December 30, 2010

Samsung V+ bug?

My brand new Samsung V+ is proving inconsistent when detailing the number of hours remaining, so much so that I'm doing manual calculations now rather than trusting it. For example, it will tell me 44 hours remaining, but will then drop to 21 hours when I delete a single SD recording - the latter being correct when I work it out myself. Has anyone else experienced this? It seems to mis-calculate the space taken by HD recordings.
Still, it's better than failed recordings but annoying nevertheless.

December 29, 2010

More on "Sky Atlantic HD - free and exclusive for all Sky customers"

First off, I don't know if the channel will be available to Virgin customers in standard def but will endeavour to find out. More when I find out.
I don't follow the logic of denying Sky Atlantic advertisers access to Virgin Media's 3.7m TV customers - this channel will at best attract a minority More4/BBC4 size audience and it would make more sense to me to maximise its reach. Sky1 advertisers revolted against the removal of VM's customer base. I would have thought limiting Sky Atlantic to the one pay platform is only a short term strategy - the question is, how short? Personally, I think the days of a lot of people migrating services for a single channel are long gone - Virgin customers with superior broadband know where to find US content if it's denied them on their TV service.
Having said that, I thought the days of Sky vs Virgin were over and I appear to be wrong on that count. Earlier this year Virgin Media sold seven channels to Sky: LIVING, LIVINGit, Challenge, Challenge Jackpot, Bravo, Bravo 2 and Virgin1, plus various +1s and Living HD. All bar Living and Challenge have now closed and Virgin customers have had nothing in return - Sky Atlantic would be some compensation at least. The promises of the June press release read somewhat hollow as Sky neatly sidesteps any obligations by closing all but the most profitable channels and launching new ones apparently not covered in the agreement (what Mickey Mouse lawyers didn't see that coming?). The promised On Demand content and Sky basics in HD (Sky1 excepted) are still not with us. Ho hum. I could rant and rant, but I haven't got the time or energy or inclination. I just hope we get Sky Atlantic in some form before Mad Men season 5 begins in the summer, otherwise I'll be watching it on my laptop rather than TV.
VMTV sales press release
"The companies have, in parallel, agreed to enter into a number of agreements providing for the carriage of certain Sky standard and high-definition (HD) channels.
The agreements cover the following:

  • Sky will acquire VMtv for a total consideration of up to £160 million in cash, with £105 million paid on completion and the remainder paid following the regulatory process. The acquisition will expand Sky's portfolio of basic pay TV channels and eliminate the carriage fees it currently pays for distributing VMtv channels on its TV services.
  • Sky will assume responsibility for selling advertising for the newly acquired VMtv channels from January 2011.
  • New carriage agreements will secure wholesale distribution of Sky's basic channel line-up, including Sky1 and Sky Arts, and the newly acquired VMtv channels, on Virgin Media's cable TV service.
  • For an incremental wholesale fee, Virgin Media will, for the first time, have the option of carrying any of Sky's basic HD channels, Sky Sports HD 1 and Sky Sports HD 2, and all Sky Movies HD channels.
  • Virgin Media will make available through its on-demand TV service a range of content from Sky's basic and premium channels, including the newly acquired VMtv channels. Virgin Media will also have access to red button interactive sports coverage and the opportunity to deliver selected standard definition programming over the internet.

December 26, 2010

Sky Atlantic HD exclusive to Sky

Ads now being broadcast on Sky channels confirm the bad news that Sky Atlantic HD is to be a Sky exclusive at launch next month. Seriously unhappy.

TiVo poll added

It's been a while since I ran a poll on this blog, but with the introduction of the TiVo next month I thought it would be interesting to gauge the Virgin Media devotees' appetite for the new technology and the announced pricing. The poll is top right, and you can select more than one answer if you are planning to wait for both bug fixes and a price drop.
In my last post I said I'd be unlikely to invest in January, but, having already filled my new Samsung V+'s disc in less than a week, I'm probably going to jump sooner rather than later.

December 24, 2010

TiVo for VIPs in January

Snowy Brighton's just posted this comment on the blog:
"Just spoke to VM to see if I could get a TiVo box, and was informed that I would have to wait until March as an XL customer. VIP's will be eligible to upgrade from January and the price will be £149 for the box and £40 installation fee."
Personally, with my new Samsung in place and there likely to be a few bugs with the TiVo on release, I may wait a while. I may see what the early adopters report on stability and performance before ordering. The 1Tb disc is the main attraction for me, but (unless Sky Atlantic HD arrives on VM) I can't see a great deal being recorded early in the New Year anyway.
Then again I am a man who acts on impulse so you never know...

December 23, 2010

More 3D content coming to Virgin Media

For those who can't get enough of watching telly with their sunglasses on, Virgin Media is adding more 3D movies and documentaries to the on demand service over the next few months:
3D documentaries available to XL TV customers only
- 3D Sun – today (23 Dec)
- Dinosaurs Alive – today (23 Dec)
- Mummies - Jan
- Waking the T-Rex: The Story of Sue – Jan
- Siegfried and Roy: The Magic Box - Jan
- The Extreme Nature Bats - Feb
- MircoWorlds - Feb
3D animations available to all Virgin Media TV customers
- Xenopod – today (23 Dec)
- Curse of Skull Rock – today (23 Dec)
- The Mission - Jan
- Voyage to Mars - Jan
3D Movies on Demand – pay-per-view
- The Hole – 17th Jan
- Despicable Me – Feb

The Samsung V+

Oh, this is more like it. Responds to the remote. Records two HD channels simultaneously whilst viewing a third. Changes channels same day/hour/minute/second. Connects to On Demand on demand. Looks like a proper piece of AV kit under the TV rather than a neon-bathed curiousity. HD and SD picture quality absolutely stunning.
Fabulous. It can also record radio programmes. The only downside I'm aware of is that I won't be able to watch TV whilst archiving to external recorder and that EPG display is output through the VCR scart. Haven't checked this myself but it's a minor inconvenience to me.
Thanks to Spiderplant and VM engineer Alex for making it so, and Erich for his encouragement.
Happy Christmas one and all!
A happy Samsung V+ chap

10 cool things TiVo can do for you

December 21, 2010

Another TiVo review

Here is another review of the TiVo, but I'd suggest it's approached with some caution as it is dated December 4th (pre-TiVo 500 rollout) and would be of an early version of the software/hardware. A little concerned regarding the comments on upscaling - I watch far less standard def these days but I would be disappointed to lose the SD upscaling capabilities of the V+. Having said that, the SD versions of the Sky Movies channels are pretty dire.
I'm not sure how unbiased this review is - it's from a forum for MythTV and reads like a promotion it to some degree. It also leads with the negatives rather than positives.
Maybe someone with access to a TiVo can review this review? I know VM are tight on confidentiality but it would be interesting to know a little more. I can be contacted via

December 20, 2010

Best new US series of 2010?

It's not showing in HD, but over on Five USA this week and next they're repeating the first season of the excellent Justified at 11pm every night. Highly recommended.

December 18, 2010

Another TiVo review and more pics (Pocket-lint)

Interesting hands-on review and more pictures of Virgin Media TiVo on Pocket-lint.
(And just three stars for Toy Story 3??? Maybe TiVo isn't so bright after all!)

December 16, 2010

Bad week for Virgin Media in the Nialli household

First the random rebooting of my aged SA V+.
Then last night I found that the V+ had only recorded 13 minutes of the last episode of Any Human Heart from C4HD (but said that it had all 1h30). Mercifully it was on 4OD, albeit only in standard def.
Then this morning I got up extra early to watch The Ashes on Sky Sports HD, only to find no TV service whatsoever in Area 21.
Not a happy bunny.
(Incidentally, Virgin Media's new Help & Support Forum is a good place to report and track service problems - much easier than the 151 option.)

December 14, 2010

Interesting posts over on the TiVo blog

The new TiVo blog that first appeared earlier this month is proving an interesting read, so much so that I've added a feed from it on the right hand side of this blog so you can track the latest stories. A couple of posts this week are worth checking out. I hope "Admin" can keep up his frequent posting (and enthusiasm!) - I don't know how he and Media Boy find the time.

