December 30, 2011

Great, balanced review of the TiVo

I don't venture onto AV Forums that often - too often in the past I go there, consider my home entertainment equipment sub-standard and ending up spending a fortune upgrading - but they've posted a huge, in-depth review of TiVo and it's an informative read:
Virgin Tivo-Digital Personal Video Recorder
(Thanks to Jason for pointing it out on his blog)

December 28, 2011

Virgin Media in 2012 - place your bets!

Years ago when I made my living as a magazine editor I always felt as though I was scraping the barrel when I published the traditional "reviews of the year" in the dying weeks of December. Writing this blog and it's no different - there's no news whatsoever on Virgin Media to report and it's not just silent nights, it's silent weeks on end. TiVo's had an update and is a much better product for it, we've had a few new HD channels this year but there's little on the horizon to get excited about, and even I'm getting bored with my banging on about the absence of Sky Atlantic from our screens. So what's a poor blogger to do?
Well, let me entertain you for a few minutes with my predictions for Virgin Media's 2012. No inside scoop on any of this, just pure speculation that I will no doubt read in twelve months' time and wonder what the hell I was thinking of...
1. TiVo will be the only option
The V+ is already absent as an option for new customers and I think VM will actively be looking to replace first the old SA boxes and then the Samsung V+'s from their customers' homes. This won't be universally popular but they have to evolve the service and bet the bank on TiVo. If they can port the TiVo interface onto the existing V boxes (the non-PVR HD boxes) the legacy Liberty software will be gone for good by the end of the year.
2. TiVo will no longer be a separate monthly fee
I'm surprised it still is. I will be stunned if that's the case by the close of 2012
3. New customers will arrive in dribs and drabs
I can't see the last of the digital refuseniks (who will lose their analogue TV next year) switching over in droves to VM. Most will opt for Freeview, some will be tempted to Sky, others will make the mistake of forking out for BT Vision's third rate service. Whilst Sky seems destined to produce outstanding results quarter after quarter, Virgin's 2011 numbers were far less impressive and I expect next year to be even flatter. Broadband will do okay but TV customers will stutter and splutter.
4. VM will continue to undersell and poorly promote its outstanding Video On Demand
It should have been a Sky killer, but even Samuel L Jackson couldn't sell this to the masses. Everyone I know who sees it loves it, it's the only real VoD TV service that delivers BBC iPlayer HD programming, and we all take it for granted, but do Sky customers know about it? I doubt it.
5. VM will finally get the HD versions of ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4, ESPN America, History and Universal
6. But we won't see Sky News, Sky Sports 3, Sky Sports 4 or Sky Sports News in high def
I don't think VM would want them even if Sky offered them
7. Sky Atlantic will appear on Virgin Media in the Spring
Mind you, I said the same thing last year. Will we get it in HD? You'd think not, but we did get Sky1 HD so you never know.
8. Networking your TiVo will remain one for the techies
It'll just be too confusing for your average household
9. TiVo Apps on tablets and smartphones will initially disappoint...
...but will take off big time once the software stabilises
10. Turner Broadcasting will finally embrace not just widescreen but also HD...but only on Sky
It's the last of the big broadcasters still in 4:3 land, but they will finally deliver TCM, CNN, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Cartoonito and introduce Adult Swim in the UK in full hi def (except for old SD stuff). On Sky only.  
11. This blog will carry on
I sometimes wonder if it's worth continuing with VMHD, especially as the news is often thin on the ground and there are fine blogs from Media Boy and Jason that cover much of the same ground, but it still attracts an audience. I'll keep hanging in there if you guys still want me.
(Well, that's one I'll get right.)
Happy New Year, all!

December 20, 2011

Ho ho ho - another Virgin EPG c**k up

From MediaGuardian:
Virgin Media's electronic programme guide began to see offence in words which otherwise would be happily broadcast on breakfast TV this weekend – Alfred Hitchcock, for example, became Alfred Hitchc**k, with a similar fate befalling BBC Radio 6 Music's Jarvis C**ker. Charles Dickens became Charles D***ens and Arsenal became A***nal. A Virgin Media spokesperson said: "Over the weekend a temporarily over-zealous profanity checker took offence at certain programme titles. The altered titles have been swiftly an*lysed and we're fixing any remaining glitches."

December 19, 2011

Virgin Media signs BBC Olympics deal, BBC TiVo Apps ahoy

From MediaGuardian:
Virgin Media has struck a deal with the BBC to give viewers access to hundreds of hours of extra coverage of major sports events next year, including live video streams from the London 2012 Olympics, through its TiVo service.
The wide-ranging deal will give Virgin Media customers access to "enhanced" BBC TV services – the additional video streams and interactive content accessed via the red button – for a range of the corporation's news and sports coverage next year.
Significantly, Virgin Media customers will now have access to all 24 streams of coverage that the BBC is broadcasting of various Olympic events.
However, the deal also covers the "red button" content of events including Formula One, Wimbledon and Euro 2012.
The additional video streams will only be available to Virgin Media customers who have a TiVo set-top box – a rival to BSkyB's Sky+ service that gives access to on-demand and interactive services.
Virgin Media will build a BBC sport app to go on the TiVo service which will go live in the first quarter of 2012.
The sport app will sit alongside a BBC News app, which is also under development, and the existing iPlayer catch-up TV service.

December 18, 2011

TiVo SD picture quality revisited

Interesting post from Lew over on Cable Forum looking at the difference between the original TiVo standard def under software 15.1 and how it now appears with the recent 15.2 upgrade, alongside the V+ too. His TV's a Sony KDL-40EX403 1080P LCD (the poor SD quality was mostly being reported on certain Sony and Samsung models).
Elsewhere in the thread there's the observation that SD and HD quality improves on the TiVo after a few days post installation. I'd observed this myself but didn't think it made a great deal of sense, but if others are seeing it maybe there is some truth in it.

December 17, 2011

No Five HD on Freeview - what will the BBC do?

Strange one this:
"Ofcom has been notified by Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited that it does not wish to proceed with its application for the fifth HD capacity slot on digital terrestrial TV at the present time.
"Subject to any future Ofcom decision to re-advertise the slot, the capacity will remain with the Multiplex operator BBC Free-to-View Limited and can be used by it for BBC services or services provided by a third party via a commercial arrangement."
Currently, Freeview HD has HD versions of BBC1, BBC HD (soon to be BBC2), ITV1 and C4. So will the BBC add a third HD channel of its own or look for someone else to take advantage of the slot? The BBC could perhaps introduce BBC News HD or revive a BBC3/4/News HD channel, or other channels such as the HD versions of ITV2, E4, Dave or Film4 (still, surprisingly, a VM exclusive). Or maybe the Beeb will temporarily fill the slot with an Olympics/Wimbledon sports channel for next summer, possibly in 3D?

OT: brings out the fanboy in me...

December 16, 2011

Sky Atlantic series to debut on DVD and Blu Ray

The two big drama series in the Sky Atlantic / HBO stable are both debuting on disc early in 2012. Season one of Boardwalk Empire finally comes out on disc on January 9th, a ridiculous 15 months after it debuted on HBO and a month after season two has finished. Those waiting for season one of Game of Thrones will be happier as that box set will be released just before season two starts - March 5th.
Why the long gap? I don't think it's anything to do with the Sky Atlantic deal as they've both been delayed stateside too. It's, more likely part of HBO's strategy with it's HBO Go service and the competition with NetFlix.
Season five of AMC's Mad Men is scheduled for the spring on Sky Atlantic by the way. The show may appear on online services such as iTunes as previous seasons have been available there immediately after UK airing.

TiVo iPlayer issue resolved

I haven't experienced any problem myself but some customers have had issues with the BBC iPlayer App since the recent software update on the TiVo. A post over on the Virgin Media TiVo blog suggests the issue has been addressed by removing a bandwidth bottleneck on part of the network.

December 15, 2011

Virgin Media adds three but no more HD yet

Virgin Media has added three additional channels but none are high definition.
Sony Entertainment Television is on channel 193 and has TV shows such as Hustle, This Life, Huff and newer series such as The Tudors, along with Sony movies including Spider-Man 3 and Surf's Up.
We also now have CBS Action on channel 192 which includes Star Trek Next Generation and NCIS in its lineup.
And finally news channel NDTV, India's most watched English news network, on 621.
Hardly Sky Atlantic but some will be pleased.

December 11, 2011

TiVo on the iPad - US App works...kinda...

