February 29, 2012

The arrival of MPEG4 HD at last!

Additional Sky HD update: official VM statement:
From around the 1st March our TiVo customers will be able to enjoy additional Sky HD content (around 400 movies and sporting events from the Virgin VoD platforms). These titles will also be available in SD and will be exclusive to TiVo customers who subscribe to the relevant Sky Premium Collection and Sky HD channels. If you don't currently subscribe to these channels you'll still be able to see the titles, but in order to view them you'll need to contact us to upgrade your package.
When will this launch? Between now and Thursday 1st March, some customers will see it today and the rest over the next few days. We'll only have a limited amount of content to start off with but don't worry we'll be adding to it over the next few weeks until it's all online.
Where do I find it? Just go to the following folders on your TiVo - Sky Movies HD and Sky Sports HD.
Is there anything else I need to see this content? You'll need three things, to be an active TiVo subscriber, to have a subcription to the relevant Sky Premium Collection and Sky HD channels and you'll need a HD ready TV with a HDMI cable connecting your box to the TV.
Why is this only available on the TiVo? Unfortunately our V+ box isn't able to cope with MPEG4 content which TiVo can handle. We're using this video standard as it maintains quality while using less space in storage and streaming, we wouldn't have been able to have fitted in as much content using MPEG2.
So they're moving to MPEG4 at last? That's good news. Although the Samsung V+ boxes are MPEG4 compatible the older SA V+ aren't, so I guess they didn't bother to do the work for any Liberate boxes in the end. Not sure about the V HD boxes.

February 28, 2012

Sky Movies HD coming this week to TiVo only

According to Media Boy's latest posting, Sky Movies HD in Sky Anytime will be available to TiVo customers with the Sky Movies package this week. V+ users will get only Sky Arts, Sky1 and Sky Living in HD on Anytime apparently. More details on Media Boy's blog

February 24, 2012

The VMHD poll votes on the April price rise

Poll results in - thanks to the 804 of you who responded regarding Virgin Media's announcement of an above-inflation price rise for its higher paying customers. Here are the headlines from the poll:
  • 114 said that the price rise has led to them changing supplier. That's 14% and probably higher than VM would have anticipated if borne out across the whole VM subscriber base. Whether folk actually will depart or will just downgrade part of their packages will be interesting, as will how the higher price will deter people from signing up with VM, especially in this Analogue signal switch off year for much of the country.
  • Also of concern if I was Mr Berkett would be the 546 respondees who said they're staying but are not happy. That's big, especially as VM's first profit last quarter came from increased income per customer rather than solid customer subscriber growth. The message is loud and clear: we pay enough, you can't squeeze us harder or we'll vote with our money. This blog's demographic is the high end of Virgin Media's customer base - almost everyone who visits this blog takes the bundle rather than individual services and pays for TiVo and maybe even the Sky Premium HD package too. But we don't have bottomless pockets and they shouldn't assume we do.
  • So that's 81% of respondees unhappy with the price rise. Only 9% thought if fair and 8% weren't fussed. I guess if VM had sweetened the bitter pill with some new TV services (Sky Atlantic? F1 HD? More HD channels??) rather than increasing broadband speeds again (something there appears to be less appetite for) things may have been different. But they didn't. An odd decision to put all that UKTV money into just broadband - I don't think Sky would have done that but would have invested in content.
Of course, the usual poll caveats apply: it's not a representative sample of the average VM customers nor even a significant enough number to be genuine market research. But I think it is probably pretty indicative, and as such should be a warning to Virgin Media that its customers don't take these things lightly and we shouldn't be squeezed to booster the company's press on the financial pages. Enough is enough, and for many this was actually more than enough.

February 22, 2012

BBC Apps and Sky Sports Red Button to rollout on TiVo starting in March.

This thread on the VM community boards confirms the arrival of launches of new TiVo services starting in March. Sky Sports red button and BBC Apps are scheduled to be staggered throughout March and into the first week of April. "BBC won't have all the really fancy stuff (those 24 Olympics streams, of course) until a bit later, but will be very good from day one," according to Nick Ontiveros, VM's head of Strategic Development, Digital Entertainment.

February 21, 2012

TiVo Reminders confirmed as coming soon

From Virgin Media's own TiVo Forum, there's confirmation that the Reminders functionality is coming pretty soon:
We will be introducing reminders functionality to TiVo in our next phase code release. Will be able to provide more detail soon. Nick Ontiveros TV Strategy, Digital Entertainment

February 16, 2012

Labels return to this blog

I've re-introduced "Labels" on this blog, so if you read a post and want to see previous posts on that subject, just click the Label below. The "Virgin Media" label picks up posts right back to when this blog first started but the others just apply to this year's posts. Hope it helps new or occasional visitors to the site.

The April price rises: a new VMHD poll

Two topics have got readers of this blog hot under the collar this year: Sky not making SkySports F1 HD available to Virgin customers (and only making F1 SD available to Sky Sports subscribers on cable) and the forthcoming April price rises.
So top right I'm asking about the price rises as that's attracted the most traffic to hit this site in some time. Please vote and let me know what you think.
(I did think of running a similar poll on the Sky Sports F1 but seeing as the only debate I've seen is whether it's all Sky's fault, or the BBC's, or Virgin Media's, or Bernie Eccleston's, there doesn't seem to be much point as quite simply all F1 fans with Virgin Media TV are unhappy with that deal!)
[Apologies for heading the poll "Pay rises" - it should have been "Price rises" of course.]

