May 31, 2012

Spotify problem "fixed"? UPDATE: oh no it isn't...

I'd pretty much given up with my Spotify service from Virgin Media: the service promises so much but of late has been pretty much unusable with tracks playing for a few seconds and then stalling, and playing again then stalling. Throw in a less-than-reliable iOS mobile App and it's proven to be worse than useless. Turns out I'm not alone:
"Virgin Media has been investigating a problem some customers have had with streaming music from Spotify during busier times of the day. "We have identified a recent issue with congestion between the Virgin Media network and Spotify's data centre which can occur intermittently during peak times. "Following some routing configuration changes, this congestion should now be alleviated; however further analysis is being conducted and additional routing changes or capacity upgrades will be implemented as needed to avoid re-occurrence of this issue as the popularity of the service grows. We apologise for any inconvenience."
Hmmm. Somewhat not monitoring things properly? Why was there no mention of this problem until customers started complaining? I found the service unusable during evenings and weekends and thought it was the flaky App on my iPhone, but turns out it's just maxed out and nobody at VM did much about it.
UPDATE: Not fixed. I'm getting the usual Sunday morning stuttering on Spotify every minute or so.

May 30, 2012

VMHD housekeeping

I've been doing some housekeeping on some of the older posts on this blog as there have been a few administration funnies over the last few months. Apologies to anyone looking through the archives but early posts are no longer available online (but may be cached elsewhere on the web).

May 28, 2012

TiVo US announce a six tuner monster!

Press release: TiVo and Pace Announce First Pace Product With TiVo Software Integration

TiVo Inc. the creator of and a leader in advanced television services, including digital video recorders (DVRs), for consumers, content distributors and consumer electronics manufacturers, and Pace, a leading developer of technologies, products and services for global broadband and broadcast markets, today announced details of the first product, the Pace XG1, resulting from a global partnership TiVo and Pace announced in February 2012 to develop flexible, advanced television solutions for operators. This new Multi-tuner Video Gateway from Pace will provide cable operators in the Americas an advanced television solution for their customers by bringing to market the full award-winning TiVo experience on powerful, new platforms designed to be easily integrated with today's cable networks.
The Pace XG1 includes 6 video tuners, an integrated DOCSIS 3.0 modem, and at least 500GB of on board hard drive storage. It will utilize TiVo's whole-home capabilities, such as multi-room streaming and support for both traditional set-top boxes and IP devices as clients over MoCA, and support for TiVo's mobile and tablet applications.As previously announced, this initial offering will first be made available by Pace to cable operators in the Americas later this year. TiVo and Pace also expect to follow the XG1 with additional solutions for domestic and international operators soon after.
U.S. operators currently deploying TiVo offerings to their customers include Charter, DIRECTV, RCN, Suddenlink and Grande Communications, and European operators include Virgin Media, the largest cable operator in the UK, and ONO.
I wouldn't expect to see much demand for a six-tuner TiVo box in the UK, but it's interesting to note that the new partnership with Pace is starting to deliver some new hardware solutions for TiVo.

May 23, 2012

Competition Commission takes no action shock!

The Guardian is reporting that the Competition Commission are bottling it when it comes to reviewing BskyB’s monopoly on pay TV film rights:
BSkyB is to face no action from regulators over its monopoly of UK pay-TV film rights, after the Competition Commission decided that video on demand rivals such as LoveFilm and Netflix provide a vibrant market for consumers.
The decision marks a U-turn by the competition regulator, which provisionally determined last August that BSkyB's contracts with the six major Hollywood studios – were anti-competitive and needed to be weakened to allow rivals to flourish.
"Virgin Media strongly disagrees with today's provisional findings by the Competition Commission and continues to support its earlier findings of 2011 – that Sky's control of movie rights is restricting competition in the UK," said a spokeswoman for Virgin Media.
"The recent emergence of providers such as LoveFilm and Netflix has done nothing to impact Sky's advantage and we're currently working to better understand the reasons for the commission's decision as we consider next steps.
"The commission states very clearly in these provisional findings that competition in the wider pay-TV retail market remains ineffective."
Now normally I would be on VM’s side here, but, as we’ve seen when Sky was forced to share Premiership football with another broadcaster (Setanta/ESPN) these things don’t always benefit the paying customer even if it does eliminate a monopoly. Where once you could get all your Premiership games from Sky for a single price you now have to subscribe to ESPN too (on Sky at least). If that happened with the movie channels we could find ourselves in a situation similar to the States where you have to take multiple premium priced services to have access to the five big Hollywood studios movies, costing the customer considerably more than we pay here. The current arrangement works well – if you are just an occasional movie watcher you probably just need the films broadcast on the Freeview channels, if you want first run you go to either FilmFlex on a pay per movie or subscribe to Sky Movies. If we had to pay for, say, Sky Movies for Warner Bros movies but VM Movies for Universal and Sony films, that would be a mess.
I can't believe VM is going to suddenly decide to invest in their own content again, so all I can suppose is that their complaining is more to do with reducing carriage fees for Sky Movies than any genuine demand to address a monopoly situation.