Thanks to Richard for the following:
The US TiVo app can be made to work on the VM TiVo but needs a few tricks and a PC or mac set up running a piece of software that tricks the Tivo iPad app into thinking the VM tivo is a US Tivo. For those who want a sense of what is possible with the ipad/phone app, there is a great posting on Cable Forum with some brilliant people contributing more than a simple few words, but actual coding and testing time.
BUT BE WARNED, the Tivo app was never designed to work on the VM Tivo so sometimes crashes because the responses are not what it expects.
If you look at Post #241 and #242 which are the replies to sn00p where he posts the PC and Mac files, you will see both the link to the files and the replies where people are testing and say it works.
I’ve been using the old versions of the ‘hack’ and this version and they all work fine(ish) this latest version is definitely more stable and easier to use to use and less of a problem for IT illiterate. Thanks to sn00p we have this app.
So 3 things…
1. YOU USE THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Do not critisie people for things not working and do not flame or slam people for this contribution. It was a hack to show the US Tivo app.
Do not criticise VM or TiVo for the iPad app. This app was never designed for the VM product and is in no way supported.
Do not ask for support, this is a hack for people who know what they are doing not for the masses who don’t know how to spell ‘IP address’
Don’t start if you don’t know what you are doing and do not get upset if you have problems, you used at your own risk.
2. You need to know how to get a US only app from itunes for free.
Don’t ask, use Google it is well documented .
3. You need to do all the network setup on the TiVo and put in the right settings. Read the guide from Jason on his Virgin Media TiVo blog site. 
Richard added
"The app does crash, usually when you are trying to select from the 'my shows' area. This is because the VM TiVo is sending back info the ipad app doesn't understand and so 'bang' the app closes. However, the ability to browse, set recordings, manage seasom passes etc without stopping what you watch is brilliant. The speed is really quick. I've not tried on the iphone, but it should work on there."

I asked my old friend Scottivo to give this a look (I just knew he wouldn't be able to resist) and here's what he wrote back
"Downloaded the Mac file and had it working in less than a minute, once I'd got the Media Access Key code from the TiVo menu. Looks very impressive. Changed channels, then played the start of a Modern Family ep from My Shows but when I pressed Stop it took me to the Media Access Key page again and wouldn't let me out. I had to reboot the box. No pics showing so far but EPG is all there."
So it is probably worth waiting for the real thing to launch, but for those who enjoy playing, Christmas has come a little early...

December 10, 2011

Spotify...does anyone else have problems?

Sound on the TiVo has drop outs more frequent than I can cope with, and what's worse the iPhone App crashes out after ten minutes every bloody time. Infuriating. Last week was fine and I haven't changed anything - is anyone else experiencing this?
UPDATE: I've now update my iPhone to iOS 5.01 and reinstalled Spotify, and it's been playing all day without a single hitch. So, a reminder that the "cloud" can be an infuriating, flawed experience for all the treasures it may hold. Ho hum

December 08, 2011

Virgin's deadline for Christmas installations: December 9th

If you're planning to sign up to Virgin Media broadband and TV services in time for the Christmas break you must complete your order this week.
Virgin Media has set a deadline of midnight on Friday December 9th 2011 for a guaranteed installation.
Consumers who order a Virgin Media TV, phone and broadband bundle after this date may have to wait until after Boxing Day to see their service activated.

December 05, 2011

Netflix and Lovefilm on TiVo? Maybe...

The Competition Commission's is getting its recommendation on breaking BSkyB's hollywood movie dominance, and maybe this could lead to Virgin Media getting perhap Netflix or Lovefilm services (via TiVo?) on Virgin Media, too. No-one knows for certain how the movie services will play out in the long term, but here's how Paid Content is speculating on this:
BSkyB’s set-top boxes may have to offer services like Netflix, Lovefilm and Blinkbox alongside its own Sky Movies, under new proposals from the Competition Commission.
That is one of two new remedies proposed by the commission, which this summer provisionally ruled that Sky’s exclusive deals with six Hollywood studios is anti-competitive.
In an additional new consultation, the commission is asking…
  • “whether access to Sky’s Ethernet-enabled STBs would enable qualifying OTT movie service providers to compete more effectively with Sky’s movies services”
  • or “whether, in the foreseeable future, this remedy will be rendered superfluous through technical and market developments, in particular the adoption by consumers of Internet-enabled TVs and STBs, including YouView”.
Sky has only recently enabled its own on-board on-demand service, Anytime+, which includes movies, on its boxes. It is also increasingly making its own content available on other devices and platforms including YouView, for which it is a content partner, when it launches next year.
A compulsion to host rival services on its own box would be a massive boon to rival services like Netflix, Lovefilm and Blinkbox because Sky is in around 10.5 million UK homes.
But the notion is likely be contested vigorously by Sky. In any case, the technical challenge could be considerable since Sky’s current Sky+ box was not built to host over-the-top services

December 03, 2011

VMHD has now had over half a million unique visitors

A momentary diversion: this blog has now been running for just over four years and hit a few landmarks in recent weeks

1,545,621 Visits
502,751 Unique Visitors
2,118,319 Pageviews
Traffic's still growing, so thanks everyone for your support.

December 02, 2011

How to network your TiVo and a Spotify review

Couple of fine blog posts for those enjoying the 15.2 TiVo upgrade:
First off, Jason's mighty-fine Virgin Media TiVo blog now has a How To Network TiVo guide which looks pretty comprehensive.
And our old buddy Afront has reviewed VM's TiVo Spotify up on his own blog.
Both are hugely informative if you're looking at setting up and using either service on your PVR.

November 28, 2011

Spotify App arrives on TiVo

For Spotify Premium customers. Looks good. Looks very good. First impressions are that this is the first really quality app we've had on TiVo. Type in your account name and password and viola - your playlists, albums, favourites, even the stuff synced from your iTunes accounts. Awesome stuff. Thanks Virgin Media!
UPDATE: Playlists seem to be limited to 300 songs and there's no Search (yet). But there is "browse Artist" so the capability is there to hunt around, you just need to set up your launch pad first with a single track by the artist you want to search for

November 27, 2011

Control your TiVo from a Windows PC

Andy Wheeler, a reader of this blog, has just emailed me the details of a Windows app he has written which allows you to remotely control your TiVo on a Windows PC.
The software and details can be found here: www.andypwheeler.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/tivoremote
The VM TiVo Net Remote allows you to control your Virgin Media TiVo box from a PC running Windows with .NET version 4.0 or above installed. Your VM TiVo must be running firmware 15.2 or above, be connected to your home network via the Ethernet port at the back of the TiVo, and have Network Remote Control enabled from the settings menu.
I can't test it as I don't have a Windows PC but let me know what you think.

November 26, 2011

More on the Sky F1 channel and Virgin Media

I hear that Virgin Media has already been in talks with Sky over the dedicated F1 channel and should be carrying it when it starts in March next year. As reported in the Guardian story quoted in the earlier post it should be at no extra cost because it will be included in the Sky sports package.
Our reliable friend Square Eyes has posted in a comment to the previous post that Virgin Media is "very confident" that the HD channel this will also be on VM.

November 25, 2011

Sky F1 plans emerge

According to the Daily Mail:
Sky Sports are set to run a dedicated Formula One channel next season which will be available to Freeview customers for a monthly fee.
In a move aimed at appeasing frustrated British F1 fans following the unprecedented switch from terrestrial to pay-TV, I’m told that Sky will operate the package at a cost thought to be around £10-a-month.
The new channel will be included free of charge in Sky and Virgin Media packages. The new channel is set to run for three days over the course of a race weekend. The service will include live coverage of all three practice sessions as well as qualifying and the race – and it will also host an F1 legends programme.
No word though if it will be available in HD or if you need to subscribe to Sky Sports to get it. Full details are expected from Sky in December.

November 23, 2011

"What to expect from your Virgin Media TiVo 15.2 Upgrade"

There's a great post over on Cable Forum that I'm taking the liberty of repeating here (hoping that main man zekeisaszekedoes and the guys at Cable Forum don't mind). The full thread is well worth a read, but this post alone is detailed and a great summary of what you get with the TiVo 15.2 update:

Just wanted to make a thread to point out how much the TiVo has improved with the new firmware version 15.2, as opposed to version 15.1 which I used for a couple of months before I got the update.

I have the 500GB TiVo on the M+ package. My firmware update was done between the hours of 2am and 4am… can’t be more accurate as I was asleep, however a friend of mine in the same area was using his at around 3am or so says that is when the upgrade “kicked in”. Some on this forum have reported that they had theirs either at 2am, or slightly earlier at 1:45am.

The headend for my box is Fareham which is covered under the Solent (Portsmouth) rollout area scheduled for early morning of the 22nd, so the update was delivered on-time, more or less.

There are four lists:
  1. Positive Changes, which are things I’ve noticed that fix old problems or introduce great new features.
  2. Negative Changes, which are things that were better in the previous 15.1 firmware.
  3. Still To Fix/Add, which are any old issues or missing features identified by myself and others that remain to be (hopefully) repaired or added in the next version, presumably 15.3.
  4. Untested, for any features touted as new or improved by VM that I am unable to test, or alternatively can test and have not yet for whatever reason. [I've not copied this piece: check out the CF thread if you want to read more on the stuff zekeisaszekedoes hasn't looked at yet]
If I’ve missed things I’ll add them to the first post as and when I find them.
If anyone else wants to contribute I’ll add their findings to the list with the appropriate credit.