December 12, 2010

SA V+ - random reboots when watching HD channels

Long-term readers of this blog will know that I'm holding out for the TiVo box rather than trading in my troublesome SA V+ for a Samsung, but it's getting increasingly difficult to be patient and logical about this.
This week my V+ has rebooted itself a several times, sometimes when it's recording an HD programme whilst I'm watching another, twice when I have just been watching an HD channel. There's not much rhyme or reason to it, but needless to say this rebooting has ruined a few recordings and the five minutes' reboot time is proving increasingly frustrating. It appears to be happening more and more frequently, notably since we added Sky Movies and Sports HD and watch so little SD now. Mrs Nialli not happy. Nialli not happy. Teen Nialli not over the moon either.
Does anyone else experience this? If it wasn't for the 50+ hours on the V+ stored up (actually a lot less thanks to a fair amount being HD) I'd look to exchange it before Christmas, but much of that has been recorded to be enjoyed over Chrimbo, so I'm reluctant to let it go just yet. I could transfer programmes on to my old external DVD/HDD Panasonic, but the PQ drop is noticable even from SD.
And, of course, if I do ring Virgin Media, there's no guarantee that I'd get a Samsung as a replacement either.
So I'll have to make do, which is not what I should be doing as I'm shelling out over £100 a month for the service as a VIP50. Normally I'm not an early adopter of new software or hardware (I do too much of that in my day job for the thrill to outweigh the practicalities of a stable service) but for me, the TiVo upgrade, whatever it costs, cannot come soon enough.

December 11, 2010

Sky moves its HD channels up the EPG

Sky is to launch a separate EPG numbering system for channels broadcasting both SD and HD versions. From February 1, 2011 Sky will run both its “Standard Bouquet” and the new “HD Swap Bouquet”. It means that channels with an HD simulcast that has been allocated a number further down the Sky EPG will be able to take the slot held by the SD counterpart, but only in HD homes.
I don't expect Virgin Media to follow suit, as with the introduction of the TiVo interface the channel numbers become less relevant to viewers. However it does make me wonder though how much longer Sky will continue to broadcast SD versions of its own channels - if they wanted more customers to stump up for the monthly HD subs charge then I wouldn't put it passed Sky to make Sky1 or Sky Atlantic an HD only channel.
Still no official word on the availability of Sky Atlantic on Virgin Media btw.

December 07, 2010

How clever is TiVo?

A couple of posts from Cable Forum that go some way to explain what the fuss is about. First, Tony Hoyle:
Tivo's recording is smart.. for example if your series links clash it'll automatically reschedule another recording for later (the one you want 'now' and the one you want 'later' is settable using priorities).
It picks up on things you like and suggests other things. You catch a lot of new series that way (I often miss lots of stuff because nobody tells me about it until it's nearly on its last episode, then some says 'have seen zzz.. it's really good' and I've missed the lot. Never happened to me with Tivo - invariably it'd suggested the series before anyone even mentioned it - and I found a load of stuff before anyone else).
Wishlists can be set on individual actors, or genres, or all sorts of other information (it's the rich EPG that allows Tivo to be so smart).
Apps and stuff don't interest me that much, although the Tivo ipad interface sounds pretty nice.
And yes, Tivo is worth it. With a Tivo you view TV in a different way - instead of worrying about things like schedules and channels you can just look at what's available, watch some, thumb them up/down and never have to look at the EPG.. that's Tivo's job.. like a personal butler.
Secondly, Mimar:
I think its always been difficult to explain the benefits of TiVo in writing but a lot easier to demo to friends, especially after Sky plus was launched and people were a bit more aware.
For me, its always been about the basics plus the advantage of the intelligent system built in.
For example, it allows you to prioritise the programs that you like and will then go out of its way to ensure they are all recorded.
If say House was on at 9pm and Ncis was also on at 9pm and Ncis was higher in your order of preferred shows it would record Ncis . . . . but then it realises Ncis is repeated at 01.00am so it would record House at 9pm and also pick up Ncis at its later time ensuring it avoids the clash but also records both shows. This is of course just an example as twin or triple tuners will allow for most clashes to be avoided but they do still happen and its the way TiVo learns to fix these issues (by itself) that quickly teaches you to have faith in it.
It's great to find it has also recorded a rock documentary (on an obscure channel) that you were unaware was listed but it has picked it up anyway because you watched an Old Grey Whistle Test special four weeks ago.

December 03, 2010

New VM TiVo blog

There's a new TiVo blog appeared - not sure who's putting it together but if you want to check it out it can be found at

December 02, 2010

Call me eagle eyed or sad but...

If you watch the demo on Virgin's Tivo site, there are two little things that caught my eye:
At around the two minute point when it shows South Park there's a reference to channel 733 Bravo HD in the bottom right of the screen - not a channel we'll ever see now that Sky has ditched the brand, so maybe much of the demo is from a US cable's listings?
Similarly, around the three minute mark there's a search which throws up "Boardwalk Empire". I think again this is from US listings, but the optimist in me would love it to be for Sky Atlantic HD on my new TiVo box early in 2011...

Virgin Media Investors presentation

Virgin Media Chief Exec Neil Berkett has just made another presentation to investors in City. The full slides are now online: Virgin Media Investors Day. Here are some of the new services confirmed in the presentation:
  • Main TiVo launch next year.
  • Aim to have 80 HD channels within 3 years.
  • 100mb to be formally launched in next few days.
  • Broadband tiers to be upgraded next year.
  • More TiVo boxes next year with different (smaller) hard drive sizes.
  • A TiVo remote with qwerty keyboard alluded to.
  • Free calls from VM mobiles back to VM landlines.
  • A phone credit system. If you have a sub (triple-play?) to VM services, you can use that to get discounts off mobile calls.
  • Lots more TiVo apps to come, will launch with Facebook, Twitter, ebay and others.
  • VM director descibes the launch of tivo as "first rung on the ladder" "lots more to come in the future."
  • Should be able to watch content from different TiVo boxes throughout the home in January.
  • Ability to control TiVo and watch home content on mobile devices
(Thanks to Horizon on Cable Forum for the info.)

December 01, 2010

TiVo launch press coverage

An early review and plenty of new pictures of both the VM TiVo box and user interface on TechRadar
Virgin Media has also confirmed that the TiVo iPad App will launch in the UK in 2011 as well.
More press:
The Guardian
What HiFi
Financial Times
and proving it really exists, CNet's Crave has photos of it in their front room"

Virgin's TiVo site

Check out the official TiVo website from Virgin. Found the demo video a bit in your face, but the lady in the Intro video is very watchable...
You can register interest too, although it's now saying "early 2011" launch.

TiVo: £199 + £40 install for new customers

Official Virgin Media press release
Virgin Media launches the UK’s first next-generation entertainment platform
  • Game-changing interface brings together the best of TV, on-demand and web through a single box
  • Unique content discovery and personalisation tools
  • A world of apps for the living room
Virgin Media has today unveiled details of Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo®, the UK’s first next-generation entertainment platform.
The new service will lead a much-anticipated revolution in the way people find and enjoy their favourite content. An easy-to-use graphical interface will combine the live TV schedule with catch-up TV, a huge library of on-demand programming and popular web-based applications alongside a market-leading personal video recorder. As a result, Virgin Media customers will never miss out on great programmes and will find it easier than ever to discover new types of entertainment to match their tastes and preferences.
The platform will be supercharged by Virgin Media’s unparalleled digital network, ensuring guaranteed quality of service, whether watching in Standard Definition, High Definition or 3D. This also means that - unlike other internet enabled TV services - customers will be able to watch what they want at the click of a button, rather than waiting for time-consuming downloads. As Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo utilises dedicated channels of bandwidth, the user’s viewing choice will not come at the expense of their broadband connection, so households can watch and surf simultaneously without interruption.
Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media, said: “This is a landmark moment in the UK’s digital revolution and vividly illustrates why Virgin Media is the only company who can provide the ultimate digital lifestyle. For the first time, viewers will have a truly personalised viewing experience so they can get the most out of the wonderful worlds of the internet and TV all in one place. We’re really excited to bring our customers what is just the first of successive generations of transformational services based on this unique TiVo-powered platform.”
The game changing platform features a highly intelligent recommendations engine which will learn to predict the type of shows that a particular customer loves and, just like a personal shopper, will recommend great content on offer. The superior search technology will find films, music, TV shows and online content as well as providing rich programme information and details about the actors and directors, allowing viewers to discover even more content connected to the cast and production. The user will be able to create a WishList™ search based on a particular show, theme, actor or director and all future content relevant to that will be automatically recorded.
The iconic peanut-shaped TiVo remote control will also give viewers the chance to rate shows through the instantly accessible TiVo ‘thumbs up/thumbs down™’ buttons. Using this feature to help ensure even greater accuracy, the intelligent service will provide suggested shows and store them in the ‘My Shows’ folder – so Virgin Media customers will never miss out, even when they didn’t set a recording.
As well as planning TV viewing over the next week, the service allows viewers to scroll backwards by up to seven days in the TV Guide and access catch up TV and programming information instantly. This will ensure catch up TV becomes simply a seamless extension of live TV viewing.
Through its dedicated 10Mb cable broadband modem, which is built into the personal video recorder, the new platform will also bring the ever-growing popularity of the app store to the living room for the first time, doing for TV what the iPhone and Android have done for the mobile phone. Built on an Adobe Flash-based platform, the latest videos, social networking and information apps will be updated regularly. The service launches initially with apps from major web brands including catch-up TV from BBC iPlayer, videos from YouTube, shopping from the online marketplace eBay, Tweets from Twitter and photos from sites such as Facebook, and the app line up will expand over the next several months.
The service will be supported by a brand new set-top box offering 1 terabyte of storage – up to 500 hours of standard definition programming – as well as access to 4,600 hours of TV shows, movies and music on demand. In due course, there will also be the facility to set recordings remotely via online and mobile devices.
Featuring cutting edge hardware design, the Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo box will have three tuners*, allowing viewers to record two channels whilst watching a third so recording conflicts become a thing of the past. The future-proofed service will automatically be updated with new features and functionality as they become available.
Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo will begin to roll-out from mid-December. Standard price of £199**, plus £26.50 per month for the XL TiVo package which features over 160 channels, an unrivalled TV on demand library and access to all standard HD channels. For further information, or to register for interest in the Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo service, visit:
* The service is launching with two tuners and will be updated with three tuners in early 2011.
** Standard £40 installation costs apply.