May 22, 2012

24 new HD channels launching on Virgin Media (for the Olympics only)

The BBC Olympics channels will occupy EPG numbers 550-573 for HD and 574-597 for SD. Also Eurosport 3D will return to its former channel number 523, apparently for the French Tennis Open.
Sad to say that VM hasn't added any other new HD channels since last autumn and the only one confirmed as "coming soon" is Alibi HD which is supposed to launch in July. BBC HD becoming BBC2 HD doesn't count, so when can we expect some new HD channels Virgin Media? It's been a very long wait and the arrival of the Olympics channels at least confirms there's no technical capacity restrictions denying us more HD content.

TiVo recordings on the go

TiVo are launching a new product, TiVo Stream, and according to this report from PaidContent it's coming to Virgin Media later this year:
"Set-top box maker TiVo has introduced a new Slingbox-like product that lets users stream live or DVR-recorded TV to tablets, notebooks and smartphones. Showcased Monday at the Cable Show in Boston, TiVo Stream enables users of TiVo Premiere or Premiere Q digital video recorders to view video from their multichannel subscription on devices including the iPad on iPhone. The transcoding product is similar to EchoStar’s Slingbox, but differs in that it streams or downloads programs to multiple mobile devices without disrupting living-room viewing. In addition, TiVo also unveiled a new IP set-top box that allows Premiere Q users to view live or recorded TV from any room in the house. TiVo will debut both products at retail, or through partnerships with multichannel TV service providers including DirecTV, Charter Communications, Suddenlink and the UK’s Virgin Media, later this year. "

May 12, 2012

Cancelled US shows

Sky Living HD's The Ringer and Secret Circle are no more, and don't feel as though you're missing out with Sky Atlantic's Awake - that's been chopped too. Gone for good as well are BBC HD's Pan Am, Watch HD's Alcatraz, Sky 1 HD's House and Terra Nova,
(And anyone who's been downloading The River and Missing will find they've been canned too.)
Quite a big cut then, all in all. Did any new US series of note establish itself this time around?
Even Sky Atlantic struck out with Luck and Bored To Death quickly canned, and only really Game of Thrones (the most pirated show around - go figure!) is on a solid footing both critically and commercially, whilst Boardwalk Empire  and Mad Men draw small audiences for such expensive series but survive as critical darlings.
Every autumn the new US shows are hyped and every spring the majority are canned. Personally, I'm getting to the point where I won't even start watch new US shows unless they get strong reviews and US audiences: it just ain't worth investing the time for incomplete stories. (And if they start on terrestrial channels then get picked up by Sky, that's pretty much a sure sign they're not long for this world too.)

May 11, 2012

Moving house...moving TiVo?

A question for any Virgin Media staff looking at this blog: if someone moves house from one Virgin connected  premises to another, can their TiVo (and all its recorded programmes) be relocated at their new address?

ITV 2, 3, 4 HD channels remain exclusive to Sky

According to Smallworld owner David Durford:
"ITV2 HD is not available to us due to the lock-out signed into the carriage agreement with the other operators. We would like to carry it, and in time we will be able to. I can't go into to much specifics but we have discussed it with ITV at the moment but (as with Five) the cost of them is prohibitive at this moment in time, due to the Sky contract. That may be why VM are holding back, but of course I cannot speak for them."
(Smallworld is a triple play cable operator serving the west of Scotland and some Northern English towns. Its TV channels line up is pretty much the same as VM but I don't think there's any direct relationship between the two companies. It doesn't carry Sky Atlantic but does have the other Sky channels that we have, including the HD versions.)

May 03, 2012

Pirate Bay "blocked"

Never been to Pirate Bay before, but it appears Virgin Media is already blocking it (see pic).
The High Court ruling also appears to have given a massive promotional push to the bit torrent site: 12m additional visitors according to a story on Torrent Freak, which also reports on how to bypass the block if you so desire (not that I'm suggesting anyone does that).
Not that the block will have any effect. Type torrent+mad+men into Google and you'll get over 7 million results...