February 15, 2012

Spotify App updated

A new update for the Spotify mobile app brings higher quality 320kbps music streaming to Apple device users. The free update to the mobile app has an 'Extreme' quality mode, which allows iPhone and iPod Touch users to match the highest quality audio mode offered on Spotify's desktop service for the first time on a mobile device. As yet other Spotify mobile apps for Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone have not had an update. To access the new higher quality streams go in to 'Settings' and then 'Stream', where you'll find the 'Extreme' mode. While Spotify Premium users had already been able to enjoy 320kbps audio on the desktop client, mobile access was limited to 160kbps.
UPDATE: Well, it's a nice idea but unfortunately it's a little buggy. Whilst the 320k streaming seems fine the sync version keeps reverting down to the lower quality setting. And it's not just me as this thread shows - there is a workaround though (from David on page 4 of the thread).

February 14, 2012

VIP 50 price rise

I was paying £103 a month for TV XL, Sky Sports & Movies HD, a 1Tb Tivo, a V+, whatever the phone thing is and 50mb broadband. Just been informed by email that will increase by over 4% (£4.25) to £107.25. Hmmm. Okay, so my broadband will double to 100mb in a few months, but what if I didn't want that and would rather have a discount?

February 12, 2012

TiVo Premier updated in the US

Found this whilst killing a bit of time this morning: an upgrade to the US TiVo boxes went out last month. Details on the US TiVo Blog. Much of it looks like the recent VM update, but there are some bits we still don't have, notably "Multi-Room Streaming":
If you have two TiVo Premiere boxes on the same home network, you now have the option to “Play” the show from one Premiere on the other Premiere. You no longer need to transfer the show – it will stream. If you have recordings from channels that do not allow transfers, you should now be able to stream them instead. Multi-Room Streaming of HD shows is not recommended on wireless networks. Wired Ethernet will provide a much better experience. Once you’ve watched the show, you can remotely delete it off of the TiVo Premiere that recorded it.
So multi-room streaming of HD over wi-fi isn't much cop? That for me would make it a pretty redundant feature: how many of us have wired ethernet flooding the house?
They are also promising the following for the Spring:

  • Parental Controls in the HD Menus 
  • New Netflix app 
  • New YouTube app 
  • Xfinity On Demand from Comcast 

(As US TiVo is independent of the cable suppliers the independent streaming services such as Netflix I guess aren't competitive with their main business.)

February 08, 2012

Virgin Media Q4 and full year 2011 statement

The highlights:
  • Revenue up 3.0% to £4.0bn for the year
  • Revenue up 2.0% to £1.0bn for the quarter*
  • Strong TiVo and superfast broadband growth 
  • TiVo customer base more than doubled in Q4 with 273,000 net additions
  • 435,000 TiVo customers at the year-end; 12% of the TV base
  • 56,100 increase in the paying TV base for the quarter
  • Strong demand for superfast broadband (30Mb and above) in Q4 with 133,000 customer growth
  • Net cable customer additions of 15,000 in Q4
  • Cable ARPU, up 0.7% to £47.85 versus a strong comparison quarter
Neil Berkett, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Media, said: 'In a fast-changing industry and an uncertain economic environment, our 2011 results demonstrate the underlying resilience of Virgin Media's business model, with modest revenue growth driving robust OCF and record free cash flow. Our strategy of focusing on customers who want more from the digital world is paying off. With the number of TiVo customers doubling in the final quarter of the year, our new TiVo service is attracting both new and existing customers. Since its commercial launch mid-way through the year, the number of TiVo subscribers has grown to almost half a million with a large and growing proportion now using its next generation functionality on a regular basis. Demand for better broadband also continues to grow fast, with around half of new customers choosing superfast speeds. The combination of the best TV experience and the best broadband, has enabled us to acquire more new customers in the quarter. Our confidence in the growing mainstream demand for next generation digital services has recently led us to announce the roll-out of an ambitious programme to double the broadband speeds of over four million customers. This marks a step change in the migration to superfast speeds and, combined with the continued evolution of TiVo, further differentiates the Virgin Media customer experience. We are also making strong progress in other areas. We are successfully building contract mobile sales into cable homes and Virgin Media Business ended the year strongly as an increasingly important and growing contributor to the group.'
MediaGuardian comment: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/feb/08/virgin-media-posts-first-ever-profit.
Telegraph comment: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/media/9068488/Virgin-Media-deliver-first-annual-profits.html
BBC News comment:
Sky News comment:
...er, can't find it on the Sky News site. But it is really, really cold apparently...

In summary:  a better-than-anticipated set of results, resulting in a profit for the first time in the UK cable industry.

February 07, 2012

Virgin results and strategy update tomorrow (Feb 8)

Here's what analysts are expecting: "The TV and telecoms group could add 13,000 customers in its fourth quarter, according to JP Morgan Cazenove, bringing its total subscribers to 4.8m. The total, which takes into account those leaving the network, could include 30,000 more broadband subscribers." source: MediaGuardian. I've not heard of any new TV service announcements planned for tomorrow but it will be interesting to see how many have converted to TiVo in total now that the service is fully established.

February 03, 2012

Virgin increasing prices in April

Anyone thinking that the doubling of broadband speeds was too good to be true won't be surprised to hear that Virgin are increasing prices on many services in April. According to Virgin's web site, the TV M pack is going up to £7. The L pack increases to £19.50, while the XL pack increases to £26.50.

Unhappy customers are posting on http://www.cableforum.co.uk/board/11/33685160-tv-price-rises.html.
A Virgin Media spokesperson defended the changes: "As part of our ongoing review of services, we're making some changes to our cable pricing from April. On average, customers will see an increase of around £2.68 per month.

"However as part of our review, we've also managed to provide some customer savings and frozen prices such as our phone line rental. We will be proactively contacting existing customers in the coming weeks to make sure that they are on the best value package for them."