Update: According to Virgin's Twitter account, existing customers pricing details are yet to be released (thanks Rich99) 

TV Choice On Demand additions

There's a new category in the TV Choice On Demand line up: US Show Box Sets. So far, the first seasons of 30 Rock, House, Heroes, Lipstick Jungle and a few other NBC/Universal series have appeared in SD with some shows also available in HD. They look like they'll be there until the end of the year at least.
As always with On Demand, they're not appearing necessarily in full straight away.

November 28, 2010

Virgin Media TiVo prices

Media Boy's Insider says
(Prices for TiVo):

Existing Customers
VIP= Free - Set-up fee £0 - Install fee £0 - Monthly fee waived on XL
XL TV/Triple = Free - Set-up fee £0 - Install fee £0 - Monthly fee waived for 12 months
Existing XL TV= Discounted - Set-up fee £149 - Install fee £40 - Monthly fee £3/pm

New Customers
(coming from competitor) Set-up fee £149 - Install fee £40 - Monthly fee £3/pm
(new intake) Set-up fee £199 - Install fee £40 - Monthly fee £3/pm

These are all subject to change but, this close to to launch I highly doubt it.

Virgin Media upgrading broadband services

Media Boy's insider says:
100Mb Tier of Service - four areas confirmed for launch on 7th Dec
He also confirms that as of next year Virgin will start to provide a free upgrade on the 20Mbs service to 30Mbs including a 3Mbs upstream.
This will be a free upgrade just like the 2-10Mbs and will start to roll out by the end of Q1 2011

November 23, 2010

November 21, 2010

The Future of TV - the death of linear TV?

This week's Click on BBC News had an interesting piece on the future of TV. No mention of Virgin, Sky or TiVo but more about the rapidly expanding alternatives such as Apple TV, Google TV and the high-end games consoles. I also found this Bloomberg story on how cable companies in the US are having to adapt to the challenges of alternative TV availability and the recession by offering lower cost bundles of channels. Interesting.
Mind you, Wired Magazine was suggesting a similar revolution in 2003 and is still talking about it in 2010.
Are the days of linear services on Sky and VM numbered? Will the future be, sports excepted, all On Demand? Who's best placed to benefit, Sky with its programming or Virgin with its broadband superiority? Discuss...

TiVo rollout update

MediaBoy's Insider is suggesting it won't be until March 2011 until there's a full roll out of TiVo, which is disappointing but I guess only to be expected.

November 17, 2010

From Cable Forum and PocketLint

This post on Cable Forum caught my eye this lunchtime:
"Sky sports red button = To arrive in January 2011, thats 100% btw
ITV 2/3/4 HD will launch in the first quarter of next year
Sky Atlantic will launch the same time as on the Sky platform
CBS Drama will launch in the first quarter There are no more exclusives for Sky anymore, The basic HD channels are in the process of arriving."
Also, checkout this story on PocketLint about the TiVo
Virgin Media has unveiled the first glimpse of its forthcoming TiVo-powered box which Pocket-lint understands to be on the back of installers' vans for initial roll-out in December. It is planned that a select number of Virgin Media customers will have the product in time for Christmas.

It is unknown at present how much the box will cost, either for the kit itself or installation, but Pocket-lint expects that to become apparent over the next couple of weeks.

The TiVo-powered service may also be available in limited numbers to begin with, as there isn't much time for the company's engineers up and down the country to install the devices before the holidays. But it is expected that availability will become much more widespread in the new year.

November 16, 2010

Virgin's TiVo - first pic

Virgin Media's own little teaser for the TiVo. (Thanks to Nial and Johnny for the links)

November 12, 2010

Spooks will return ... in HD

Did anyone else notice at the end of Monday's episode of Spooks the teaser for the next series (2011) was advertised as being on BBC1 HD? About bloody time too.

November 11, 2010

Rubicon cancelled before it hits the UK

The much-touted, critically praised Rubicon has been cancelled. US cable station AMC has announced that it will not be renewed for a second season so BBC4 and BBC HD will be showing the first and only season when it premieres the show shortly. A shame - I haven't seen it yet but it was regarded as a slow burning quality drama,  much like AMC's Mad Men and Breaking Bad. 
Not all bad news though from AMC: Walking Dead (showing here on FX HD) has been renewed for a second season.

Catch-up with Demand Five on Virgin Media

FIVE, FIVER and FIVE USA shows coming to Virgin Media’s Catch Up TV service
 Virgin Media today announced a multiscreen deal with Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd to bring programming from all of FIVE’s linear TV channels to its TV, online and mobile video on demand platforms from November. The addition of Demand Five to its pioneering TV On Demand service at no extra cost to customers makes Virgin Media the only TV provider to offer catch-up services from all four main terrestrial broadcasters, with some shows also available in HD. 
The new deal will see a range of quality shows added to Virgin Media’s ever expanding TV On Demand portfolio, from FIVE’s home grown shows such as The Gadget Show and Fifth Gear as well as popular US dramas including The Mentalist, Grey’s Anatomy and CSI: Miami.
(Official Virgin Media press release.)

November 06, 2010

Disappointed by C4's The Event?

Me too - what a lethargic sub-Flash Forward waste of disc space. Try FX's The Walking Dead instead (FX HD, 10pm Fridays) - far superior and genuinely scary.
For those who missed this week's ad-free opening episode it is being repeated on Sunday (10pm), Monday (11pm) and Wednesday at 11pm.

TiVo in just over a minute

November 04, 2010

Now get really excited...

Here's the TiVo Premiere interface...

A little more info on the TiVo V+ box

Thanks to Media Boy and his insider for the following:
Virgin Media will launch the new TiVo powered STB to internal staff for trials next week.
The new box, as stated in the press release will feature 1TB of storage. After launch we will see the integration of the new Spotify service and Facebook, along with the option to stream and back-up recorded content to LAN devices (laptop and other STB etc), just like the US TiVo.
A new "peanut" remote will also be introduced and will differ slightly from the standard TiVo remote. Remote record will also be added.
The service will use its own dedicated modem (10Mb) for online content. The new HD EPG looks great and the overall feel is just like the current TiVo Premiere in the US.
Very interesting. The picture by the way is of the US TiVo Premiere, not the Virgin Media version - so that's what a "peanut" remote looks like!