POSITIVE CHANGES
  • Speed increase.
    • It’s not a huge increase, but menus (especially Flash HD ones) are notably faster than before. Thumbnails on the Discovery Bar seem to cache a little faster and so do the previously very sluggish ones in the Home -> Help & Settings -> Help menu. Jumping from full EPG to Home or vice versa and setting new Series Links is swifter, with the nasty problem where the currently viewed channel jumps from PiP window to fullscreen and back again much less obvious.
  • EPG tweaks.
    • I thought the EPG was good before, but it has been made even better.
    • Start/end times appear in brackets just before the program description.
    • There is a green button Options menu allowing navigation to various times/days without scrolling endlessly.
    • When using the reverse EPG the channel number/name moves to the right which makes a lot more sense visually.
    • Pressing OK on something in the reverse EPG with a catchup icon brings up “Go to Catch Up TV On Demand”… I believe it had this feature before but having never really used reverse EPG before now couldn’t say for sure.
  • Full-screen info improvements.
    • If you’re recording the show you’re watching, another ® icon appears after the VM logo and before the thumb rating (if any) and channel name, plus in many cases shows will feature both a genre and “first aired” label to the right of the description. Small touches, but nice ones.
  • Activation of Ethernet port.
    • This is possibly my favourite improvement that has been made as it really extends what the VM TiVo can do; I have mine plugged into a 16-port switch (see signature).
    • After enabling certain networking options you are able to use an Android app called TiVo Commander (or VM’s proprietary iPhone/iPad app but I didn’t test that) to control the TiVo by a visual remote.
    • Better still, TiVo Commander can manage available content on the hard drive and make it play directly without having to go into the My Shows part of the Flash HD interface. This is a much faster and cleaner way of controlling the box; I really like it, even though sometimes the link between my Samsung Galaxy phone and TiVo was broken, solved by relaunching the app easily enough.
    • Also now Multi-room Streaming is possible (check for other TiVos on the network with Help & Settings -> System Info -> Multi-Room Streaming) although I’m not able to test this because the household only has one TiVo. If all is well other TiVo units should show up at the bottom of the My Shows list. (As a side note, the TiVo Ethernet port appears to be 10/100Mbps.)
  • Express Series Links.
    • A much easier way to setup Series Links is here, and it’s pretty much one click.
    • Defaults are: start 1 minute early, end 4 minutes late, 10 episodes until speed needed, new & reruns. These are now the default options for regular Series Links too, which can be changed of course.
    • If you want to make regular Series Links use the Explore this show -> Get this show -> Get a Series Link -> Options menu chain, which incidentally keeps you in the Flash HD part of the TiVo rather than to the old SD one without the PiP in the top right.
    • (When you manage Series Links, that’s still in the old SD menu style though.)
  • Disable PIN on recording playback.
    • It was annoying to have to enter a PIN to watch shows recorded after the watershed time(s) in non-watershed times, but this has been mostly done away with now.
    • I still received a PIN request for a show rated by age (18 in that case) rather than time of day though.
    • You can lock apps with the parental control as well, but for some reason the only one that shows up on my list is the old YouTube one.
  • Multi-tap text entry.
    • I’ve wanted this feature for a long time, and now it’s here I am not disappointed.
    • So much quicker to enter text on the Flash HD menus using the numeric buttons like writing SMS on older mobile phones.
    • iPlayer app always had it (still does), old YouTube doesn’t as it hasn’t been updated and the old SD parts of the TiVo menus (i.e. when creating or modifying WishLists) still doesn’t so it’s a mixed bag, however.
  • All channels in PiP Window.
    • Yes, even the Sky ones. I didn’t expect this to be looked at until 2012 so I’m impressed it’s already been dealt with, because it was a senseless limitation.
  • USB keyboards are working. - thanks to mikerr
    • It wasn’t just the Ethernet port that got switched on, the USB ports were activated too.
    • Interestingly if you press F11 you can toggle between Flash HD menus and faster but older original TiVo SD ones which have some “hidden” options. I’ll post the keyboard layout when I’ve tested it more. From what I can tell though, there is no rewind/fast-forward/play/pause ability which is a shame.
    • My Logitech MK250 wireless USB mouse/keyboard set works perfectly, well the keyboard does anyway! I also tried one of those generic PS2 mouse/keyboard to one USB adapters, and with only the Keyboard plugged in it worked perfectly too.
    • Sadly no support for generic USB Mass Storage devices which don’t need complex drivers like external HDDs, flash memory sticks or smartphones with SD cards.
  • Info and Stop button functionality improved.
    • “You’ll be able to use the ‘info’ button in the TV programme guide and the mini guide, while the Stop button now works as you would expect.” That’s what Virgin said and so far I agree with them.
  • New YouTube app. - thanks to the_pidgeon
    • I did receive the updated YouTube app, contrary to what I first thought.
    • Both old and new are now present on 15.2 VM TiVos.
    • New one is found under Featured apps and Music while the old one is under All Apps & Games.
    • Some have said the new YouTube app is buggy, but in my experience it's okay, just not as loaded with features as the old one.
    • New one autoplaylists by default, plays an annoying VM promo video at launch and lacks features like Subscriptions
NEGATIVE CHANGES
  • Sorting of Apps & Games into folders.
    • This adds nothing when you consider at the moment there are only 14 apps on the TiVo (both old and new YouTube), just results in more button presses to get to what you want.
  • Films no longer show the year in brackets in My Shows. - thanks to mikerr
    • For example The Matrix [1999] now just displays as The Matrix.
    • This was a good way of instantly telling films apart from other programmes and it is a shame to lose it
STILL TO FIX/ADD
  • Aspect ratio on 4:3 content when using PiP in Home menu is wrong.
    • A minor issue, but noticeable.
    • When you’re watching an old show or film, anything non-widescreen is displayed correctly in the EPG when the Aspect Correction Mode is set to Panel, i.e. with black bars on either side.
    • In the Home menu, all non-widescreen content is stretched out to fit even when Panel is selected.
  • YouTube/old style TiVo SD menus don’t support multi-tap input.
    • The new YouTube app might, but I don’t have it to test.
    • Old style TiVo SD menus still force you to input letters, e.g. for wishlists, by use of navigation keys only.
  • Still using old-style TiVo SD menus in some parts of the interface.
    • This will probably never change with VM’s Premiere TiVo derivative, but there’s always a disappointment when going from the slick, fairly decent looking Flash HD menus to the TiVo SD menus that haven’t changed much in a decade.
  • No Spotify.
    • It was promised but doesn’t appear to be available yet… I was expecting the app to be downloaded to the TiVo at least, even if it wasn’t usable.
    [Nialli comment: it's coming November 29th.]
    • Disabled TiVo Desktop support.
      • You can’t download content from the TiVo still; hopefully in the next update, since the original Premiere is capable of it.
    • Can’t use pyTiVo or Streambaby third-party streaming apps.
      • As the VM TiVo differs from the Premiere quite a bit at this point, these excellent features which allow you to stream content from other devices (i.e. a NAS or PC) with transcoding where necessary.
      • Features like this would push the TiVo closer towards being a true media centre hub, but even with the Ethernet port activated and Multi-room/network remote features added we’re unlikely to see support for these at any point. More of a pipe dream, really!
    • Negligible difference to SD channel upscaling.
      • I never saw much (if any) difference between the upscaling on Tivo and older V HD /V+ HD boxes but VM did promise an improvement here, which in my opinion has not arrived.
      • My recommendation is, if you’re connected by HDMI it’s wise to turn the Sharpness control on your set up somewhat. All VM boxes I’ve tried benefit from a clearer picture when doing this, which is quite noticeable on SD content and even more so on HD content.
    • No red button support.
      • Yes, red button still just takes you to Catchup style options, not proper Freeview-esque support of true red button services.
      • In my case not a big issue as it is something I rarely use (TV has built-in Freeview anyway) but it will undoubtedly tick off some TiVo users.
    • No Reminder feature.
      • This legacy function is still missing.
      • Easy enough to implement, so hopefully 15.3 will include it.
      • I see it as a transitional addition to make migrating from V HD and V+ HD boxes easier, especially if you have those and the TiVo in the house.
    SUMMARY
    Overall the 15.2 can be considered a big improvement over the 15.1 in a variety of ways, with some of the lingering problems due to be removed in the next firmware upgrade. Well done Virgin Media, and TiVo US!

    November 22, 2011

    My TiVo's been upgraded to 15.2 successfully

    Worked as scheduled last night. First comments:
    • Felt much more responsive, faster than I'd expected
    • PIN disabling - hurrah! Still there on the Sky Movie channels (for non U and PG films) but otherwise it can be turned off
    • Sky content now appearing in the preview screens
    My rollout was listed as  for Nov 22 so it's 2am that day when it happens (here's MediaBoy's list if you want to see when your area's scheduled). How are you guys finding it?

