February 28, 2009

F1 in HD? Six Nations and 5.1?

Danielle Nagler has posted an update over on the BBC HD blog that's informative. Well worth reading in full, and here are a couple of the headlines you may be interested in:
  • A decision about F1 and HD sits primarily with the rights holder (F1/Bernie Ecclestone), rather than with the BBC. We are keen to do it as soon as possible.
  • There is no surround sound on the Six Nations Rugby as it is an additional cost and the BBC decide whether to broadcast in 5.1 on an event by event basis.
And she also explains why the BBC has opted for a full HD channel rather than a simulcast with upscaled SD content.

February 27, 2009

Telegraph: is HDTV worth it?

Here's a piece from the Telegraph this week that asks the question but doesn't really answer it. To my mind, HD is "worth it" but only if you have a 37in or bigger panel - with 32in or smaller the difference is marginal unless you sit really close to the screen. The article doesn't mention that the rendering of fast moving HD action is often dependent on a suitably fast refresh rate on the panel either. Not the most informative guide for the HD novice but it of course makes blindingly obvious the gulf between Sky HD and Virgin's offering

February 26, 2009

Berkett's words on HD

A full transcript of Neil Berkett's presentation is now available online (courtesy of www.seekingalpha.com). It's mainly financial in the presentation's content and with the Q&A, but there were a few tidbits relevant to HD and the V+:
We also had another good quarter of V+ growth. We've doubled the number of subscribers in the last year. Our research shows that DVR customers churn less than other customers. Even with a strong growth we still only penetrated 15% of that digital base so we feel there is still a strong growth opportunity here.

All of our half million DVR boxes are HD ready and we intend to grow our HD content and capability this year. Clearly, our competitors have indicated that this is an area where they intend to invest and grow and we are determined that we are not going to allow them to build competitive advantage in this area. Of course, our competitive TV advantages in VOD and we already have over 100 out of HD video-on-demand content and we will be expanding this.

The key HD content that we do today are premium sports and movie channels that Sky will not [inaudible]. As you know, OFCOM is conducting a market investigation into pay TV and that's our last consultation paper proposed a wholesale regime that would oblige Sky to wholesale its premium content including HD to us at economic rates. We are proactively engaged with OFCOM and we hope to hear the next steps in May or June.

[...] I've expressed my frustrations on several occasions, publicly and privately at the complexity and opaquely of the regulatory environment of which OFCOM and the Competition Commission needs to work within. We are hopeful that Digital Britain itself will start to address some of the deficiencies in the process such that when a regulator can come out and say there is some fundamental things that are wrong in this market that it could still take months and, yes, it could take years. So – unfortunately, we will continue to work with the regulators and with government to ensure that the whole of the market get access to content that is withheld by a dominant player and hopefully, UK consumers can reap the benefit of it.

Investors applaud Virgin performance

Us customers may have had a tough time swallowing the lack of news of high definition services in yesterday's quarterly results from Virgin Media, but the NY investment market seemed to be mighty impressed by Mr Berkett's words. Virgin Media's stock value rose 10% to almost $5 yesterday, bucking the trend elsewhere in the markets (the Dow Jones and Nasdaq actually fell 1%)

February 25, 2009

Coming "Soon"

I haven't got the time to sit through Virgin MD Neil Berkett's presentation to investors this lunchtime, but the slides supporting it are now up on the Virgin Media Investors' site here.
It's mainly a financial presentation, but on slide 9 there is the following:
  • Developing our HD capability>100 hours of HD VOD content; Launching more HD channels this year
  • Ofcom Market Investigation may deliver access to Sky premium sports and movie channels on HD
Please feel free to draw your own conclusions from this exciting statement. And here's that link again for those looking for high definition channels today rather than a vague promise of tomorrow...

February 24, 2009

Broadband package change

More news in advance of tomorrow's Virgin Media results announcements: all 2mb Broadband cable customers are to be upgraded to 10mb at no extra cost. Details on the Virgin Media site and over at Guardian Media.