November 03, 2010

BBC One HD launches tonight at 7pm

And they've put together an FAQ on it

Virgin announces Tivo 1 Tb V+

Press release: 
Virgin Media announces details of new TiVo-powered next generation connected TV service
  • New HD/3D set top box will offer 1TB of personal storage
  • Thousands of hours of TV on Demand instantly available
  • Dedicated internal modem to bring internet services and apps direct to TV
Virgin Media today announced the first details of its upcoming TiVo-powered HD/3D set top box which will give customers a whopping 1 TeraByte of storage for personal recordings.  The new HD/3D set top box will launch alongside Virgin Media’s new TiVo-powered next generation connected TV service scheduled for later this year, and will be capable of storing up to 500 hours of content. When coupled with Virgin Media’s pioneering TV on Demand service, the new service will give UK consumers unrivalled access to over 4,600 hours of TV shows, movies and music videos, including hundreds of hours of HD and 3D entertainment, plus catch up TV from the terrestrial broadcasters, all available instantly.
Powered by Virgin Media’s unique fibre optic network, the box will also feature its own dedicated internal modem able to deliver HD video and other online services without impacting customers’ regular broadband connections. As a result, Virgin Media’s new TiVo-powered service will not only be able to deliver linear TV alongside an unbeatable instant TV on demand offering but will also be able to support compelling online video in HD straight to customers’ TVs without having to sacrifice other online activities when in use.
Competitors’ ‘connected TV’ products rely on just one central broadband connection, typically DSL, making it difficult for families to watch online TV or TV on Demand and take advantage of the internet at the same time. With Virgin Media, a typical family enjoying the new TiVo-powered TV service alongside Virgin Media's ultrafast 50Mb broadband connection will be able to enjoy a seamless experience with incredible connectivity, allowing the whole family to watch, surf, and play, all at the same time without compromise.
Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media, said: “Virgin Media’s next generation connected TV service - powered by TiVo - and combined with our superior broadband will blow other ‘connected TV’ products out of the water. We’re really proud of our new next-generation TV service which will appeal to anyone and everyone looking for the best of live broadcast TV, catch up, on demand and internet apps and services.”
No more details yet but should be imminent "will launch [...] later this year" which, given that we're already into November means in the next month or so. 
I've no idea what pricing will be; Sky's 1Tb Sky+ is £249 plus a £15 install for existing customers, but that's no real indicator as Sky customers then own their box, Virgin Media customers won't. Also, the TiVo service is a subscription service in the US, not sure if that will hit us or not. (Tivo US pricing can be found at More news, hopefully, to follow really soon.

November 01, 2010

BBC HD boss Danielle Nagler talks Picture Quality

With Wednesday's launch of the BBC One HD simulcast, Danielle Nagler has been discussing the thorny question of the picture quality on BBC HD with Digital Spy: BBC HD's Nagler on... picture quality.

October 28, 2010

18 free HD movies this weekend

A reminder: Virgin Media customers can watch 18 movies from Saturday 30th October 6am until Monday 1st November 6am on Sky Movies Showcase Channel 403 and Sky Movies Showcase HD channel 433. You don't need to pre-register, nor be a Sky Movies subscriber.
Here are the movies showing:
Saturday 30th October
6.15am  You're So Cupid
8am  Rugrats In Paris: The Movie
10am  Cats & Dogs
12pm  Race To Witch Mountain
1.45pm  Alex Zane's Guest List: Simon Pegg
2.15pm  Paul Blart: Mall Cop
4pm  Cats &Dogs
6pm  Confessions Of A Shopaholic
8pm  Fast & Furious
10pm  Paul Blart: Mall Cop
11.45pm  Transporter 3

Sunday 31st October
2.05am  Fast & Furious
4.05am  You're So Cupid
6.10am  Coraline
8am  Bedtime Stories
10am  Confessions Of A Shopaholic
12pm  Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Season 3, Episode 1
12.30pm  Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Season 3, Episode 2
1.20pm  Bolt  *Special showing courtesy of Disney Cinemagic*
3pm  A Bug's Life  *Special showing courtesy of Disney Cinemagic*
4.40pm  Brother Bear  *Special showing courtesy of Disney Cinemagic*
6.15pm Coraline
8pm  Bedtime Stories
9.45pm  Seven Pounds

Monday 1st November
12am Righteous Kill
1.45am Forrest Gump
4.15am Stone Of Destiny

Syfy cancels Caprica

The US Syfy network has announced that the low-rated Battlestar Galactica prequel has been cancelled. Hopefully Sky 1 HD will carry the remaining episodes of season one before too long. Or maybe it will air them on Sky Atlantic?

October 27, 2010

Added to the VMHD blog

I've added two new features to this blog:
VMHD Most Popular Posts 
These are the five most-read posts on the blog. Most visitors just hit the home page, but where people have gone to specific posts these are the most popular in the three years the blog has been running. Interesting that several of them report things that were rumoured by reliable sources but have yet to happen (ITV2, 1Tb V+, Sky News in HD).
What Nialli is watching on his V+
The HD series I'm recording as Series Links at the moment.Interesting that the only two series not available in HD are Spooks and Match of the Day. Some series I don't record in HD as I will take a while to getting round to them AND THERE JUST AINT ENOUGH SPACE ON THE DISC!!!

BBC One HD on channel 108, BBC HD now on 187

Information page on ch.108

Great BBC advertisement for Virgin Media 50Mb broadband

Heard this on Radio 5Live this morning. Mr Berkett (for that is he commenting in the background) must be well-chuffed - great advertising on the BBC.
It was part of the news story on Virgin's launch of 100mb home broadband btw.

Sky Atlantic

Just got an email from Cindy Rose, Virgin Media's Executive Director of Digital Entertainment, on Sky Atlantic. She says

Regarding Sky Atlantic, we are in discussions with Sky regarding this channel now.  We know little more about the channel and its programming than we have read in the press.  It is entirely up to Sky as to whether they make the channel available to us and at what price.  As always, we will do our very best to continue to offer our customers the best entertainment content available, but as I'm sure you'll appreciate, there are no guarantees.  As soon as we have something to announce, rest assured we will.
I'm still confident that we'll get Sky Atlantic at launch and that Digital Spy have got things wrong in their report on Sky's EPG announcement earlier this week.
One would have hoped that there would have been something in the carriage deal agreed with Sky for the Sky Basics and the VMTV stable that would ensure that VM customers got new or additional channels if others were closed. For the record, since the deals we've lost Sky Real Lives, Sky Real Lives 2 (and the promised HD versions of both), Virgin (now Channel) One, +1, Bravo, +1 and Bravo 2. That's seven SD channels down and two HD that we were expecting, and the only new one announced, Sky Atlantic, we may not be getting. In fact, who's to say that when Living becomes Sky Living we don't lose that one too? And Sky Living +1 and Sky Living 2? And if Sky 1 becomes "Sky One" again?
Alarmist I know, but I just thought I'd throw it out there - as I say, I'm confident Cindy and the VM team won't let us down.

Virgin Media Q3 2010 results

From the press release:
Revenue growth in all segments drives strong financial performance

  • Total revenue up 6.4% to £978m
    • Revenue growth in all areas, including strong growth in both Mobile and Business
  • Fourth successive quarter of double-digit percentage OCF2 growth, up 11.0% to £387m
  • Operating income doubled to £102m from £51m
  • Free cash flow3 up 8.6% to £119m; last 12 months FCF up 18.2% versus previous 12 months
Operational performance driven by continued ARPU and customerincreases

  • Cable ARPU up 3.7% to a record £46.38
  • Cable customers up 1.9% with 14,100 net new cable customers in Q3, up from 8,100 a year ago
    • Cable gross additions of 236,000 up 10.4%
  • Triple-play penetration increased to 62.7% and quad-play penetration increased to 11.5%, reflecting focus on bundling
  • Pre-registration for UK's fastest widely available broadband opens today; 100Mb broadband service further extends Virgin Media's speed advantage
Continued improvement of Company's capital structure

  • Accelerated Stock Buyback programme of £125m completed; Board authority remains for £250m of further buybacks
  • Effective increase of Convertible strike price from $19.22 to $35
    • Execution of conversion hedges against 90% of convertible notes
    • Would reduce future dilution by 21m shares, assuming $35 stock price in 2016
    • Existing convertible noteholders unaffected
Neil Berkett, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Media, said: "Our continued focus on exploiting our strategic advantages with the resulting multiple opportunities for revenue growth, as well as robust financial discipline has delivered another strong financial performance this quarter. We are extending our lead in broadband even further with the imminent availability of 100Mb as consumer demand for consistently faster broadband grows."
Strengthening "Digital Entertainment"
We grew our TV base by 14,800 in the quarter to 3.77m customers. These viewers continue to enjoy our market-leading video-on-demand (VOD) service with well over half of them using and watching VOD as part of their everyday lives.
We have continued to aggressively expand our High Definition (HD) offering. Just over a year ago, we carried one HD channel, but we have increased this to 28 currently, including Sky Sports HD and Sky Movies HD. Basic HD channels are available to customers for no additional monthly fee and, as a result, our HD base is growing rapidly. We added 222,100 HD customers in the quarter to reach an installed base of 1.4m and HD penetration of 38%. During the quarter, we also added over 100,000 Sky premium subscribers to reach a total of 725,000 which included 52,000 customers who have subscribed to Sky Sports HD and/or Sky Movies HD since launch in August.
In September we launched the UK's first 3D VOD TV service to be commercially available to millions of homes. We have an exclusive partnership in the UK with Samsung Electronics to explore and develop opportunities in the 3D marketplace; including expanding the number of our retail stores where 3D is showcased.
Work continues with TiVo to develop and launch our next generation TV service, which is on track to be installed in the first homes in the fourth quarter.

