February 28, 2010

Films on 4HD

Sunday, 28th February
9pm Saving Private Ryan
Saturday, 6th March
9pm Braveheart
Sunday, 7th March
8pm Stardust (the Neil Gaiman story - not the David Essex one)
10.30pm 30 Days of Night

Not bad for nowt...

February 27, 2010

More HD rumours

According to a thread on Digital Spy, the following will arrive on Virgin this year:

Bio HD
Sky Arts 1 HD
Sky Arts 2 HD
Sky Real Lives HD
Nat Geo Wild HD

February 25, 2010

Q4 Results presentation

Here's the only slide directly relating to Virgin's TV growth in today's presentation. A quarter of VM TV customers now have HD capable equipment but I still think they're undermarketing the V+. There's a non-specific "launching more HD channels" line. 
Interesting that Berkett is saying than the Tivo software will benefit all TV customers - I thought it was just the IP service that was being primed for Tivo and the cable TV boxes would continue to use Liberty software?

Damages season 3 - Thursday nights at 10pm on BBC HD

Not a simulcast with the BBC1 broadcast but better late than never.

Virgin Q4 2009 results and 100mb broadband announced

First the results [full press release here]

  • 40,600 new cable and non-cable customers; 228,900 product net additions
  • 63,600 new cable broadband subs compared to 57,100 in Q4-08
  • 45% more homes on 20Mb or higher than a year ago reflecting improved demand for higher speeds
  • 100Mb service to be commercially launched later this year
  • 56,900 new digital TV subs, 112,700 new V+ HD subs and 74 million average monthly Video-On-Demand views as growing awareness of total TV offering leads to strong take-up
  • 77,100 new mobile contract subs; total up 46%, nearing 1 million milestone
  • Low churn of 1.2%; 60.5% triple-play penetration and 10.7% quad-play penetration reflect success of good value bundles strategy 
Analysis and more detail on The Guardian
The 100mb broadband announcement is less precise:

Virgin Media, the UK's leading internet service provider, today announced it would begin the roll-out of a 100Mb broadband service, the fastest available commercial product in the UK, by the end of 2010. 
Press release on that here 

Neil Berkett video interview here

Slightly better numbers than predicted though I'm not sure there will be much demand for 100mb broadband given that there are only 41,400 customers who have taken up the 50mb service. I think it's time those of us still paying the full whack for VIP's now pretty average looking 20mb service got a bump up - how about it, Mr Berkett?

February 24, 2010

Constant Sky HD promotion makes man angry

Anyone else getting seriously ticked off with the incessant promotion of Sky's HD channels on every bloody programme on Sky these days? It's bad enough having it before the start, but that bit they do after every ad break where they bring a graphic up at the bottom of the screen telling you to tune in to channel XXX for the HD version really pisses me off. I'm surprised OFCOM hasn't made something of it - it goes waaaaay beyond being for viewer information and is a blatant plug for the premium service at every opportunity. Funny how when we had the Sky v Virgin dispute a few years back Sky was dropping Virgin-specific ads into the VM feed, but this promotion for channels only available to Sky customers isn't made Sky-specific...
Presumably if you are tuned to channel 170 on Sky you don't get them?

February 22, 2010

Mad Men goes missing from BBC HD

If, like me, you enjoy your weekly dose of Mad Men on BBC HD, you best be prepared for some disappointment this week. Episode six of the third season is only showing on BBC4 this Wednesday - there's no BBC HD simulcast.
Even more confusing is that according to the Radio Times web site the next episode showing on BBC HD is actually the episode 'The Arrangements' (episode 4), which is on Tuesday March 2nd at 11.20pm, followed by 'The Fog' (episode 5, already shown last Wednesday) which is on at ten past midnight. They then appear to miss episode 6 completely from BBC HD as on Wednesday, March 3rd at 10pm the simulcasts resume with episode 7 'Seven Twenty Three'.
Probably a mistake somewhere along the line - hopefully the Tuesday double-bill will show 5 and 6 on BBC HD rather than 4 and 5.