ITV Player launches today (Feb 24)

Rolling out today across the regions is ITV Player (oddly called "ITV Net Player" in the Catch Up On Demand menu).

UPDATE: Here's the rollout schedule
The rollout is being split up over a few days.
Knowsley Platform 24th February
Langley Platform 25th February
Bromley Platform 26th February

February 22, 2009

Virgin Media new services this week?

Virgin Media announces its last quarter and full year results on Wednesday morning, so I'm running a quick poll to see what people are expecting as anaccompanying news announcement. You can pick multiple answers if you think there are to be several additional services.

February 21, 2009

Wonder Boys showing on BBC HD

Saturday night movie time: at 9pm on BBC HD: Wonder Boys, Curtis Hanson's comedy drama starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire and the always-excellent Robert Downey Jnr

February 20, 2009

Film4 HD proposed for Freeview

Bandwidth-deprived Freeview will have four HD slots available once it introduces newer technology next year and it looks like Channel 4 wants two of them. A proposal has been made to Ofcom for an HD version of Film4 (see story here). It's not definite as it is up against another proposal (from Five) for the fourth slot but it's good to know that the cash-strapped C4 stable is prioritising its stella film channel for HD over the more popular (but less watchable) E4.

For me, this is an essential addition to Virgin's line up - if they can't sort this one out, I'll be the first in the queue for a new HD Freeview box when they ship and Virgin can wave goodbye to my hard-earned cash each month.

February 19, 2009

Returning to BBC HD Monday Feb 23 9pm

Back after a mid-season break, Heroes returns on Monday with the second half of season 3 which is a new story - Volume 4: Fugitives.
For me, this is crunch time for the increasingly tired looking series. Volume one was exciting but followed has proven very hit and miss. This third season started well but soon drifted off course again. So will the return of key writer Bryan Fuller signal a return to form? We can but hope...

February 17, 2009

Simpsons in HD

It's a sign of how desperate things are with The Simpsons when there's a big song and dance about a single episode (this Sunday's) being not just the first in widescreen but also in high definition. Be still my beating heart...
On Sky HD only of course. Here's the reworked opening sequence to save you tuning in to the standard definition version of the (former) funniest cartoon on TV and wondering where all the jokes have gone...

February 14, 2009

BBC HD this week

BBC HD has the Wales v England Six Nations match on this Saturday at 5.15pm. The other highlights of our single HD channel's weekend are Jeremy Paxman's The Victorians on Sunday evening at 9pm and the second series of the US import Damages, which kicks off at 10.20pm.
Monday evening has the intriguing Richard Hammond's Engineering Connections at 8pm whilst Tuesday boast Horizon at 9pm and the second episode of the new season of Mad Men at 10pm.

February 12, 2009


I've mentioned AppleTV a few times recently and had quite a few folk contact me asking for more details. As I don't have the service I'm not in the best place to pass comment, but here are some links that may be of interest

Original review from EndGadget

Apple TV 2 review from Gizmodo

Apple TV future plans according to CNet

And a very interesting comparison between AppleTV's HD picture quality with DVD, Blu-Ray and cable (US) from iPodLounge

Hope that suffices guys

Half a billion views for Virgin Media’s on demand TV

Virgin have issued a press release boasting of the popularity of their On Demand services: Half a billion views for Virgin Media’s on demand TV
It actually does mention High Definition, right at the bottom:
Virgin Media was the first to launch a high definition TV service and offers a high-specification, HD-ready V+ personal video recorder.
Oh, the irony of it ...

February 11, 2009

Freeview HD trial in London

There's another trial of high definition services on the Freeview platform underway in London. Details on Home Cinema Choice. The OFCOM plan is that Mux B on the bandwidth-lite terrestrial digital service will ultimately carry four HD channels from the BBC, ITV, C4 and one other, although the bit rates for Freeview HD will be lower than those used on other platforms.