October 25, 2010

Sky Atlantic and on demand

It looks increasingly like Virgin Media will carry the new Sky Atlantic HBO/AMC imports channel. Why do I think this? Well if it was going to be a satellite exclusive they'd be shouting about it big time, yet the investors statement made this morning simply says:
Sky Atlantic – From early 2011, the brand new channel will provide an exclusive home to some of the most eagerly anticipated shows intelevision, including all of HBO's new series such as the already critically acclaimed Boardwalk Empire and the forthcoming Game of Thrones,  Luck and Tremé. Sky Atlantic will also be the exclusive home of Mad Men from 2011.  
Plenty of use of the word "exclusive", but nothing about it being exclusive to Sky customers. Fingers' crossed.
Also announced last week was the launch of Sky's internet-based Anytime+ video on demand service, which is likely to be good news for those of us waiting for Sky One programmes to start appearing on Virgin Media On Demand as promised. Whilst Sky were never going to let VM have this as a service before Sky got its on demand act together, presumably now they're launching the Sky service we're finally going to see the likes of Fringe and Modern Family on demand now too.

Virgin adds more HD On Demand

From the Virgin Press Release: "Virgin Media today announced a deal with NBC Universal International Television Distribution for the video-on-demand rights in the UK to a broad selection of NBC Universal series. Under the terms of the agreement, these titles will be offered as new content across Virgin Media’s three entertainment platforms; TV, online and mobile. From December 1st Virgin Media customers will be able to access past seasons of shows such as House, Heroes, The Office (U.S.) and 30 Rock, whether in HD at home through its TV On Demand service or via its online and mobile ‘Virgin Media Player’ services."
I'm surprised that the announcement makes no mention of us getting the Universal HD channel (previously known as "Hallmark") - maybe that will follow?

October 21, 2010

BBC One HD launches November 3rd

Here's the BBC press release

The BBC today announces that BBC One HD will launch at 7pm on Wednesday 3 November across all HD platforms: Freesat channel 108, Freeview channel 50, Sky channel 143 and Virgin Media channel 108.

The new high definition (HD) channel kicks off with a series of programmes made in true HD: The One Show, followed by Wallace And Gromit's World Of Invention, the new series from award-winning Aardman Animations, as well as some food for thought with Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers and Jimmy's Food Factory.

The Apprentice and Film 2010 will also show in HD that evening.

It is also announced today that the BBC's award-winning continuing drama EastEnders will broadcast in HD for the first time on Christmas Day, allowing viewers to catch all the drama in Albert Square in even more vivid detail.

EastEnders follows Holby City, which made the move to HD on 18 October. It will be shown on the BBC's existing HD channel, until BBC One HD launches in November.

The new HD channel will simulcast a network version of the BBC One schedule, with the majority of peaktime programmes in HD, including The Apprentice, Strictly Come Dancing, Children In Need, Antiques Roadshow, Countryfile, The Graham Norton Show and The Royal Variety Show.

October 14, 2010

Spotify coming to Virgin Media?

Not sure exactly how this is going to manifest itself, but according to the Telegraph:
A source close to Spotify revealed: “Spotify and Virgin Media are close to concluding a partnership deal. The finer details are not yet known, but Spotify will be offering new tools and content exclusively to Virgin customers as part of the arrangement."
A Virgin Media spokesperson declined to comment on any of its deal negotiations, or shed any more light on when its own music service would launch, but said: “Virgin Media is forging new ground in music and whilst we are currently in talks with numerous parties, we want to ensure that any service provides a truly compelling offering for both consumers and industry."

BBC One HD testing on Virgin Media

BBC One HD is testing in some areas on Virgin Media. Channel scheduled to launch in around a month. BBC HD will subsequently screen programming from BBC 2, 3, 4, CBeebies and CBBC. May include some BBC News programmes too.
Incidentally, Virgin Media's Q3 results are at the end of the month: expect announcements of service improvements over the next couple of weeks as a precursor. ITV 2, 3 and 4 HD? TiVo? A 1Tb V+ ? Sky Atlantic carriage? Sky Arts HD? Sky News HD? 100mb home broadband? Anyone's guess.

October 12, 2010

The 1Tb V+: maybe December?

I haven't been able to confirm the availability of the 1Tb V+ with anyone at Virgin - BenMcr over on Cable Forum says that it's not launching until December, which would appear to be borne out by this news item from What Satellite
Virgin’s TiVo-powered PVR will have three HD tuners, terabyte storage and could host iPhone-style apps.
The successor to Virgin’s V+ PVR is scheduled to launch by the end of 2010, and will use the much-lauded TiVo operating system to combine broadcast, on-demand and internet TV services.
It will have its own broadband modem, drawing bandwidth from Virgin’s cable network independent of customer broadband connections, and able to deliver three HD channels at once.
Virgin said user-available storage will be ‘on parity’ with other high end PVRs like the 1TB Sky+HD, in addition to hundreds of hours of HD on-demand, including BBC iPlayer’s hi-def stream.
Which seems to contradict what Allan and Kathy have heard from Virgin Media.  

October 11, 2010

1TB V+ launching?

Allan has commented on this blog:
Just been told yesterday by Virginmedia that the 1TB boxes will be available this month
Can anyone verify this?

October 09, 2010

Support for Big Red

Cable Forum for me is the best of the online forums for discussion on Virgin Media, but some people there have seen it their right to abuse our friend Big Red because ITV 2 HD didn't launch on October 7th.
Pathetic. Big Red has good, reliable sources but even the best can sometimes get information that is subject to change by VM (or the channel providers). Holding him personally responsible for a channel launch is pathetic, much like that slagging off of Neil Berkett a while back which bordered on defamation of character - no-one deserves some of the abuse served up ocassionaly on the Digital Spy forums and it's disappointing to see similar on Cable Forum.
I sincerely hope Big Red doesn't stop posting - Media Boy and I have had similar snide remarks in the past. I've learned to live with it and I'm sure MB has too. And as for Mr Berkett, he has surely proven his critics wrong this year with the delivery on his promise of 30+ HD channels.

October 05, 2010

UTV HD arrives for Northern Ireland

The press release:
Virgin Media has today announced that its customers in Northern Ireland will now be able to enjoy UTV in stunning high-definition. Available at no extra cost to all HD enabled Virgin Media digital TV customers with a V+ HD or V HD box, UTV HD will be available on channel 113.
UTV HD is the latest HD channel to launch on Virgin Media's TV platform, and follows the launch of Scottish regional channel STV HD. Virgin Media is currently the only TV service providing these regional HD channels to its customers.
Virgin Media has launched twenty-two HD channel's this year with BBC 1 HD also due to launch in the coming months.
No official confirmation on ITV 2 HD yet.

Google TV preview in the US

Interesting, and probably more than a little similar to Virgin Media's forthcoming TiVo interface. I'm a little sceptical that it will take off - the Apple TV service has been around for years and has had little success in Europe or the US for that matter. If it has no PVR capability or broadcast integration it won't be a Sky/Virgin Media challenger, especially if the content is premium priced, only from the services of Netflix/Amazon/Android Market and heavily dependent on fast broadband connectivity.

October 04, 2010

More new HD series on their way

America's Next Top Model 
Mon, Oct 11 9pm Living HD
Thu, Oct 14 10pm Living HD
Eastbound & Down
Thu, Nov 11 10pm FX HD
Family Guy
Thu, Nov 4 9pm FX HD
Haven (New)
Thu, Oct 7 10pm Syfy HD
Thu, Oct 7 9pm Living HD
The Walking Dead (New)
Fri, Nov 5 10pm FX HD
Vampire Diaries
Tue, Oct 5 9pm ITV2 (HD channel launched Oct 7)
Mon, Oct 11 9pm ITV1 HD

Sky 3D and the Ryder Cup

Anyone pick up on the irony of heavy rain spoiling Sky's 3D parade at the weekend? Normally it just affects those Sky customers with slightly misaligned dishes, but this time no-one got to see the action.
Anyway, if you want to read one of the more entertaining commentaries on the great 3D channel launch have a read of Martin Kelner's column in The Guardian.
Also, has anyone watched Virgin's 3D offering? I'd be interested in posting any comments on the service you may have.

Super Hi Vision at the BBC

BBC Click has a piece on the BBC's R&D work Super Hi Vision this week. 16 times greater resolution than current HD.

October 02, 2010

ITV2 HD launching October 7th on Virgin Media

According to a post from Big Red over on Cable Forum:
ITV2 HD - 7th Oct
Universal HD - Oct (channel formerly known as Hallmark)
BBC1 HD, ITV3 HD and ITV4 HD - Nov
Sky Arts 1 HD, Sky Arts 2 HD and ESPN America HD - Before end of Year
UPDATE: The launch of ITV 2 HD has been delayed.

