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.

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

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.

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

September 02, 2011

New and returning HD series

Is it me or is there bugger all on TV at the moment? I'm still catching up with stuff I recorded a few months ago (and thanks to my TiVo's 1Tb capacity they're all in HD) but it's good to know that the are some old favourites and interesting new shows on their way back:
  • An Idiot Abroad 2 - September on Sky1 
  • Braquo - Sun, October 30 at 10pm on FX 
  • Celebrity Coach Trip S2 - September on Channel 4 
  • Downton Abbey S2 - September on ITV1 
  • Drop Dead Diva S3 - Fri, September 2 at 8pm on Sky Living 
  • Glee S3 - September 22 at 9pm on Sky1 
  • Happy Endings S1 - Thursday, September 8 at 9pm on E4
  • Inspector George Gently - Sunday, September 4 at 9pm on BBC1
  • Made In Chelsea S2 - September on E4 
  • Modern Family S3 - Friday, September 23 at 8pm on Sky1 
  • Strictly Come Dancing - Sat, September 10 on BBC1
  • Terra Nova S1 - October on Sky1 
  • The Middle S3 - Fri, September 23 at 7pm on Sky1 
  • The Walking Dead S2 - Fri, October 21 at 10pm on FX 
Two series you have may have been anticipating this autumn are not returning until next year: True Blood season 4 will appear on FX HD in January, and a second burst of the BBC's Sherlock has been delayed until next spring, apparently due to Martin Freeman being a hobbit for a few more months.

September 01, 2011

"A long wait for Sky Atlantic"?

According to Digital Spy this week:
Virgin Media subscribers are facing a long wait before they can get access to Sky's blockbuster entertainment channel Sky Atlantic, as the two firms are still in disagreement over the carriage price negotiations. 
Before you rush to the link to see how things have changed between the two companies, let me just warn you that there is absolutely nothing of any great revelation in this story - all the comments from Virgin Media and Sky date back to the launch of Sky Atlantic in February and there's nothing but speculation supporting the "long wait" assertion. It even refers to the time we lost Sky1 four years ago, but fails to note that relations between the two companies have considerably mellowed and we now have HD versions of all bar one of the Sky Movies channels, Sports 1 and 2, Arts 1 and 2 and even Sky1 HD. And the Sky Anytime+ deal is done and Red Button Sports is live too. Not the best reporting I've seen on the matter.