    November 21, 2011

    15.2 SD picture quality "definitely better"

    For those who had poor SD picture quality with the first release of TiVo software, here's some news that will be most welcome from VM's community forum:
    There is a fault in 15.1 software (a filtering fault), it is published on this forum by VM some months ago, so 15.2 will definitely improve SD PQ. I am in Nottingham and have been upgraded to 15.2 and I can comfirm the SD PQ is definitely better. I have a Sony KDL40HX803 TV.
    I'm due for the upgrade on the 22nd, but as I didn't have the problem with my Toshiba TV (it appears to mostly have been reported with Sony and Samsung TVs) I won't be able to tell. Here's hoping this guy's experience is shared by those afflicted.

    November 16, 2011

    TiVo: official details of the upgrade and Spotify on Tivo launch

    Here's the information I got in the post from Virgin Media today on the imminent TiVo update. Note that the Spotify App will launch on TiVo on November 29th!

    November 08, 2011

    TiVo 15.2 update rollout details

    MediaBoy's blog has the details of which region's getting the update when. Three areas kick off on November 17th (Basildon, Grimsby and Nottigham) then the rest follow from the 21st. Full details at http://mediaboyblog.blogspot.com/

    November 03, 2011

    BT Vision "the fastest-growing pay-TV service in the UK"

    Report from MediaGuardian:

    BT Vision has become the fastest-growing pay-TV service in the UK, adding more customers in a quarter than BSkyB for the first time since launching more than four years ago.
    The telecoms company's pay-TV offering – which combines Freeview channels with sport, movies and on-demand content via broadband – said that the addition of the BBC iPlayer and a significant amount of on-demand content from major film studios had helped boost numbers.
    BT Vision added 41,000 customers in the three months to the end of September, the most the service has attracted in a quarter for more than two years.
    It also marks first time BT Vision has ever added more TV customers in a quarter than BSkyB since launching in mid-2007.
    BSkyB added 26,000 pay-TV customers in the quarter to the end of September – well down on the almost 100,000 it reported in the same period in 2010 – while cable pay-TV operator Virgin Media's total television subscribers declined by almost 6,000 in the period.
    "It is the first time we have beaten Sky since launch and we have added more customers than both [including Virgin Media] combined," said Marc Watson, chief executive of BT Vision. "It is very encouraging but we are not getting carried away. We are a young business with a lot to do."
    Virgin Media refuted the claim, arguing that it added 42,000 new TV customers to its TiVo service. While this is slightly ahead of BT's growth rate, Virgin also lost customers in the third quarter, adding a net total of 28,800 pay-TV customers.
    One thing I would say is that, with the analogue signal switch off now rolling around the country BT Vision is picking up those who don't fancy Sky or Virgin's relatively high monthly costs but fancy a bit more than the basic Freeview. I'd imagine in time this market will be better catered for by a combination of Freeview (including a handful of HD channels) and SmartTV services on the newer TV ranges, but for now BT is enjoying its (limited) success.

    November 02, 2011

    New and returning US HD series

    2 Broke Girls - 2012 on Channel 4HD
    30 Rock S5P2 - Fri, November 4 at 10.30pm on Comedy Central HD - at long bloody last!
    Allen Gregory - 2012 on E4 HD
    American Dad! S7 - January on FX HD
    American Horror Story - Mon, November 7 at 10pm on FX HD
    Apartment 23 - 2012 on E4 HD
    Big Bang Theory S5 - Thu, November 3 on E4 HD
    Bones S7 - Wed, November 16 at 9pm on Sky Living HD
    Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe - Sun, December 25 on FX HD
    Charlie's Angels - November 30 on E4 HD (already cancelled in the US)
    Cleveland Show S2 - January on FX HD
    Desperate Housewives S8 - 2012 on E4/Channel 4 HD
    Dexter S6 - March 2012 on FX HD
    Falling Skies S2 - July 2012 on FX HD
    Grey's Anatomy S8 - November 9 at 9pm on Sky Living HD
    How I Met Your Mother S7 - November 3 at 9pm on E4 HD
    Homeland - 2012 on Channel 4 HD
    Leverage S1/S2 - Mon, November 3 at 10pm on FX HD
    Leverage S3 - February 20, 2012 on FX HD
    Mad Dogs S2 - January 2012 on Sky1 HD (not US)
    New Girl S1 - 2012 on E4 HD
    Pan Am - November 16 on BBC HD
    Phoneshop S2 - Thu, November 10 on E4 HD (also not US)
    Sorority Girls - Tue, November 8 on E4 HD
    The Mentalist S4 - Thu, November 11 on Channel 5 HD
    The Office S6P2 - Tue, November 1 at 10pm on Comedy Central HD
    The Simpsons S23 - Sun, November 13 at 6pm on Sky1 HD
    True Blood S4 - February 7, 2012 on FX HD
    Whitney - Spring 2012 on Comedy Central HD

    TiVo update rollout dates

    According to our reliable friend Mr S. Eyes, the 15.2 update will be rolling out between 17th and 24th November.

    October 31, 2011

    Spotify - online, on your mobile and on TiVo


    Details from Virgin Media's web site:
    • Get Spotify Premium free for six months with Virgin Media 30Mb broadband and above.
    • Get Spotify Premium free for three months with Virgin Mobile.
    • And you will soon be able to enjoy Spotify on your TV too, exclusively with Virgin Media: TiVo® Service. If you’re on Spotify Premium, press Home on your TiVo remote, go to Apps and Games and you’ll (soon) find Spotify. All your playlists and favourites will be there, and you can browse for and star music as normal. 

     

    October 30, 2011

    Netflix loses 800k US customers in Q3

    Some folk see soon-to-launch-in-the-UK Netflix, LoveFilm and other Smart TV services as the future, and there's been a fair bit of press speculation that the traditional cable and satellite TV services' days are numbered as folk look to "cut the cord". But it ain't all rosey in the garden with these new services.
    Hot on the heels of LoveFilm's parent Amazon seeing profits fall 73% in the last quarer comes the news that Netflix reported the loss of more than 800,000 subscribers, and admitted its launch in the UK and Ireland in early 2012 will push it to a global net loss.
    Whilst revenues rose a healthy 49% year on year to $822m shares in Netflix, which had been trading at $300 in mid-2010, fell 27% in trading last week to $86.84.
    Short term expansion pain or a flawed product? Personally, I think these services will struggle here until broadband speeds are faster across the whole country - no-one will be happy with a buffering or pixelated TV service and HD is now a must for those with the larger panels.

    New TiVo upgrade in action - video



    Posted on Cable Forum by MarkyUK - goodworkfella!

    October 27, 2011

    Q3 2011 results

    From MediaGuardian:
    Virgin Media has won back 6,300 cable customers in the three months to end of September, partly making up for losses of 36,000 over the summer after students disconnected for the holidays.
    Financial results on Thursday showed that revenues grew 2.2% to £1bn year on year, marking a 3.3% rise for the first nine months of the year.
    Overall cable customer numbers increased on the second quarter to 4.79 million. The number of telephone customers fell by 13,300 to 4.31 million, as use of mobile phones at home gradually replaces landline phone calls. Virgin says that customer 'churn' – the proportion of customers who quit – has increased, to 1.7%, although those leaving its network spend on average £38.30 a month, 20% less than the bulk of its customers.
    The strategy of selling more to its existing customers led to a steady rise in ARPU (average revenue per user), up 3.2% so far this year, to £47.86 a month, which is Virgin's highest on record and compares with around £44.58 a month at rival BSkyB.
    More customers are parting with extra cash for higher speed broadband and on its latest digital video recorder from TiVo, which is being promoted on television in an advertising campaign fronted by Hustle actor Marc Warren.
    Chief executive Neil Berkett said: "Our results show that we're successfully serving what is a rapidly emerging market for better quality services. The demand for superior connectivity is accelerating as more people, regardless of their circumstances, recognise the best digital technology is worth paying more for."
    Virgin had sold 222,000 TiVo subscriptions as of Wednesday, up from 36,000 at the end of June. The number of on-demand TV shows watched each month reached 80m, an increase of 10% on 2010, although that figure is likely to rise as TiVo adoption spreads.
    The company said just over half of new customers are opting for high speed, 30 megabits per second (Mbps) broadband, with the number rising 178,000 to over half a million. The number of households taking 50Mbps or 100Mbps was 187,000, twice as many as a year ago.
    Over 1 million customers – 26% of the cable base – are now taking over 20Mbps, the lowest tier of above basic speed. Operating income increased year on year from £102m to 128m, while the company made a loss before tax on continuing operations of £74m, compared with a profit of nearly 10m the year before. Virgin still has total debt of £5.7bn.
    The company announced that it would use £250m of the £348m raised from the sale of its UKTV channels during the summer to expand its share buyback programme, which Goldman Sachs believes could see Virgin acquire 12% of its outstanding shares by the end of 2012. This takes to £1.25bn the total that will have been spend on buybacks since mid 2010. Goldman Sachs analysts said: "We believe these results validate management's efforts to grow customer lifetime value, with TiVo success creating helpful ARPU tailwinds for 2012."
    And from the VM Press Release, this on their TV offering:
    In the quarter we started to market and sell our new TiVo service to new customers and since July have been running our first TiVo TV advertising campaign. The strong early demand for this service has exceeded our high expectations and by the end of the quarter we had 162,900 TiVo customers, more than four times the number of customers with which we entered the quarter. We are seeing this demand for TiVo from both new and existing customers, with around one third of all TiVo subscribers being new to Virgin Media. Growth has continued strongly in October, and we had 222,000 TiVo customers as of 26th October.
    Widespread consumer research supports trends we see within our customer base whereby people are increasingly using multiple devices simultaneously, such as watching TV while playing with a tablet device.
    As we move to make TiVo the hub for all our customers’ entertainment needs, we are introducing a companion app later this year which will complement the TiVo television experience. This will replicate the graphical interface and functionality of the service while enabling customers to browse, search and control their TV through a tablet device.
    Both our new and legacy TV services stand apart from other TV platforms in the UK with advantages which include access to an unparalleled library of on demand programming. After the quarter end we introduced even more content following an agreement with BSkyB. This will increase what is the largest on demand service available in the UK by over a third, as measured by both users and hours of content. We remain on track to meet our predictions of 1bn views for 2011. Around two-thirds of our TV base regularly used our ondemand TV service during the quarter, averaging 80m views each month, which is an increase of 10% from the same period in 2010.
    We currently have around 3.8m TV customers, of which 1.8m or 49% are able to experience HD after a further 165,200 customers took an HD set-top box in the quarter. We recently announced the launch of five new HD channels from UKTV, taking the total number of HD channels available up to 36. In addition, the number of customers who subscribe to our Sky premium channels increased by 7% to 775,100, which represents 21% of all TV customers.
    The number of paying TV customers increased by 28,800; however churn in the lowest free “M” tier, with 34,500 net disconnections, meant the total TV customer base fell by 5,700 in the quarter.
    We are also about to launch our exclusive partnership with digital music service Spotify, which will make Virgin Media the only entertainment provider able to integrate the Spotify streaming music service into all of
    its consumer offerings. As well as online and on mobile, we are working to build an exclusive TV app which will make a catalogue of over 13 million music tracks available to listen to through home cinema systems.

