has a huge overhead on the network for a minority of customers, and shifted the phone service to IP. That's how the American cable companies have such awesome HD capabilities. It would be great if they adopted the newer standards for broadcasting HD rather than the dated Telewest set up, but I can't see that happening just yet with a growing V+ population. Ho hum.

October 08, 2007

Can the V+ record two HD channels simulataneously?

This was odd...I was watching the Michael Palin thing on BBC HD Sunday night on Delay TV and was also recording it. Suddenly, after half an hour, the box just went phttttt and rebooted. When it was back, no recording at all and I'd lost the delay TV ten minutes too.
Bizarre. Was I pushing the box too far? With the other probs I've had recently, Mrs Nialli is now suggesting we ring VM up and get an engineer out, but as I can't repeat the problems that's gonna be a fruitless exercise. Doesn't bode well for working with more than the single HD channel in future if it can't handle recording two simulataneously. :o(

October 06, 2007

New on BBC HD this week

Robin Hood 19.30, Saturdays
Not a personal favourite as I'm not a teenager, but if the scripts improve from the first series then this may well be worth a watch. Not the blockbuster the BBC had hoped it would prove in the Doctor Who slot, but still nice to see it in HD again.

Ganges, 22.00, Monday
Glorious photography in both this and the preceding Story of India. Beautiful in HD

Heroes, Heroes Unmasked, 21.00 Wednesdays
Thank you, BBC...

The Life & Times of Vivien Vyle,
22.00, Thursday
Jennifer Saunders' latest attempt to recapture the magic of Absolutely Fabulous. Not the finest example of HD content, but better than yet another showing of Planet Earth!

Saxondale, 22.00, Friday
All six episodes of the Steve Coogan comedy's second season

Match of the Day, 14.30, Saturday 13th
England v Estonia. Will look glorious in HD whatever the performance from the Three Lions

October 01, 2007

Picture break up in New Europe?

Not sure if this was local to me or not, but I had intermittent picture and sound problems for about ten minutes during BBC HD's Michael Palin programme last night. Lasted for about ten minutes from 9.30, but was all resolved by the time he got to Bucharest!
I've had this a few times on BBC HD and the various forums suggest I'm not alone. It's an irritation and I'm not sure whether the problems with the BBC feed, Virgin Media or my V+ box. Anyone know?

September 30, 2007

Sky HD bugs

Wary that the other man's grass is often of a greener hue, I've been checking out a few Digital spy threads on the Sky HD offering. Check this out Sky HD bugs - 38 pages and counting, lots more bugs than I'd thought. I know the V+ box ain't perfect (I've had a recording fail this weekend) but it sounds like Sky customers have it even worse. Of course, Sky HD has 250k customers compared with VM's 120k (figures from the last numbers released by both companies) so the correspondence on Sky HD will be more voluminous, but then VM don't charge you £10 a month for the service either.

4HD on its way?

Channel 4 have announced the HD simulcast of its main channel will appear on Sky in December 2007, and one hopes on Virgin Media around the same time. It's easier to broadcast a new channel on satellite (effectively you only have to secure the EPG position with Sky, the transmission can be sorted without Sky) whereas with cable Virgin Media have to work a wee bit harder. Fingers crossed for "4HD" on Virgin before Christmas, and with ITV also promising HD output in time for Euro 2008, things are finally looking up.
Here's the Channel 4 press release:

Channel 4 is to launch a high definition TV (HDTV) service for British viewers, which will be available on the Sky Digital platform from launch in December.

Channel 4 HD will be a simulcast of the core Channel 4 schedule with a proportion of programmes produced and transmitted in the HD format. The Channel 4 Group is committed to increasing its investment in HD production and the proportion of its schedule transmitted in high definition over time.

The new HD simulcast will initially be available to subscribers to Sky HD, but will also be made available on other platforms in future.

That last bit's my emphasis. "Other platforms" would be Virgin Media, the forthcoming FreeSat and IPTV services. Here's how the BBC reported the arrival of "4HD", and also reported an update on the BBC HD trial's likely future:

Channel 4 to launch HDTV service
America Ferrera as Ugly Betty
Channel 4's Ugly Betty is already shown in high definition in the US

Channel 4 is to be broadcast in high definition later this year, the first time a UK terrestrial broadcaster has simulcast its output in this way.