Freeview HD

Danielle Nagler has blogged about the launch of Freeview HD: how long before the comments posted degenerate into folk complaining about the PQ of BBC HD on satellite again? I give it a few minutes...

February 20, 2010

Sky Sports and Sky Movies HD on Virgin Media

I've been thinking that the signs are good for us getting Sky Sports HD and Sky Movies HD pretty soon on cable. I'm sure that's jinxed it for good, but bare with me...here's my logic...
Sky has done remarkably well with its HD offering - it remains unique in the UK, they've exploited their investment in content and technology (some would argue as is their right) and they've achieved stunning growth in a recession against not just the competition of Virgin Media but also of course Freeview, Freesat, BT Vision and the download community. They've lowered the cost of entry to the point where the HD Sky+ is the standard install, but have managed to maintain the £10 a month surcharge for HD. With the explosive demand for HD (who saw that coming? Certainly not Virgin) they own the premium market and have exploited their unregulated monopoly to great effect. Sure, OFCOM's done some initial sabre rattling about the HD versions of Sports and Movies being covered by the same rules as the standard definition channels, but Sky have ridden that so far and are marketing "Supertelly" like there's no tomorrow. But there is a tomorrow, and here's where I think they're going next.
  • Sky will shift its marketing focus to 3D, another premium priced product. I've no interest in it personally, but others will buy it if it's pushed hard enough, and if there's one thing Sky truly excels at, it's marketing
  • Sky will respond to Virgin's free HD channel offering by reducing the monthly sub to HD and making the non-premium HD channels in its offering free to owners of the Sky HD+ box
  • There'll be a big push for the new Sky HD+ box with the 1Tb disc (actually 1.5Tb - a third of that is set aside for the Sky Anytime service). £249 a pop
  • Sky will now cash in on the HD channels by selling them through Virgin Media - exploiting their investment further, picking up more viewers and allowing them to sell premium advertising spots on the HD channels. As we exit the recession, advertisers will be asked to cough up even more if they want to reach the discerning audience with the deepest pockets
  • Sky knows that they still have the best HD service - not only do they have superior coverage, but they also have Mpeg4 and have increased the PVR capacity, whereas VM customers still have the wasteful MPeg2 compression filling their smaller discs. (What's more, we can't upgrade our discs to large capacities legally). If you're serious about HD, 160Gb discs are not sufficient
  • OFCOM will tell them they must do it anyway, and the Tories won't overturn that over night nor can Sky drag it through the courts.
  • Sky1 HD will remain unique to Sky 
  • Virgin will continue to offer the barest bones of an HD service via VoD.
I reckon we'll have the Sky Movies and Sports HD in the next few months, albeit at a price.  Maybe even tied in with the sale of Virgin's TV channels to Sky.
Comments? Like I say, that's probably jinxed it for good...

February 19, 2010

Rumours: Virgin want Sky HD line up as part of the deal for VM TV channels

According to MediaBoy on Cable Forum Virgin are asking for the Sky HD channels to be included in any deal for the VM TV channels:
"I have been told by my Virgin Insider that Virgin Media wants Sky Red Button and Sky HD Channels as part of any deal to sell The Virgin Media Television Channels to BSkyB."
I can't verify that, but I do know that the folk at VM TV think a sale is imminent.

February 18, 2010

More 4HD movies this weekend

Still no HD movie channel on Virgin, and this month's Picturebox selection is more pitiful than ever. Thank heavens then for 4HD, which every weekend seems to have something up its sleeve even if they almost always a few years old.
This Saturday we have Tom Cruise starring in JJ Abrams' Mission Impossible III at 9.15pm, then on Sunday it's a triple bill, kicking off at 7.55pm with 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer followed by Arnie in Predator, topping off with Zack "Watchmen" Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead at 11.45pm. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday evening...

February 17, 2010

Completely off topic

No apologies for this - as far off the VM HD topic as I can probably go, but this is, fundamentally, a personal blog and some things just need the air of publicity to ignite...

Normal service will now be resumed...

February 15, 2010

Rumours: Sky buying Virgin's TV channels; ITV1 HD "coming soon"?