    October 24, 2011

    TiVo Update comments summary

    A summary of the TiVo 15.2 Update reviews:

    Spotify Support:
    Not launched yet

    Red Button:
    BBC still launches iPlayer. ITV launches ITV Net Player (not sure if it did that before).

    TiVo App support:
    The TiVo ports are now open and going to port 80 on the TiVo box now gives a "Not Authorised" message - so clearly there's something there. But no app visible on the App Store yet.

    A new look for YouTube:
    Leanback app replaces the original. It's an interesting take on browsing videos, but I'm not sure it's that useful. The items in Apps, Search and My Shows all just take you to the leanback app.
    The Youtube Videos link from the Programme Info page now takes you to the same app, but having done a search on the programme name

    Full BBC iPlayer integration:
    You can go straight to the iPlayer content from the Programme page, however it takes a ridiculous number of presses of OK to get there, you think you're going round in a loop at one point. This might not be true for all programmes, but was for my quick test just now.

    Express Series Links:
    Yep, this works. As long as you're happy with the padding settings then this is a nice contrast with what it takes to get to On Demadn content.

    Multi-tap text entry:
    This works in search. Doesn't work in apps (eg Youtube) though.

    Automatic Padding:
    This is there. 1 min before, 4 mins afterwards.

    Improved Parental Controls:
    There is Parental Controls settings menu in the Settings menu. One of the options is "Request a PIN to watch shows recorded after 21:00". Yes/No.
    And it works!

    HD Upscaling:
    Don't know whether there is a difference here or not as quality varies so much between channels anyway.

    Connection reliability:
    Haven't seen any problems here.

    Info and Stop button functionality improved:
    Info works in a few more places. Stop now stops playback of a recording.

    Video Preview for every channel:
    Yes it does.

    Additional things I've noticed:
    - Green button in the guide allows you to jump to a particular day/time
    - Sky Anytime Movies are included if you subscribe to the channels anyway. They are presented like the rest of the On Demand content as plain alphabetical lists of movie titles which are still very slow to page through.
    - Reboots are down from the previous version (which was very unreliable for us).
    - Performance is better on the recordings pages I think
    - Transition between Menu/Guide/Search is not perfect, but not epilepsy inducing like before.

    October 23, 2011

    Movies in 3D on Virgin Media

    Regular visitors to this blog will know my disdain for 3D, both in the cinema and on TV, but for those with money and eyeballs to burn, here's a selection of the pay per view 3D movies you can watch on Virgin Media currently. Prices vary but peak at £6.49 for 48 hours. Ouch.
    • Cave of Forgotten Dreams
    • Drive Angry
    • Gnomeo & Juliet
    • Green Lantern
    • Hidden
    • Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
    • Steetdance
    • Thor
    • A Turtle's Tale
    • Yogi Bear

    October 22, 2011

    The new TiVo update - more news

    It's imminent and now Virgin Media has added to their (increasingly informative) community boards with one dedicated to posts from those testing the update 15.2.
    You can find it at http://community.virginmedia.com/t5/TiVo-Update-Pilot-Forum/bd-p/tivo_update but please don't flood it with questions to those with the the new software as that's not what it's for. An interesting read though: looks like boxes are faster, PQ may have improved (no real consensus on that, but then not everyone had a problem to start with) but no-one has yet mentioned any changes with PIN code requirement. I'll keep an eye on it and report anything I see of interest.
    Universal padding is working but not everyone's happy with the way it has been implemented, but I've noticed that there are only a few people posting there at the moment so it may not be a representative view.

    October 19, 2011

    Sky increase profit but customer numbers slow

    The recession strikes? Sky's Q3 2011 results suggest even the most robust business can feel the pinch in hard economic times:
    BSkyB managed to add 26,000 new pay-TV customers in the quarter, taking the total subscriber base to 10.2m, well down on the almost 100,000 added in the same quarter last year.

    BSkyB added 103,000 customers to its HD service, which stands at 3.9m of its total subscriber base, while broadband numbers rose 150,000 to 3.5m.
    Telephony customers rose 147,000 to 3.2m, while those taking their line rental through BSkyB rose 212,000 to 2.9m.
    The total number of customers taking TV, broadband and a "talk" product grew by 5% to account for 28% of BSkyB's total customer base – a 29% year-on-year increase.
    The company will also be pleased that average revenue per user – a key metric for analysts and an indicator of whether the company could be facing a slowdown in the economic climate – remained relatively stable at £535, up £25 on a year ago.
    Virgin Media's numbers for the same quarter are published next week.

    An update on the TiVo update

    From Simon Hunt, Product Director:

    This week we have begun a limited pilot of our next TiVo software release. This new software includes many new improvements as well as key developments that will enable the launch of future products. We’ll be rolling it out to everyone well before Christmas. Here’s a sneak peek of what you can expect:
     
    Spotify Support: We’ll support Spotify’s high quality streaming format, which will enable the Spotify Premium App on the TiVo platform.
    Red Button: This update adds extra functionality necessary to support Red Button services developed by our channel partners, such as BBC, ITV, and Sky Sports
    TiVo App support: We've enabled the connection of your TiVo box to iOS devices through your wireless router to use our fantastic TiVo app, which allows you to control the TiVo box, browse, search and manage recordings all from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.
    A new look for YouTube: We’ll support Google’s completely revamped YouTube app, which allows for a more relaxed viewing and browsing experience, and supports HD video!
    Full BBC iPlayer integration: We’ve changed the way Catch-up TV through BBC iPlayer works. Every BBC iPlayer programme will now be available through Search & Browse, including much more HD content, and you’ll never use up a tuner for BBC iPlayer viewing.
    Express Series Links: Create a Series Link with default settings at the click of a button.
    Multi-tap text entry: Use the number keys on your remote like a mobile phone for text entry for typing into search.
    Automatic Padding: We’ve had tremendous feedback from customers about clipped recordings, so we’ve installed a default level of padding for all recordings.
    Improved Parental Controls: We’ve made some changes with PIN entry requirements to suit every household. In the new update, PIN challenges on pre-watershed playback of programmes in My Shows become optional. We’ve also added the ability to require PIN to access any application.
    Skippable Music Playlists: Playlists on Music on Demand will be skippable by track
    Live Pay-per-view Events: Live pay-per-view events become bookable with your remote control.
    HD Upscaling: As promised on this forum, we’ve addressed the issue with our picture quality and this new update features better standard definition picture quality with improved upscaling.
    Connection reliability: HDMI and SCART compatibility improved.
    Info and Stop button functionality improved: You’ll be able to use the ‘info’ button in the TV programme guide and the mini guide, while the Stop button now works as you would expect.
    Video Preview for every channel: Every channel will keep playing in the TV Guide window, including all the Sky channels.