October 01, 2010

Sky to launch Sky Atlantic

No word yet as to whether Virgin Media will carry this, just too early to say. The word "exclusive" is used repeatedly in the Sky Press Release, but only in reference to the series it will be showing, not to it only being available to Sky customers.
So on the day we gain Sky 1 HD, Sky announces it will launch another channel to carry the premium US content and we're none the wiser as to whether we will get it in either SD or HD on cable. Ho hum. I suspect we won't hear any confirmation on Virgin Media carriage until a lot nearer the launch next year.
From The Guardian
BSkyB is to launch a new subscription channel, Sky Atlantic, that will be home to US imports including Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire and Treme.
Sky Atlantic will have the UK TV premieres of HBO shows including Martin Scorsese's critically lauded prohibition era drama Boardwalk Empire and The Wire co-creator David Simon's new show, Treme.BSkyB also confirmed today that it has secured the exclusive UK broadcast rights to AMC's Mad Men from next year's series five for the life of the show. Mad Men will also be broadcast on Sky Atlantic.
Other HBO programmes that will premiere on Sky Atlantic include Luck, executive produced by David Milch and Michael Mann and starring Dustin Hoffman; Mildred Pierce, featuring Kate Winslet; and fantasy drama Game of Thrones. Future series of HBO shows such as Entourage and Big Love will also be shown on the channel.
BSkyB said that it could not at this stage confirm any wholesale deals with other pay-TV operators, such as Virgin Media, to carry Sky Atlantic.

September 29, 2010

Sky 1 HD arrives Friday. More to follow

No Sky News or Sky Arts channels in HD yet, but the official press release reads:
Virgin Media today announced the arrival of Sky 1 HD, due to launch on its digital TV service from October 1st, adding yet another great channel to its rapidly growing line-up of quality entertainment channels in crystal clear high definition. Available at no extra cost to all customers on Virgin Media’s incredible value ‘XL’ TV package, the addition of Sky 1 HD brings an even wider range of compelling entertainment in high definition to its customers, with further channels such as BBC 1 HD also due to launch later this year. 
Comedy and sports fans can look forward to the new series of A League of Their Own, the irreverent sports quiz show presented by James Corden, featuring team captains Jamie Redknapp and Freddie Flintoff alongside regular team-mates Georgie Thompson and John Bishop. Another brand new must see is An Idiot Abroad, featuring the escapades of Karl Pilkington as he gets dispatched on a world tour of the Seven Wonders by the mischievous Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Watch his cultural horizons expand as he learns to cope with travelling to awe-inspiring destinations such as the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu in Peru , the Taj Mahal in India and the Great Pyramids of Egypt.
Sky 1 HD drama highlights for October include top U.S. series including the critically acclaimed medical drama House starring Hugh Laurie, and forensic crime series Bones with David Boreanaz. Additionally, sci-fi fans will be spoilt with the new season of Stargate Universe and as the new season of the spectacular Fringe gets underway on Sky 1 HD.
Separately, Virgin Media customers will have another chance to catch up on the first two seasons of Fringe through Virgin Media’s pioneering TV on Demand service from October 11th. Virgin Media also carries several hundred hours of HD content on demand, all available at the touch of a button, with popular series such as Gossip Girl, Dexter and South Park as well as movies, documentaries and its brand new 3D on Demand service.

September 28, 2010

Sky1 HD coming soon info now showing on channel 123

It's up on the wrong channel (Sky 2 moves to 123 tomorrow, making room for Sky 1 HD on 122).

Form an orderly queue please

If you can't wait for 3D any longer, Virgin Media has today announced the launch of 3D Movies On Demand:
From today, all Virgin Media TV customers, with a 3D-ready set top box (V HD or V+ HD required to receive 3D content.), TV and glasses, will be able to experience exciting new 3D On Demand content for themselves, from the comfort of their home. Following successful tests of 3D technology on its fibre optic cable network and after months of public demonstrations in key Virgin Media stores, the company is now starting to offer a selection of 3D movies and TV programmes as part of its on demand TV service.
Today’s launch of 3D Movies On Demand, powered by FilmFlex, will provide a taste of things to come for Virgin Media customers as the company looks to complement its on-demand service with more movies and shows. Virgin Media will look to build its 3D portfolio over the coming months, with a diverse range of new content as more people begin to purchase 3D TVs and programme-makers look to increase the production of 3D content.
Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media, said: “We’re really excited to bring a taste of 3D to our customers in the comfort of their own homes. As we’ve already seen with the take-up of high definition programmes, viewers are continually looking for new ways to experience their favourite shows, and with the addition of 3D On Demand, they will be able to watch eye-popping movies whenever they want!”
To mark the launch of Virgin Media’s 3D On Demand service, Brit flick StreetDance 3D will be available from today for just £5.99 (for a 24 hour rental). With further 3D movies to launch over the coming months – including Garfield’s Pet Force 3D (October), Disney’s A Christmas Carol 3D (November), Step Up 3D (December) and Despicable Me 3D (early 2011), plus more titles to be announced soon.
Be still my beating heart...

September 27, 2010

Ecclestone says HD F1 set for 2011

According to Autosport, Bernie Ecclestone says Formula 1 is likely to be broadcast in High Definition as early as next year.
"I think what's being produced at the moment is very, very good but I think we'll be moving to High Definition, probably next year," Ecclestone told the BBC.
With BBC1 HD launching before the end of this year we'll have the channel for it, but the grand prix coverage is all produced by F1 themselves and Ecclestone has promised HD before and not delivered.

September 22, 2010

New US series debuts on Sky1 HD

This autumn's Sky1 line up may lack a little excitement after the conclusions of Lost, 24 and Battlestar Galactica but there are still some new seasons of US series to look forward to on our latest HD channel:
  • House season 7 Sun, Oct 3rd, 10pm
  • NCIS: Los Angeles season 2 Mon, Oct 4th, 9pm
  • Fringe season 3 Tue, Oct 5th, 10pm
  • Stargate Universe season 2 Tue, Oct 5th, 9pm
  • Modern Family season 2, Thu, Oct 7th, 8pm
  • Bones season 6 mid-Oct
  • Caprica season 1 (second half) mid-Oct

September 21, 2010

Sky 1 HD arriving on October 1st confirmed by Virgin Media

Channel 122. And...
-Virgin to move Sky 3 to Channel 180 on the 22nd of September.
-Virgin to move Sky 2 to Channel 123 on the 29th of September.
-Sky1 HD to launch on Virgin Channel 122 on October 1st.
-All Sky Movies and Sky Movies HD Channel to be made free to air for the weekend of the 30th of October.
(Thanks to MediaBoy for the additional info.)

Coming Sooner...

Good news: Blogger's spam filtering seems to be working. Let me know if any slips through but it seems to catch everything now.
Even better news: an announcement on the arrival of Sky 1 HD is anticipated this month. I've heard now from a number of sources that the last week of September is likely to see the Sky basics in HD arrive on Virgin. As always, plans can change but as I've now heard this from three different sources it looks like it's a case of "Coming Sooner" rather than "Coming Later".

September 20, 2010

Sky Sports 1 & 2 HD free for all this Sunday

Those unsure whether £7 a month is good value for the Sky Movies and Sports channels in high def may like to tune in to channels 517 and 518 this Sunday and see what the fuss is about - both the SD and HD versions of Sky Sports 1 and 2 are free to all VM customers on the 26th. The two main highlights are Wolves vs Aston Villa and Newcastle vs Stoke on SS1 with some Spanish footie in the evening and golf on SS2. Not the sporting highlights of the season to be truthful, but a taster ne'ertheless.
Incidentally, Sky's NFL coverage last night had some of the sharpest HD pictures I've seen to date, far more detail than Sky's own Premiership coverage.

September 17, 2010

Sky delays Boardwalk Empire until 2011

Sky's exclusive deal for new HBO series doesn't seem to guarantee near-US-scheduled premieres for major new series.  The eagerly-anticipated Scorsese gangster drama Boardwalk Empire debuts in the US this weekend but so far Sky has only promised that it will be broadcast in the UK "in 2011". Full report in The Independent.
I expect Sky to premiere these HBO series on Sky Premiere rather than on Sky One, using these big original dramas to boost the movie channel subs much like they did with The Pacific (and HBO do in the US - HBO is first and foremost a movie channel). Which is good news for those with the Sky HD bundle, even if the wait looks like it could be far longer than many anticipated.

