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…
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.