There's a report on The Guardian that Sky is wrapping up the deal for the Virgin TV channels (Living, Bravo, Virgin1, etc). Full details in Sky closes in on deal to buy Virgin Media TV channels
Interesting. There goes any bartering power Virgin will have at future carriage negotiations - I hope they get a longer commitment for us to have the Sky channels on cable out of any deal. And Sky Movies and Sports as an HD option would be pretty darn good too, especially as OFCOM's report on pay TV is likely to demand it too.
ITV1 HD continues to be rumoured to be the third new HD channel on its way. Discussion over in this Cable Forum thread: note the guy from Virgin who says "nothing announced...yet". The tease...

February 10, 2010

Discovery HD coming to Virgin Media this spring

From the VM  press release:

Virgin Media, the UK's leading entertainment and communications company, has confirmed its TV customers will soon be able to enjoy Discovery HD as well as more HD shows on demand, as part of the company’s growing High-Definition offering.
Launching this spring, Discovery HD on Virgin TV will broadcast all day, every day and offer content from Discovery’s extensive collection of more than 1500 hours of HD programming. Discovery HD is full of entertaining shows about popular science, history, engineering, culture and natural history including Extreme Engineering, Mythbusters, NASA’s Greatest Missions and Bear Grylls: Born Survivor.
This is Virgin Media’s second announcement about new HD channels this year and the company plans to reveal more details about further launches in the coming months. Virgin Media’s expanding HD line-up already covers a wide variety of branded entertainment, including drama, sport, documentaries and music, with channels from the BBC and Channel 4 available to all Virgin TV customers, as well as ESPN, FX, MTV Networks, National Geographic, LIVING (a Virgin Media exclusive) and the forthcoming Eurosport HD channel all available for no additional monthly fee to ‘XL’ TV customers.
In addition, Discovery Networks and Virgin Media will make HD on demand content available, such as Deadliest Catch and Miami Ink. Virgin Media already carries several hundred hours of HD programmes on demand, all ready to start at the touch of a button. This includes HD versions of popular films, as well as BBC iPlayer HD and full television series via Virgin Media’s huge TV Choice on Demand archive.
Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media, said: “Discovery’s engrossing programming is all the more amazing in High-Definition and will make a compelling addition to our growing HD line-up. We’re adding several more HD channels in the coming months, which we will make available to our XL TV customers for no extra monthly fee. Compelling channels, combined with our vast collection of on-demand programming, will ensure that our customers have the best overall HD entertainment package available.”
Dee Forbes, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Discovery Networks UK, said: “Virgin Media is a valued partner of ours and I am delighted that they have added Discovery’s UK HD channel to their portfolio. Discovery has been at the forefront of HD development across the globe and now offers HD services in 23 international markets. HD is increasingly popular with TV viewers and with over 1500 hours of HD content to choose from, Discovery gives consumers the opportunity to see many of their favourite shows in stunning high definition.”

February 09, 2010

New Danielle post

New post from Danielle Nagler over on the BBC HD blog: Drama on BBC HD
If you post comments, don't mention picture quality if you're a satellite customer...they'll get removed pronto.

February 06, 2010

No F1 in high definition in 2010

According to the BBC Sports site, there will be no high defnition coverage of the forthcoming F1 season:
We will not be able to provide F1 coverage in high definition this year. The BBC relies on Formula 1 Management (FOM) for the provision of all of its live pictures and as such the broadcasting of high definition pictures is dependent upon whether FOM uses HD cameras or not.