September 16, 2010

BSkyB closing Bravo and Channel One

BSkyB is closing two of the SD channels it recently bought from VirginMedia TV: Bravo and Channel 1 (formerly known as Virgin 1). Also going will be the associated +1s and Bravo 2. US imports showing on those channels are most likely to reappear on other Sky channels.
In the announcement BSkyB said that it has decided to focus on the Living TV channel portfolio, which will see a 25% boost to its programming budget, and the gameshow and quiz channel Challenge.
Still no official word on the arrival of the high def Sky basics but at least now there's channel 120 free on the Virgin EPG to slot Sky1 HD into.

September 14, 2010

TiVo in major deal with Samsung

From: Zacks Investment Research|
A leading provider of advanced television services and personal video recorders (PVRs), TiVo Inc. announced a partnership with the premier provider of home solution and telecommunication technologies Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.
Under the collaboration, the companies will jointly build an advanced, TiVo-ready, high definition PVR set-top box for digital video broadcasting (DVB) operators. The new PVR set top box will hit the market in 2011. Financial details on the deal were not divulged.
The advanced high definition (HD) PVR will be initially available to European DVB networks and later on will be added to non-PVR devices and additional platforms worldwide.
Samsung has licensed TiVo’s Hardware Porting Kit and the new set top box will allow operators to provide a cost effective and advanced television solution. As per the deal, Samsung’s next generation set-top box will incorporate the company’s linear television, video on demand and broadband content facilities in intuitive user interface. This will enable operators to deploy PVR set-top boxes along with TiVo’s enhanced consumer experience.
TiVo also partnered with Virgin Media, Inc. to develop interactive programmes for building middleware and interface Virgin Media’s next-generation high-definition set-top boxes in the U.K. Virgin Media will embed the TiVo DVR service into its set-top boxes and will roll out in early 2011.

September 11, 2010

Sky Movies HD - believe in MUCH better...

For me, much as I love my footie in HD now, Sky's movie channels and Film4 were always going to be the most frequently watched  of the new high def channels this year. I watch two or three movies a week, and the difference between the Sky SD and HD movies channels is amazing. It may not quite be Blu Ray but it's still tremendous, better than my upscaling DVD player and sooooo much better than the SD variants.
Last night I watched the nineties sci fi satire Starship Troopers and the PQ was incredible, especially towards the end of the film where the SD broadcasts struggle with the explosions and alien hoards. Brilliant brilliant brilliant.
Other movies I'd recommend currently showing are the Back To The Future trilogy, the Alien films, any of the Coen brothers or Tarantino movies (Kill Bill vols 1 and 2 are particularly stunning), Terminators 1 and 2 (the first just to see how fake some of the effects in the first one now look) and all four of the Indiana Jones films. Does anyone else have movies that they've now watched in HD and would recommend for sheer PQ alone?
Unfortunately, the measley disc in my V+ means I can only store a handful of HD movies at any one time, but you all know that...

September 10, 2010

Monday Night "Football" arrives on ESPN HD

We may not have ESPN America in HD on Virgin yet, but fans of the game erroneously called "football" by an entire nation will be treated to the longest-running and most successful primetime sports show in the world on ESPN HD from Monday, September 13th.
Each week ESPN will broadcast live the major Monday night clashes in the National Football League (NFL), starting with the New York Jets vs the Baltimore Ravens (at midnight), followed by the Kansas City Chiefs vs the San Diego Chargers (3am ).
To get the show on the road, ESPN will air an extended version of Monday Night Countdown from 10pm.
Previous to that, the Monday night "soccer" game on Sky Sports 1 HD is Stoke vs Villa, but I guess most eyes will be on Sky Sports 1 HD on Saturday lunchtime for Rooney and the Man U curb crawlers at Everton. Tasty.

September 02, 2010

Living HD finally launches on Sky

Now they have 50: Living HD launches today on Sky. This was part of the agreement in Sky's £160m deal for the Living TV Group (formerly known as Virgin Media TV), and VM gets the Sky HD basics (Sky1, Sky Arts 1 & 2 and Sky News) also.
So can we have them now please? Stay tuned...

September 01, 2010

Comedy Central HD live

Good news: we have Comedy Central HD now on channel 133.
As you would expect, the older shows are only in SD (and many of them are in 4:3 ration too) but today's schedule has episodes of Two and a Half Men, Samantha Who?, The King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond in high def. Tomorrow evening's South Parks are in HD (season 12 onwards) but a few movies at the weekend appear to be only in standard def.

August 29, 2010

Just had this when attempting to visit - anyone know what's going on?

Safe Browsing

Diagnostic page for

What is the current listing status for
Site is listed as suspicious - visiting this website may harm your computer.
Part of this site was listed for suspicious activity 2 time(s) over the past 90 days.
What happened when Google visited this site?
Of the 115 pages that we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 49 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time that Google visited this site was on 2010-08-29, and the last time that suspicious content was found on this site was on 2010-08-29.
UPDATE: Just checked Monday evening and appears to be back to normal now.

Returning US series

Here are the dates for some of the more popular US series returning Stateside. UK screenings are likely to follow, either same week (if on Sky1) or later.
Tuesday, Sept. 7
Sons of Anarchy, (Bravo)
Sunday, Sept. 19
Boardwalk Empire, (Sky1 - the new HBO drama)
Monday, Sept. 20
House, (Sky1)
Two and a Half Men, (Comedy Central)
Hawaii Five-0, (Bravo)
Tuesday, Sept. 21
Glee, (E4)
NCIS: Los Angeles, (Sky1)
Wednesday, Sept. 22
Modern Family, (Sky1)
Criminal Minds, (Living)
Law & Order: SVU, (Hallmark)
Cougar Town, (Living)
Thursday, Sept. 23
The Big Bang Theory,  (E4)
Bones, (Sky1)
30 Rock,  (Comedy Central)
Grey’s Anatomy, (Living)
CSI, (Five)
Fringe, (Sky1)
Private Practice, (Living)
The Mentalist, (Five)
Friday, Sept. 24
Smallville, (E4)
CSI: NY, (Five)
Supernatural, (ITV2)
Sunday, Sept. 26
The Simpsons, (Sky1)
Desperate Housewives, (C4 - 2011 UK debut probably)
Family Guy, (FX)
Dexter, (FX)
Brothers & Sisters, (E4)
Tuesday, Sept. 28
The Good Wife,  (C4)
Sunday, Oct. 3
American Dad (FX)
CSI: Miami, (Five)
Wednesday, Nov. 10
Lie to Me, (Sky1)
(I don't watch the majority of these so I may be wrong with some of the the UK channels I list - please let me know of any  mistakes and I'll correct the list)
BTW, the third season of True Blood won't be screened on FX HD until C4 shows the second season.

August 28, 2010

Mad Men Season 4 - BBC HD, Wednesday September 8th at 10pm

ABC "exclusive VoD on BT Vision"

It is reported both in Saturday's Guardian and Telegraph:
"ABC TV On Demand will launch on September 15; it's ABC's first VoD service outside the US. It will feature shows including Cougar Town, with new episodes coming onto the VoD service around two and a half months after its first broadcast on Living. Archive shows including Lost and Grey's Anatomy will also be available to view on the service."
But that's playing with the truth a little: Lost, Grey's Anatomy and that other ABC mainstay Desperate Housewives have all appeared regularly in Virgin Media's VoD service over the years, the former having the first three seasons available in HD on Demand when Sky1 disappeared from our screens. Although this may be a new deal with ABC direct, the shows they mention have been available through VM On Demand before.

August 25, 2010

Mad Men season 4 arrives on BBC HD in September

Not sure of the actual date yet, but it has been confirmed that the best show on TV aka Mad Men is back on UK screens in just a couple of weeks, courtesy of BBC HD and BBC4. What is more, the BBC has also secured the rights to AMC's new conspiracy drama Rubicon which looks pretty good too. Try the trailer above - can't wait.

August 16, 2010

Bond in HD on ITV

One quick one before I fly: ITV has signed a new deal with MGM and will now be showing the Bond films in high def (rather than just upscaled SD) on ITV1 HD. More details on Digital Spy

VMHD taking a week off

I'm off on my hols for a week so there'll be no posts for a few days. If you wish to keep up with any developments I recommend Cable Forum's latest Coming Soon thread or Media Boy's own blog. I'll keep the comments open on posts - please ignore the chinese spam that will sadly appear (as it does on all Blogger sites) as I won't be able to kill them whilst I'm away.

August 12, 2010

Sky HD basics to arrive in September

According to renowned source Big Red, we'll have five Sky HD basics added to the non-subscription line up in September: Sky1, Sky News, Sky Arts 1, Sky Arts 2 and Sky Sports News. Don't know a definite date yet.

August 10, 2010

Too much HD on Virgin for the V+ !!