Alternatives for HD movies

Those interested in looking at alternatives to Virgin Media's FilmFlex HD selection (currently just 28 movies) should check out Afront's blog and a comparison of UK on-demand HD movie providers, comparing Virgin Media with Xbox LIVE Marketplace, BT Vision, and Sky Anytime. The one he's missing is the Apple TV service, which, although limited currently to 720p, is the cheapest option per movie (£4.49 for HD, £3.49 for SD) and also offers a wide range of US TV content in High Def including all four series of Battlestar Galactica, all five of Lost and others of similar quality. I'll put together a longer post on AppleTV in the next few weeks, but in the mean time please check out Afront's post if you're interested in alternatives.

February 10, 2009

Nature's Great Events

If there's one kind of programme that always dazzles the eyeballs in HD, it's the nature documentary and, fortunately for us HD-starved Virgin Media customers, the BBC produces the best in the world. So set your V+ series link for Wednesday evening's Nature's Great Events at 9pm on BBC HD and see what the fuss about high definition is all about.

February 09, 2009

WB TV On Demand information

Ah, if only Virgin Media could produce a site as simple but as informative as this. Check out the Warner Bros On Demand site (clicking the Virgin Media option, of course) for a guide to what's currently available, what's up and coming, and how long it's hanging around for. WB TV's responsible for some great programming and at last there's a guide to its availability.

February 08, 2009

Mad Men returns to BBC HD

It was one of the unexpected highlights of 2008 and now it's back for a second series: AMC's Mad Men returns to BBC HD on Tuesday night at 10pm, repeated on Wednesday at 11.20pm. Can't recommend it highly enough: a brilliant Emmy-winning US import up there with the best of them.

February 07, 2009

Six Feet Under in HD

One of the better HBO series of recent times is available in HD on Virgin Media. Check out TV Choice On Demand's HD section and you'll see the first four episodes of season 3 of Six Feet Under. Season 3's an odd place to begin and for me it was the start of the show's decline, but any new HD content is worth mentioning these days...

February 06, 2009

Apple TV adds HD television series

If you want more HD TV but don't want to sign up to Sky HD, Apple's on demand service via iTunes and the Apple TV box is starting to look like an attractive option. Details on its TV series programming here.
(Click the Apple TV link for more information on Apple TV)

Heroes Volume 4

Already showing in the US, Heroes returns to BBC HD on Thursday, February 26th with the second half of the third season; Volume 4: Fugitives.

February 04, 2009

Non-HD On Demand

VM is still erroneously adding non-HD content into the High Definition listings - now a season of Voyager that appeared.
For the record the only Star Trek franchise shot in HD were the last series and a half of Enterprise - check this link for details
And, no, I'm not a Trekkie...

February 03, 2009

Six Nations in HD - full schedule

The full schedule for the Six Nations matches being shown live on BBC HD is

February 7th: England v Italy
February 8th: Scotland v Wales
February 14th: Wales v England
February 28th: Scotland v Italy
March 14th: Scotland v Ireland
March 15th: England v France
March 21st: England v Scotland, followed by Wales v Ireland

As with last year, only matches played at British grounds are being broadcast.

February 01, 2009

New High Definition On Demand Added

After over a year of inactivity, there's some new HD programming nestling amongst the Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Hotel Babylon et al of "More Choice on Demand". Uploaded this weekend is the full first season of Torchwood, three episodes of Tiger: Spy in Jungle and all five episodes of the excellent lace bonnet fest Cranford. It would be a wee bit more exciting if BBC HD didn't show Torchwood or Tiger repeats so frequently, but at least it's something new-ish.
There have also been a number of series added to TV Choice on Demand's HD section, but to my eyes these are actually SD programmes mis-categorised. Deep Space Nine isn't in high definition, and I don't think the other material added there today is either.
(Thanks to Doug for the tip on new content)