February 04, 2010

BBC HD blog comments suspended

The BBC's Nick Reynolds posted today: "Sadly despite my final final warning people are still posting abusive comments. So I will close this post for new comments today. It will be closed for a week. I will then decide whether to reopen it again or whether there are better ways of continuing the conversation."
I'm kinda torn on this. Whilst I agree that some posts have been out of order, the frustrations for satellite customers, especially Freesat customers for whom BBC HD is the key service, are genuine and merit honest debate. Unfortunately the BBC's response has been to deny there is a problem with the picture quality and walk away. Very sad.
Funnily enough I've been watching a lot of BBC HD of late, and watching Great Rift: Africa's Wild Heart this week I actually had a few of those "wow" moments I used to regularly experience with series like Wild China and Galapagos. Okay, so us VM customers haven't been affected by the encoder change and bitrate drop, but some series on the channel last year (notably Life) did to my eyes lack the sparkle and sharpness of yesteryear. It's good to see that with some programmes the "wow" is back. What do you guys think?
(And has anyone experienced HD recording failures with any of the non-BBC HD channels? I'm starting to think that my V+'s wobbles are only with the BBC channel - everything else records perfectly each time.)

February 03, 2010

More HD channels promised in the coming months

For those who missed the link, here are the words in the Eurosport HD announcement from Virgin that promise more is on the way:
The addition of Eurosport HD signals the first of several new HD channels due to launch on Virgin Media over the coming months, all available at no extra cost for customers on Virgin Media’s incredible value ‘XL’ TV package.
The addition of Eurosport will bring Virgin Media’s HD channels to eight with several more to be added in the coming months. Covering a wide range of programming for every taste including drama, sport, documentaries and music, Virgin Media’s growing HD line-up features BBC HD and 4HD, available to all Virgin TV customers, as well as ESPN HD, Nat Geo HD, MTVNHD, Eurosport HD, FX HD and LIVING HD (a Virgin Media exclusive) all available at no extra cost for ‘XL’ TV customers.
Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media said: “We’re really excited about the spring launch of Eurosport HD and the wider roll-out of several new HD channels for our customers in the coming months. With HD ready TVs now common in UK homes, the combination of HD channels as well as our pioneering TV on Demand service gives Virgin TV customers a huge range of HD programming with the unique flexibility to enjoy HD content whenever they want, at the touch of a button. With all the regular channels you’d expect, and a service ready for 3DTV too, Virgin TV is without doubt the most compelling TV offer on the market.”  
There are many who would argue with that final statement..."without a doubt"? There are almost 10 million Sky households who think otherwise, especially when it comes to high definition services

February 01, 2010

Sky 3D - a world first - and the Six Nations this weekend

For those Arsenal fans who thought that the Man U game was too painful to watch, spare a thought for those at The Slug And Lettuce in Islington, one of the pubs showing the game in 3D HD in the much touted "world first". Full review on Techradar.com.
Watching the game in a crowded pub on a 47in screen through sunglasses? Not my idea of fun. I wasn't convinced by Avatar, my first experience of the new 3D technology, and I can't see it appearing any time soon in my front room.
If you're intrigued by the 3D thing, some cinemas are showing some of the forthcoming Six Nations games in 3D HD in the next few weeks. Tickets have sold fast, but I still ain't convinced. Details here.
Matches are broadcasting on BBC HD too this coming weekend:
Saturday, 13:40–16:25 Ireland v Italy
Saturday, 16:35–19:05 England v Wales, followed by 19:05–19:30 Six Nations Forum
Sunday, 14:30-17:30 Scotland v France

Eurosport HD launching on Virgin Media in April

Just announced:
We know how important HD channels are to our TV customers. That’s why, throughout 2010, we’re bumping up our HD channels. It all kicks off in April with Eurosport HD, so don’t miss sporting greats like the French Open tennis, Tour de France and European Athletics Championships.
So, no additional HD until April and even then it's just Eurosport HD? That's a big disappointment in my book - I had heard that there were more, but (again) there appears to be little in the pipeline. Whilst I've enjoyed the ESPN Premiership coverage in HD it really pales next to Sky Sports in high def, especially as from next season ESPN will have half as many games (just 23). Eurosport HD boosts that offering a little, but sports fans wanting HD won't be convinced.
And what about movie fans? Film4 HD remains a distant nirvana it seems, but even ITV1 HD would give us at least some more movies and extra footie (FA Cup and Champions League). So how about it Virgin? If you really know how important HD channels are to us customers, how about the HD version of ITV1 at least? Don't we pay enough to warrant at least that?