There's an interesting thread on Cable Forum about the limited capacity of the current V+ to accomodate HD recording now that we've got so many channels. Here's what I've just posted:
I've taken to reducing the padding at the end of HD recordings (you don't need any if recording Sky Movies as they always end earlier than the published time, and ten mins padding if HD soon adds up) but it's still a big problem.
A film like Inglourious Basterds (or however it's mis-spelled) is two and a half hours long with no padding so in HD that's taking up over ten hours on the hard disk. Eight of those and your disk is full.
No chance of recording a series in HD for later viewing so I'm not recording anything off BBC HD at the moment - I record it in SD and if it is available in HD on demand when I get around to watching it fine, if not the regular BBC channels is good enough.
The only HD recordings I'm making are of movies, and I'm keeping five or six on a sort of rotation basis. At least with Sky and Film4 films are kept in such frequent rotation it's not a matter of miss it and you have to wait an age for it to return...
How are other folk coping? It's almost like VM are daring us to do (illegal) upgrades to the discs in our V+ boxes to accomodate recordings.

August 09, 2010

Good Food and Eden HD

UKTV has confirmed plans to launch high definition versions of the Good Food and Eden channels but, despite both channels being co-owned by Virgin Media, they will be exclusively on Sky.
Virgin announced last year that Good Food HD was on its way - why it should now be a Sky exclusive is anyone's guess.
Personally, I think Sky is having to scrape the barrel somewhat to try to meet that 50 HD channels landmark - I'm sure Sky customers would rather having Living HD or Film4 HD than these new channels. Truth is, there's still very limited high def content out there (as anyone who watched 4HD or Five HD will testify) and, aside from More4 and the BBC channels, there aren't many left for Sky to add as "exclusives" that will attract more customers to the platform.

August 06, 2010

Changes to VIP 50 Bundle from 5th August 2010

From the Virgin Support forum
Following the launch of the new Sky Premium HD channels, we have some great news for new and existing VIP customers. From 5th August, all VIP 50 customers will automatically receive the new Sky HD premium channels on their main box for no extra cost! This represents an additional £7 per month worth of value included with VIP 50, making our top pack the best way to enjoy ultrafast broadband as well as our complete range of HD channels. VIP 50 customers that have already purchased the Sky Premium HD pack, will automatically see a reduction on their bills, ensuring all VIP 50 customers get the same great benefits.
The VIP 50 is the ultimate Virgin Media package, so we’re making sure loyal customers on this package get the very best of all our services. However VIP 20 customers aren’t being left out - as a special offer, VIP 20 customers looking to take advantage of extra broadband speeds and the Sky Premiums in HD can now get free installation to upgrade to VIP 50 (£20 activation still applies). Upgrading to VIP 50 will mean even faster speeds, as well as the inclusion of Sky Premium HD with no extra monthly fee.
That's me on the phone then tomorrow morning  :o)

August 05, 2010

Comedy Central HD arriving on Virgin Media September 1st

Not sure whether South Park is going to look any better in HD, but anyway, the folk over on the Digital Spy forums were right and I was wrong. Here's the official Press Release:
Comedy Central HD to launch on Virgin Media
Virgin Media’s TV customers will be able to enjoy Comedy Central in its full High Definition (HD) glory as the channel joins Virgin Media’s growing HD line-up in September.
Comedy Central HD will provide viewers with the biggest and most exciting comedies available to the UK in glorious High Definition including Two and a Half Men, 30 Rock and South Park, in addition to new UK commissions. Virgin Media will also make some popular Comedy Central HD programmes available on demand.
Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media said: “We’re delighted to be expanding our line-up with Comedy Central’s brilliant new HD channel and will be making great shows like South Park available in HD and on demand too.”
Jill Offman, Managing Director Comedy Central commented: “We’ve always been the funniest channel on TV, now we’ll be the best looking one too.”
Comedy Central HD will join Virgin Media’s line-up on 1st September on channel 133 and will be available to Virgin Media’s XL TV customers at no extra monthly fee.

Samsung V+

If, like me, you're struggling with one of the older SA V+ boxes, this video may tempt you to try to get a Samsung V+ sooner rather than later. Channel and graphic changes are instant, whereas on the SA box you can wait for ages. The SA is definitely struggling with all of the HD I'm now enjoying - four restarts this week alone.
But should you wait for a larger capacity or TiVo? That's the dilemma. And there's always the chance that Virgin will only replace your SA V+ with another, perhaps even older unit. Decisions decisions.

August 04, 2010

OFCOM takes on BSkyB over movies

"First-run Hollywood movies are particularly important to competition in the pay-TV sector," said Ofcom. "This is because they are highly attractive to a large number of consumers, who want subscription access to premium high-quality movies as close to their box office release as possible. Ofcom is concerned in particular that the way in which these movies are sold and distributed creates a situation in which Sky has the incentive and ability to distort competition."
Ofcom is also concerned that Sky will have the ability to dominate the subscription video-on-demand market for premium film when it launches such services. "In the longer term we are concerned that as Sky develops its subscription video-on-demand services, its current market power in relation to linear channels could be transferred across to these new services," the regulator said.
More on MediaGuardian. One has to question how valid a two-year investigation by the Competitions Commission will be, given the arrival of internet-enabled TVs and other IP services. In fact, will the Tories keep OFCOM around that long?

August 03, 2010

Sky Movies HD - initial verdict

It took a five minute phone call to Virgin to ensure I had them, but I'm delighted to say I have the Sky Premium HD channels in all their glory. Watched bits of Coraline, The Boat That Rocked and Night At The Museum 2 and the contrast with the standard definition channels is remarkable.
I've long thought the PQ on the SD Sky channels took a nose dive when they launched the HD versions, and some quick comparisons yesterday proved that there's a massive difference even on a 32in TV at 720p. With Film4 HD I've found that there's a less notable drop in picture quality when you watch the regular channel, but on the Sky movie channels it's incredible.
Haven't tried Sky Sports yet - saving that for the Charity Shield match on Sunday - but the movies look great and well worth £7 a month in my book.

ITV 2, 3 and 4 HD channels announced for the autumn

ITV has announced that it will launch high def versions of ITV2, 3 and 4 this autumn. The new channels will become available to Sky+ HD subscribers, starting with ITV2 in October. ITV said the deal was non-exclusive and they were in talks with "other providers", which would be Virgin Media as it is the only "other provider" with the capability for paywall HD channels at the moment.

August 02, 2010

Cisco will provide VM TiVo boxes

This news from Broadband TV (click the link for the full piece):
Virgin Media has turned to long-term supplier Cisco for its first ‘TiVo inside’ set-top when the navigation technology becomes the cableco’s prime middleware later this year. However, plans to retrofit TiVo into the operator’s existing set-top boxes have hit a stumbling block after it emerged the technology was not suitable for all of the receivers currently deployed on the network.
A new Cisco personal video recorder is due to be shipped shortly before Christmas when TiVo will soft launch. The rollout is anticipated to get underway in earnest early in 2011.

Sky Premium channels arrive on Virgin Media...for some

Today's the day for those who've decided that a dozen Sky premium HD channels are worth the extra seven quid. I signed up online, but as of 8am this morning I was still without them - it seems to be a regional rollout so I will check again this evening.
Anyone else got them?

The name's Bond, upscaled SD Bond

Somewhat disappointed to find that the V+ disc-hogging ITV1 HD version of On Her Majesty's Secret Service was only actually upscaled standard def rather than the real deal. Picture quality was good but not worth keeping - especially as it takes up almost 12 (SD) hours of my V+'s disc.

July 30, 2010

More on TiVo and Virgin Media

Virgin Media’s TV and online executive director Alex Green has given an interesting interview to paidContent:UK in which he talks about the arrival of TiVo on Virgin Media
“We see this very much as part of our multi-screen strategy - TiVo is at the centre of that. The way we are creating TiVo is replicated in this service - there’s a real focus on content discovery - you can search, browse, get recommendations and make playlists - helping you discover content you know you like or didn’t know you liked.
“It very much complements TiVo - that will be about bringing new content sources from the web to the TiVo.”
Green wouldn’t comment on from which web sources Virgin’s TiVo box will offer content, but he referred to “apps” as much as video and likened it to the TiVo Premiere service in the U.S., which includes YouTube, Time magazine, CNET, Twitter, Netflix and Blockbuster rentals, RSS, podcasts, a range of photo sharing and music access services plus side-loading of recordings and more.
“What TiVo does allow is a whole world of combining over-the-top delivered content with our core TV service. That can be a whole range of apps as well as pure video. TiVo Premiere opens up that whole new world from the web to TV.”
It’s the first time TiVo has operated in the UK since 2003, when it abandoned the Thomson PVR10UK box it built with with Thomson Multimedia and BSkyB. It gives Virgin Media exclusive UK rights to use the TiVo brand and technology.