    There are plenty more updates already in the pipeline and, as ever, we will use your feedback to continue to improve our TiVo service.
    We’ll be keeping you up to date on this forum

    Thanks,

    Simon Hunt
    Product Director (TV)
    Virgin Media

    October 16, 2011

    Virgin Media installation - enough to make you despair - UPDATED


















    Just a few weeks ago a friend of mine decided to switch from Sky/BT to Virgin Media. Her main desire was for faster broadband for her family, but was interested in the TV too. She signed up for 50Mb broadband and M+ TV.
    She lives in a listed building in SE London. She called me shortly after the installation and asked if I could help with the TV as it seemed to have been set up poorly. She was right: the clowns had plugged cables in seemingly at random and had left it all connected via SCART (despite there being HDMI cables available to connect it correctly). Worse, the broadband was fluctuating between 45mb and an unusable sub 1mb speed (according to speedtest.net). She had reported this several times since installation and had been told it would be fixed "in the next few days". Three weeks later and the broadband is still erratic and seen by my friend as worse than her old BT 8Mb.
    But the worse thing is the cabling outside the house. See the pictures and judge for yourself: that neat black cable in the BT and Sky cabling, the white cable, looking suspiciously like one for internal rather than external use, is Virgin Media. Have you ever seen such a botched, rushed, ugly cabling job? The box is not secured, hanging on by sheer will power alone. One strong wind and the whole lot will come down. And remember that this is on an historic building over looking the Thames.
    Makes me despair.
    If anyone from Virgin Media reads this, please contact me and I can put you in touch with my friend to sort this out. She's ready to switch back to Sky/BT and I can't blame her. Come on VM, you're better than this...

    UPDATE: Can't fault Virgin Media's response to this posting: I had an email from Virgin Media's Head of Customer Experience at 7am on Monday morning, quickly followed by another from the Head of Services and Installs and my friend has an appointment for Thursday to rectify everything. Thanks guys!

    October 14, 2011

    New Virgin Media logo

    They've spent all of that money that should have gone to securing Sky Atlantic* on a new logo to cash in on British fever with next year's Olympic/Royal Jubilee patriotism fiesta

    * Joke.

    October 12, 2011

    Friends on Comedy Central HD...in HD!

    Comedy Central is a funny old channel, but not necessarily in the way the programme makers always intend. For a start it has some of the worse lip sync issues I've seen on any channel - on both Virgin Media and Sky. Then there's it's scheduling, which is now seemingly entirely made up of the so-so Two and a Half Men and now repeats ad nauseum of Friends, whilst the Emmy winning first run of last year's season five of 30 Rock sits cobweb coated on some shelf in their archive. Most odd.
    But hang on a minute - I've just watched an episode from the first season of Friends which looked old 4:3, dark, dingy and bedraggled on E4 and it's all sparkly, widescreen and genuinely HD! Amazing. According to Comedy Central: "Yes the rumours are also true that we’ve got Friends in HD too! Back in the 90s the peeps at Warner Bros had the cunning foresight to shoot the original episodes on film so we’ve had them re-mastered to bring you better looking Friends on our channel. Widescreen and everything." So well done CC, now please sort out the lip sync issue on some of your broadcasts and treat 30 Rock with the respect it deserves when you bring it back this month, a year late.

    Sky Anytime - Virgin Media press release

    Virgin Media today confirmed that thousands of hours of films, shows, sport and news will be added to its pioneering TV On Demand service with the launch of Sky Anytime on Virgin Media. The addition of Sky Anytime on Virgin Media will increase what is already the largest collection of On Demand entertainment in the UK by over a third, to provide over 6,500 hours of TV and movies On Demand, with selected content available in HD and 3D.
    Virgin Media TV customers now have access to On Demand content from a range of Sky channels in line with their underlying subscriptions.* With the content bundled into their existing TV package at no extra cost, this adds even more value for customers. Virgin Media delivers an instant TV On Demand experience, through its dedicated fibre optic network.**
    The arrival of Sky Anytime on Virgin Media makes Virgin Media a leading destination for movies On Demand as film fanatics can now enjoy access to over one thousand titles at the press of a button. Virgin Media TV customers subscribed to the Sky Movies Collection*** will now be able to access up to 500 titles from Sky Anytime as well as over 500 movies made available through FilmFlex, PictureBox and Virgin Media Player.
    Sports fans subscribed to the Sky Sports Collection**** will also have the opportunity to catch-up on the latest sporting action, with highlights from the Barclays Premier League, UEFA Champions League football, international cricket and European Tour Golf.
    Sky Anytime on Virgin Media has already started rolling out, initially for customers on Virgin Media’s XL TV tier who will have instant access to popular shows On Demand including Glee, Steven Spielberg’s Terra Nova and more from Sky1, Sky Living, Sky Arts and Sky News, and in HD where available. From early 2012 selected programmes from these channels will also be made available to M+ TV customers and above through Sky Anytime on Virgin Media.
    A range of On Demand content from Sky’s channels will also be made available in the coming weeks online through the Virgin Media Player service.
    Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media, said: “Virgin Media offers the most complete TV On Demand experience in the UK and is the perfect place for movie fans with over one thousand fantastic films available instantly On Demand.”
    “The addition of Sky Anytime on Virgin Media forms part of our ongoing commitment to developing a compelling and complete digital entertainment service. With a growing On Demand library designed to offer range and depth, all delivered instantly, customers now have even more flexibility to enjoy whatever they want, whenever they want it.”
    Virgin Media’s TV On Demand service boasts thousands of hours of high-quality content including HD and 3D. The service includes seven day catch-up TV from all public service broadcasters as well as full series and exclusives from content partners such as FX, Warner TV, Aardman Studios, Starz and Discovery Networks.

    * Sky Anytime on Virgin Media is a bonus service available to customers with compatible equipment, providing TV On Demand content for Sky basic SD and HD channels included within their subscriptions.

    ** Virgin Media customers do not require Sky Broadband to access Sky Anytime on Virgin Media.
    *** Channels include Sky Movies Modern Greats, Sky Movies Drama & Romance, Sky Movies Family, Sky Movies Classics, Sky Movies Comedy, Sky Movies Action & Adventure, Sky Movies Crime & Thriller, Sky Movies Sci-Fi & Horror, Sky Movies Indie, Sky Movies Premiere, Sky Movies Showcase, Sky Movies Premiere +1, Disney Cinemagic, and all HD variants excluding Disney Cinemagic and Sky Premiere +1.
    **** Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 2, Sky Sports 3, Sky Sports 4 and HD variants excluding Sky Sports 3 and 4.

    Sky Anytime arrives

    Rolling out as a soft launch, with the different categories slowly filling up region by region.
    Here's what I understand is coming:
    • 'Selected content will be available HD and 3D'
    • The Sky Sports Collection will give access to highlights from Barclays Premier League, UEFA Champions League football, international cricket and European Tour Golf (for those subscribing already to the channels)
    • The total amount of VOD content on offer from Virgin Media will increase by a third to over 6,500 hours.
    Sky Anytime on Virgin Media is initially for customers on Virgin Media’s big basic XL TV tier who will have instant access to programming from Sky1, Sky Living, Sky Arts and Sky News, and in HD where available.
    From early 2012 selected programmes from these channels will also be made available to M+ TV customers and above through Sky Anytime on Virgin Media.
    And before anyone asks, Sky Atlantic programming will not be available to VM customers on the new service. (Yet.)
    And, of course, being a VM VoD service there's none of that "having to download content" first crap...

    October 11, 2011

    Missing the end of recordings? Maybe this will help

    Jason's posted a useful tip to try if you're suffering from recordings clipped short by programme clashes. Check out his TiVo blog for details.

    Boardwalk Empire on DVD and Blu Ray

    Season one of HBO's Boardwalk Empire finally has a release date in the US: January 10th 2012! That's over twelve months after it concluded on the US cable network. Of course, by the time it has appeared on disc season two will have finished on HBO and Sky Atlantic. Ridiculous...and they wonder why piracy is rife...

    Sky Anytime Movies imminent

    This from the Virgin Media website. It appears to be posted prematurely (the service isn't live yet) but does indicate that its arrival is imminent:
    So, what does the arrival of Sky Anytime on Virgin Media mean for us movie fans? The good news is that it is going to open the door to hundreds more movies fresh from the cinema that you can enjoy anytime of the day. The bad news is… er, well, there is no bad news.
    Basically, if you are already a Virgin Media TV customer and you subscribe to the Sky Movies Collection, you can now access hundreds more movies from Sky Anytime at no extra cost.
    If you aren't yet a Virgin Media TV customer then fear not, you can find more information and signing up for it here. If you don't have Sky Movies yet then this can be easily solved by clicking here.
    So, what it means for you film fans is that, if you add the 500 movies now available through Sky Anytime to the hundreds of movies already available on FilmFlex and Picturebox, you have a pretty much unbeatable film feast that you can tuck into anytime you fancy.
    No launch date yet but the video on the web page does suggest they will be available in HD, which is good news for those who still have V+'s limited capacity but want to have HD movies available on tap.