Viewers with a compatible TV and Sky HD box will be able to watch Channel 4 HD without paying an extra subscription.

However, only programmes recorded using high-definition techniques will be screened in HD, a format which promises better-quality pictures and sound.

Other shows will be seen in standard definition, a Channel 4 spokesman said.

He added that the proportion of programmes shown in HD would increase over time.

The BBC has offered a trial HD service since last year, but this free service carries a customised selection of programmes, rather than simulcasting an existing service.

Channel 4 said it "anticipated" that its HD service would launch in December.

Expanded BBC service

The announcement came a day after the BBC Trust - the body which must be consulted before any new BBC channel can begin - indicated it was in favour of a permanent BBC HD service.

BBC executives have proposed a daily nine-hour schedule - from 1500 to 0000 - on satellite, cable and Freeview.

Michael Palin in Gdansk, Poland
Michael Palin's latest travel series is being screened on BBC HD
However, this would only be possible on Freeview once analogue signals had been switched off across the UK in 2012, owing to the lack of space on the airwaves.

An interim measure - if approved - would see BBC HD on Freeview between 0200 and 0600 daily.

But BBC Four, BBC Parliament and three BBCi services would have to be taken off air during those times to provide the necessary bandwidth.

The trust set down several conditions for the overall HD service, saying it was important to broadcast material from a variety of channels during peak-time evening viewing, rather than simply simulcasting BBC One.

However, it concluded overall that the service "would deliver a medium to high level of public value".

A further set of provisional conclusions on BBC HD will be published by the trust next Tuesday, and the public will then be able to submit their views during a month-long consultation process.

A final announcement on the service will then be published in November.

September 29, 2007

Video On Demand - TV HD

Here's a list of what's currently available, free of charge, in HD via On Demand. This is for those on the ex-NTL platform - if you're in an ex-Telewest area, please check MadDonna's site for details of your listings.

To find the listings for HD VOD, go into TV On Demand via the TV Guide, then select 6. More On Demand, and 2. High Definition.

1. Free TV HD
This is all BBC stuff at the moment. It's not a bad selection, but there are the odd omissions (such as episode 3 of Sorted and a missing Planet Earth episode that's on the ex-Telewest network). The BBC stuff does get changed but I haven't yet sussed how frequently. Hopefully we'll see an expansion in months to come; it's been five pages of pretty much the same fayre for a while now.
Diana - Last Days of a Princess
Galapagos Episodes 1 - 3
Hotel Babylon (Series 1) - (Episodes 1 - 6)
Planet Earth: Great Plains
Planet Earth: Ice World
Planet Earth: Jungles
Planet Earth: Shallow Seas
Sorted Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5, 6
The Blue Planet: Coasts
The Blue Planet: Coral Seas
The Blue Planet: Frozen Seas
The Blue Planet: Introduction
The Blue Planet: Open Oceans
The Blue Planet: Seasonal Seas
The Blue Planet: The Deep
The Blue Planet: Tidal Seas
Wild Weather Cold
Wild Weather Heat
Wild Weather Wet
Wild Weather Wind

2. Flextech Films HD
I'll list these when I get around to it. A lot of the older Bond films are on here in HD, and a selection of recent releases such as Miss Potter and Venus.

3. Music HD
Just the one:
Gorillaz live at the Apollo

4. Pay TV HD
Now this is curious - C4's Brothers & Sisters has appeared, episodes 14 - 18 and 20, though I don't think it is 20 as the info on it relates to episode 2! 99p an episode is the same as the standard definition version. Appears to be added at the C4 pace rather than E4.

So, you ask, where is Lost in HD? Good question - I have no idea!

This week's highlights on BBC HD

With the Beeb's autumn season now in full swing, it's great to see so many of the flagship shows appearing on the HD channel. Three to watch for this week:

New Europe with Michael Palin
(Sundays, 9pm)
The photography in this series has been breathtaking in HD. I hadn't appreciated just what a difference HD can make to documentary filming until this series - even more than Galapagos and Blue Planet, this has been fantastic and a constant revelation. If you find Palin's travalogue patter a little grating, turn down the sound and just marvel at the picture quality. Outstanding

(Wednesdays, 9pm and 10pm)
Whether you're watching at BBC2 or BBC3 pace, the Beeb's top US import is now in its full stride with the introduction of Christopher Ecclestone's invisible man, the stand out character in season one. I'm kicking myself that I first watched this on Sci Fi, where it wasn't even in widescreen let alone HD. Fantastic fantasy that's a real treat each week.