    October 09, 2011

    BBC Consultation - a few more details

    If, like me, you want to be give some feedback to the BBC Trust on the cuts recommendations made this week, you can do it online at this site, where you will also find the full recommendations: BBC Trust Consultation
    For those just interested in how the proposals will affect HD services, here are the headlines:
    BBC One
    • Launch full BBC One High Definition (HD) channels for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which would replicate the existing Standard Definition (SD) channel in that nation
    • In England no region specific services would be carried on BBC One HD. Ways to minimise disruption to viewers when switching between HD and SD to access programmes made for their particular area would be investigated
    BBC Two & BBC HD
    • BBC Two and BBC Four would share more arts and music programmes through complementary scheduling and repeating. A small number of arts and music programmes would transfer from BBC Two to BBC Four
    • Launch a single version, with no variations in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, of BBC Two in HD in 2012 to replace the current BBC HD channel. Nations variations would continue in SD
    BBC Three
    • A specific remit to act as a place to nurture and develop talent and programme content for BBC One
    • Share more programmes with BBC One, to provide additional chances to watch programmes which appeal to younger audiences 
    BBC Four
    • BBC Four would play a more complementary role to BBC Two
    • BBC Four would continue to show the best of foreign language drama and film from across the world
    Odd, but there's nothing I can see so far about BBC News bulletins or the channel itself moving to high definition, which is disappointing. Similarly, as children's programming is shifted to just CBeebies and CBBC there will be no more HD broadcasts of those shows either.
    Also, nothing I've found yet about the future of 3D on the BBC, but I'm still reading the full report so I will let you know if I find any more.

    Eden HD - quality!

    Those who dismiss Virgin Media's recent HD additions as "cheap rubbish" should perhaps pay a visit to Eden HD (209) which I tuned into last night for a Brian Cox marathon.
    Sure, it is wall-to-wall nature documentaries and science repeats from the BBC but they are in the main utterly fab and gorgeous in high def.
    Also, the new HD channels are free to all customers not on the XL TV package until the end of October (Eden, Good Food, Watch and Dave - those last two arriving this week)

    October 06, 2011

    BBC HD to become BBC2 HD

    Just a short while ago it was Virgin Media customers' only HD channel. Now, it's to be closed. According to the Guardian's coverage on the BBC cuts announced today:
    "The BBC HD channel will be closed, replaced with a high definition broadcast of BBC2."
    It's only a proposal still, but is pretty certain to happen which is not great for those who enjoy the ocassional bit of BBC4 or even BBC3 in high def. I guess it also means probably the end of the BBC's 3D coverage of live events like Wimbledon - surely they wouldn't broadcast it in 2D on one HD channel and 3D on the other one?
    And as a footnote to the demise of BBC HD: last month the head of BBC HD, Danielle Nagler, left the corporation and her role was merged into other posts.

    October 04, 2011

    Confirmed: UKTV and Sky Classics HD channels

    The official press release:
    More amazing HD with no extra fee
    Virgin Media today announced seven new TV channels, including five in HD, would join its digital TV service from this month. The latest line-up will extend Virgin Media’s high-definition channel offering to an impressive 37 of which 24 stunning HD channels are available to its ‘XL’ TV customers with no extra monthly HD fee. The full channel line-up includes Eden HD, Eden +1, Good Food HD, Yesterday +1, Watch HD, Dave HD, with Alibi HD due to follow in 2012. 
    Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media said: “We’re thrilled to be bringing more dazzling HD channels to our TV service, offering our customers even more choice and variety. Our commitment remains to deliver and develop the most compelling digital home entertainment service available in the UK and we will continue to build on our great TV and On Demand offerings to give our customers the best range of services now and for the future.”
    Keith Porritt, Executive Director, Commercial at UKTV said: “We’re delighted to become a leading supplier of Virgin Media’s HD offering. These channels show the breadth of HD content we offer on our network from jaw-dropping natural history and mouth-watering food programs to amazing magic and the best in stand-up comedy, with TV’s ultimate compendium in crime to follow, all in HD exclusive to UK Pay TV.”
    According to Media Boy (and his copy of the Radio Times) the launch date for Eden HD and Good Food HD will now be October 7th, and  Dave HD will now launch on October 10th.

    I've been asked about ITV2, 3, 4 HD: at the moment there is nothing official about these - Virgin Media saying that they are "still in negotiations".

    October 02, 2011

    Activating a second box for the Sky Premier HD channels...

    ...doesn't happen automatically: you need to call Virgin Media. No charge, can take an hour or two.

    October 01, 2011

    A few new series coming soon

    A few high profile series will be appearing over the next month or so. On Monday Oct 3rd Terra Nova debuts. Never too excited about dinosaurs myself, but it will appeal to some I'm sure, and hopefully it will start better than Mr Spielberg's other recent Exec Prod series Falling Skies, which took a while to get going. Sky 1HD also has a homegrown comedy series, Spy, starting later this month. This looks quite good from the trailers they're now running. Another series coming soon is American Horror Story, a supernatural drama created by Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Glee) and Brad Falchuck (Glee), starring Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton and Jessica Lange. The trailer here is for the US premiere - it won't arrive here until November. And if you like that kind of thing, check out The Fades on BBCHD which started a couple of weeks ago but is still on iPlayer - creepy stuff.

    September 29, 2011

    Upgrading to TiVo?

    Activation is free on the first box, so a 500mb TiVo is now free (if you ignore the £3 a month) and the 1tb beauty if £49. Details on Virgin Media's site 
    (Note that the small print says that  this is only for the first TiVo on each account and upgrading any more will still incur the £49.95 activation charge. That V+ in the bedroom can't be swapped for a free TiVo. At least, not yet.)

    September 27, 2011

    Sky Classic Movies HD, Eden HD, Dave HD, Watch HD and Good Food HD all announced

    A promotional screen for Sky Classics HD has appeared on channel 441. Media Boy has also written that we can expect the following changes to accomodate Eden HD and Good Food HD:  
    Yesterday +1 on Virgin Channel 204.  
    Eden HD on Virgin Channel 209.
    Eden +1 on Virgin Channel 210.  
    Good Food HD on Virgin Channel 261.

    UPDATE FROM MEDIA BOY:
    Media Boy has published the following October activities from his sources:
    Oct 1st. Virgin Media are going to move Sky Premium HD Channels from £7 per box to £7 per account.
    Sky Movies Collection customers will get a £2 reduction on Virgin Media (but not to viewers who have got Sky Sports with it or just one Sky Movies Channel package).
    Virgin Media customers who have Sky Movies Collection with the TV M package will see their cost being cut by £2 to £26.00.
    Virgin Media customers who have Sky Movies Collection with the TV M+, L or XL package will see their cost being cut by £2 to £19.50.
    Oct 4th. Sky Movies Classic HD will launch on Channel 441 today at 6am.
    Oct 5th. Yesterday +1 will launch on Channel 204 today.
    Eden HD will launch on Channel 209 today. 5th. Eden +1 will launch on Channel 210 today.
    Good Food HD will launch on Channel 261 today.
    Watch +1 to move from Virgin Channel 125 to Virgin Channel 190,
    Dave Ja Vu to move from Virgin Channel 128 to Virgin Channel 191.
    Virgin will put an Slate up for Watch HD on Channel 125.
    Virgin will put an Slate up for Dave HD on Channel 129.
    Oct 12th. Watch HD will launch on Channel 125 today.
    Dave HD will launch on Channel 129 today.

    September 21, 2011

    Free Sky Sports this weekend

    Sky Sports 1, 2, 3 and 4 are available to all VM customers this weekend. For football fans that's Man City v Everton on Saturday lunchtime and QPR v Villa on Sunday at 4pm. Shame they didn't do it last Sunday with the Spurs v Liverpool and Man U v Chelsea games, but hey ho.
    (Sky Sports 1 and 2 are also available in HD of course.)
    (Thanks for the reminder, David)

    September 20, 2011

    Leaked TiVo October update details

    http://www.cableforum.co.uk/board/11/33676466-general-tivo-discussion-part-2-a-page-330.html

    Claimed changes with the October software update:
    • Improved 1080i up scaling so improving the picture quality
    • HDMI connection reliability fixed
    • Info button now provides programme information in guide and mini guide
    • SCART aspect ratio corrected
    • Express Series Link – You can set your series links in a flash
    • Padding – Automatic padding around the start and finish of new recordings and series links (doesn’t change existing series links)
    • Multi-tap text entry – You can now search using the number buttons on your remote, just like texting on your mobile phone
    • More flexible parental control – If you don’t want to be asked for your PIN when you’re playing a recording from My Shows, you can now switch it off!
    • Skippable playlists – Full skipping functionality for Music On Demand playlists will be available
    • Live Events – Great news! You can now buy a live event on your TiVo box
    • BBC iPlayer – Full integration of all the content from the BBC iPlayer is now available in the TV Guide, the Catch Up & On Demand menus and in TiVo Search and Browse
    • PIN access on Apps – You can now control access to Apps and Games
    • YouTube app – The YouTube app has been given a whole new look with more videos than ever and now supports HD quality video
    • TiVo Buddy App – Just after we launch the new code you’ll be able to download this great new tool from the Apple App Store. If you connect your wireless router to the TiVo box with a cable you’ll be able to control many features from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. 
    No Red Button?  Apparently the "launch of BBC red button will be in the coming months. Thought that it wouldn't be fair to string you along, as it's not ready just yet"
    All sounds legit to me - the phrasing's very Virgin. There's a thread on it on the VM TiVo forum and none of the information is contradicted by VM staff.

    September 18, 2011

    Playing with Virgin Media's Spotify freebie

    After the announcement brouhaha it was a pretty quiet launch for the Spotify service for Virgin Media customers - there's still nothing I can see about it on Virgin's own site - but I signed up to the free first twelve months of service and have finally found the time to have a play.
    It's pretty good. In fact, it's better than I expected: the full Premium package no less, so no ads, you can play your music offline on both your computer and your phone (Android and iPhones only I think) and it's pretty good sound quality. Not always the sound quality advertised (it's supposed to be 320k but according to this blog that's not always the case) but stil perfectly fine for casual listening.
    There are artists missing from the huge inventory (no Beatles or Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin, the usual digital refuseniks) but pretty much something for everyone there. I'd recommend it for those who have limited drive capacity on their phones (but watch those data charges) or if, like me, you just want to briefly reaquaint yourself with some old friends you don't have on CD or your iPod these days. Will I pay for the service when it's no longer free? Not sure. Depends on the price and how much I use it in the months to come.
    One thing missing is an App to stream the service via my TiVo: hopefully someone has already got that in the works as that would increase the usage in the Nialli household considerably.
    Anyone else given it a go?

    September 17, 2011

    Fringe, Curb Your Enthusiasm return

    The eighth and final series of HBO's CurbYour Enthusiasm starts on More4 tomorrow Sunday, albeit in SD. And Fringe returns to Sky1 HD on September 28th at 10pm.
    So a timely reminder that Sky Atlantic doesn't have every good new US show after all...

    More HD confirmed for October

    Source: Virgin Media's Peter Chapman

    We are going to be launching a number of HD channels in October. This includes four channels from UKTV which we will be announcing shortly. We will also be launching Sky Movies Classic HD in October. That will mean that we will have 36 HD channels of which over 19 are included for free as part of our TV packs,

    We are in discussion with the owners of the other channels you list as well as a number of additional providers so we hope to be able to bring more HD channels in the future.

    September 08, 2011

    TiVo on the iPad and more, coming soon



    Virgin Media has released some new screenshots of the forthcoming TiVo for iPad App, anticipated in the next month or two along with a series of new software updates to address some current bugs and add some new features too.
    Virgin also announced that Korean manufacturer Samsung will be making its next generation TiVo boxes. Odd - I thought they already had a deal with Cisco, the makers of the current boxes. Is demand that high, or are there some production issues with the first TiVo boxes?
    Whatever the reason, don't expect a radical change in the box's appearance: there's an exclusive photo over on PocketLint - it looks identical to me.

    September 07, 2011

    TiVo announces 2Tb, four tuner box in the US

    TiVo has revealed its most impressive PVR to date at the US CEDIA Expo. The TiVo Premiere Elite claims to be the 'world's most advanced' set-top box, thanks its inclusion of four tuners and a 2TB hard drive. Overkill? I'm not saying anything. Other features of the TiVo Premiere Elite include THX certification, a 1080p output and the ability to stream content from your home network – as well as the usual TiVo tricks. A Virgin Media spokesperson said to TechRadar : "As Virgin Media TiVo continues to evolve, we're looking at a range of exciting new features to further enhance the service and give our customers a truly unrivalled viewing experience." (Click the TechRadar link for the full story) So you still have to type in your PIN to view anything??! Give me that bug fix over a fourth tuner any day...

    Freesat update

    According to MediaGuardian, subscription-free service Freesat has passed the 2 million customer mark and revealed that almost half of its users have defected from BSkyB. The three-year-old joint venture between the BBC and ITV, which aims to provide a free-to-air alternative to Sky's pay-TV digital satellite service, claims that 47% of Freesat customers are former Sky subscribers. 88k new homes took up Freesat during the second quarter of this year, compared with about 40k new Sky subscribers. (Virgin Media actually reported a loss of 36k customers that quarter.)
    Freesat has kinda floundered as a service, but that doesn't appear to have stopped it picking up dish-endowed customers who are maybe cutting back on a few costs in these austere times. For those interested, Freesat still only offers the HD versions of BBC1, BBC HD, ITV1 and C4, plus something called NHK World. Around 150 TV and radio channels in all, including a few that aren't on Virgin, notably the CBS quartet. What's odd though is that the service doesn't carry some that are on Freeview - 5*, Dave, 5 USA are the ones I noticed missing.There were questions about the quality of standard definition channels on the platform a while back, with many saying it looked even worse than Freeview. I don't know if this has been addressed, but it still looks very much a third-rate service to me. I guess for former Sky customers though who don't have an aerial Freesat is an easier install option than even VM's lowest priced offers. 2m customers makes it a significant player though - bigger than BT Vision and more than half of VM's TV customer base.

    September 05, 2011

    Freeview to get one more HD channel

    OFCOM has announced that Freeview is to get a fifth HD channel and has invited the UK's commercial free-to-air channels - ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 - to bid. No BBC for this one as it already has BBC HD and BBC One HD on the platform. Freeview also has ITV1 HD and 4HD, so I would imagine the new slot will go to ITV2 HD, Five HD or maybe E4 HD.

    September 04, 2011

    TiVo EPG: an update from Virgin Media

    From Virgin Media's official TiVo forum:
    When we decided to partner with TiVo for our next generation TV service, we realised the quality of metadata (programme information) would be a key element to the success of the product. Quite simply, the features that make TiVo so great require better, more detailed schedule data than any other products on the market today.

    So, we selected TiVo's long term partner, Tribune Media Services (TMS), as our provider of metadata. TMS has a really deep understanding of how metadata drives key parts of the TiVo service and the importance of getting it right.

    But as you'd expect with the launch of any new product, we've had some unexpected challenges along the way which we have been working hard to resolve. I'd like to explain two of these and what we've done to fix them.

    Challenge 1:
    We're aware there have been some occurrences where a series has not recorded when a Series Link is set to NEW only. (It's worth pointing out right now that no other product attempts to offer such flexibility with a Series Link.) One of the key pieces of information TiVo uses to decide if a programme is NEW is something called the 'Original Air Date' (forever now referred to as the OAD!). The OAD is set as the first date that a particular episode of a programme was aired in the UK. TiVo describes a programme as NEW if it airs within 28 days of the OAD.

    This situation threw up two issues. The first was caused by another feature of TiVo, the Episode Guide. To ensure the Episode Guide was as detailed as possible, we had to merge parts of TMS' US database with the one for the UK. To do this, we picked a historic date whereby the US OAD would take precedence over that of the UK. However, some US shows were inadvertently affected when there was a long gap between the US and the UK airing. As time has gone on, the number of shows that could be affected by this has reduced greatly.
    The second was in relation to channels broadcast in Northern Ireland. That is, Virgin Media provides the RTE and TG4 channels to customers in N.I. However, some US shows are shown on both the Irish channels and on UK channels. Sometimes the 'Irish' airing is well in advance of the 'UK' airing. If that date difference is more than 28 days, TiVo would not apply a NEW tag to the 'UK' airing. TMS have been working hard to make sure their systems take this situation into account and any shows aired since July 1st should no longer suffer from this problem. Just as a tip and to ensure you don't miss any shows, you can also select 'NEW & reruns'.

    Challenge 2:
    We've discovered there are some challenges around 'Non-episodic programme information'. TiVo loves to know specific information about each and every programme, however some UK broadcasters aren't used to providing this for all shows.

    This has lead us to use generic 'series information' for some shows and this causes the following issues:
    1) all showings of a programme will be recorded regardless of the Series Link setting and 2) when a Catch-Up TV show is available in the reverse EPG, TiVo doesn't always know which episode to play. We're working with TMS and our channel providers to increase the amount of episodic information in the schedule.

    So in summary, I hope this helps to clarify how we are dealing with some of the challenges we are facing. We're working closely with TMS to improve our operational compliance processes to ensure other mistakes don't slip through. We really appreciate your feedback and please continue to use the Survey Monkey link to report any problems so that we can resolve these as quickly as possible. We're also working on a better way for you to report issues directly to us and I'll be in touch once it's up and running.

    Regards,
    Stephen Featham
    Director, Digital Entertainment Technical Operations, Virgin Media.