The Tudors
(Fridays, 9pm)
The trailers for this landmark drama on Henry VIII's younger years look mouthwatering, so let's hope they put as much love and attention into the plot as they have the look.

And coming soon: season six of
Spooks ....

Virgin Media High Definition FAQ

My thanks to Shadow TD for allowing me to reprint his outstanding High Definition FAQ from AV Forums in its entirety - as succinct and accurate FAQ as you're likely to find on HD services.

A) Equipment
A.1) What do I need?
A.2) 720? 720 Wide? 1080!! What????
A.3) Connections

B) Content
B.1) Channels
B.2) On Demand
B.3) 5.1 Audio
B.4) Size

C) Costs
C.1) Monthly charges

D) The Future
A.1) What do I need to receive High Definition programming with Virgin Media?

You need a V+ box. Like most other broadcasters, VM have decided to include HD with a PVR service. So the only way to receive HD content is with V+, VM's hard drive recorder. This box has both HDMI and component connections. The HDMI can be adapted to DVI with the relevant adaptor although be aware that DVI does not carry audio so seperate audio cables will be required either to your TV, amp or both. Component video has issues with some content (see B.2). There is no non-pvr HD STB nor are we aware of any plans for one. Obviously you also need a HD television, one with minimum 720 lines of pictures resolution and preferable HDMI, or DVI with HDCP.

A.2) 720? 720 Wide? 1080!! What????
Calm down dear, it's only a FAQ. This tells the box what type of HD signal to output. Try both 720 and 1080 to see which you think gives you a better picture - your TV and your eyes. Note that the menus may look fuzzy/rubbish on 1080 - this is an issues (not quite a bug) with V+ as it stands. The 'Wide' options are there due to the way most TV's currently handle HDMI signals - they are unable to apply any of their 'stretch' or 'stretch and crop' modes to the signal, so 4:3 programs will sit in the middle of the screen and you can't do owt about it. The 'Wide' options apply a stretch but then you end up with fat face syndrome. Experiment to find your preferred setting.

A.3) Connections
As a bit of a final 'gotcha', V+'s analogue outputs (SCART & RF) are disabled when you are using HDMI or component. So you can't use a HD TV and a distribution amp to pump the signal round your house. Sorry.

B.1) Channels
VM currently broadcast only one HD channel - BBC HD. Discussions as to whether this constitutes a proper channel are for other people. VM did also have ITV's HD channel when it was broadcasting but this has ceased. You DO NOT get anything else - no Sky Sports HD or Sky Movies HD. At the moment there have been rumours about National Geographic HD but no concrete information from VM. VM have gone on record (while still ntl:Telewest) saying that they view On Demand as the best way of delivering HD content (spot the irony in the next section).

B.2) On Demand Content
There is a smallish selection of HD content available On Demand - mostly from the BBC. There are also some HD movies available from FilmFlex although the quantity differs depending on whether you are ex-ntl or ex-Telewest. HD FilmFlex Movies and the 'Music' section are subject to HDMI content protection (HDCP) and cannot be viewed over component. They will work over DVI if your TV supports it.

B.3) 5.1 Audio
V+ feature an optical audio output. When connected to a compatible amplifier and the HDMI Audio Override option is turned on, the system is 5.1 enabled. Some BBC HD content and all FilmFlex HD movies are in 5.1. A good way to test is the BBC HD 'barker' reel which broadcasts during the day - this is always in 5.1.

B.4) Size
HD recordings take up roughly 4 times the space on the hard drive than SD recordings. The estimated recording time left bar is for SD content, so be careful when recording HD films from BBC HD.

C.1 Charges
VM do not currently charge a premium for viewing HD channels. HD movies are usually a pound more expensive than their SD counterpart. The V+ box has its own charges which are detailed elsewhere

D) The Future
There is much speculation as to additional channels and also VM's decision to use an MPEG2 stb when Sky went for MPEG4. This is an issue which causes much debate and will not be discussed here, but suffice to say there will be much more room for HD channels when analogue is switched off.