October 31, 2013

Virgin launches SmartCall on iPhone and Android

A new app from Virgin Media lets customers use their landlines through a smartphone and a Wi-Fi connection.
A new app from Virgin Media lets the VM landline customers make unlimited calls from their home phones - regardless of where in the world they are.
SmartCall allows users to use their Android or iOS devices (including the non-phone iPod Touch) as if they were their home phones instead, so long as a Wi-Fi connection is available.
The app is free to Virgin Media home phone talk plan customers and available on any carrier - youd don't need to be a Virgin Mobile customer.

I've had a quick play and it seems to work well: here's the Apple link for those who want to give it a try

Cover Art

Virgin Media SmartCall

Virgin Media
Category: Social Networking
Updated: 28 Oct 2013

 19 Ratings

TiVo update and Netflix roll out

Seems to be underway. I've heard that folk in Hartlepool and Bristol have been updated overnight. I don't have any details as to the plan, but the official pilot blog may have more details as the rollout progresses.
Update: Teesside (Stockton), Avon (Bristol) and Croydon all updated overnight, too. Spiderplant reports that there'll be no rollout plan published and that the rollout won't be completed by the 6th (contrary to reports elsewhere).

October 29, 2013

Sky adds Sky Atlantic (and on demand) to Now TV

If you want Sky Atlantic and are prepared to shell out a fiver a month for the pleasure, Sky has added an Entertainment package of ten channels to Now TV for an "introductory price" of £4.99 a month (no contract).
The channels are Sky 1, Sky Living, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts 1, Discovery, Fox, Comedy Central, MTV, Gold and Disney.
That looks pretty good to me, especially when you can buy the tiny, acclaimed NowTV box for just a tenner. How long they'll keep that price that low I don't know, nor do I know what the picture quality is like, but you can get a little more info on the NowTV site.
Bit of a BT / TalkTalk killer I think, and priced just below the monthly Netflix and LoveFilm alternatives.

October 27, 2013

Liberty Global's Horizon box

There has been some conjecture around the business that Liberty Global's strategy is to standardise on a single set top box standard across it's different global companies, including Virgin Media.
Although I'm assured that there are no immediate plans to replace TiVo, a quick search on Liberty Global's own box, the Horizon, suggests it's a less-than-stable rocky affair, with some similar features to the TiVo but seemingly a lot less mature. That makes me a little nervous. TiVo ain't perfect, but it is the best box around these days, still streets ahead of the Sky boxes and don't get me started on the BT and YouView alternatives.
The Horizon is made by Samsung (as are some TiVos), but is certainly not a "looker" to my taste. It looks like it could sit actually under the TV, which would be useful for some. The remote looks some relic from the eighties.
If you want to know more there's an interesting 2012 brochure you can download but to my eyes this looks like it would be a step back from what we have today. It's been rolled out at Liberty Global's companies in Switzerland and Holland but not without problems. One thing I will say for TiVo (which I've had since VM introduced it) is that it's a reliable performer that's never let me down.
Anyway, contrary to some speculation elsewhere, we have TiVo for the foreseeable future. The Liberty Global Mike Fries CEO was recently interviewed in the Hollywood Reporter:
Discussing future sources of growth, the CEO said: "Over five years, we're less about connecting more homes." Instead, growth will mostly come from "getting connected homes to do more with us." Giving subscribers more value and improving customer relationships.
Fries said Wednesday that pay TV operators do certain things really well, such as offering the best content and the biggest distribution pipes. But he also highlighted areas where improvements are needed, such as in moving content across platforms and improving user interfaces. He said Liberty Global is trying to solve these issues with DVR partner TiVo and its next-generation set-top-boxes Horizon.
In the U.K., Virgin Media will for now continue to work with TiVo instead of launching Horizon. "TiVo has promised us innovation" to move into a similar direction as Horizon, Fries said.
Interesting times. Meanwhile, expect the latest TiVo software updates, including the arrival of (cue fanfare) HD Netflix, over the next week or so.

October 26, 2013

Traffic management cut again

Virgin Media has offered a boost to its broadband customers by relaxing its traffic management policy once again. Everyone's favourite broadband provider has cut its maximum peak speed reduction for downloads from 40 per cent to just 16 per cent, reports ISPreview.co.uk.

October 25, 2013

Free BT Sports and ESPN HD October 25 - 28th

BT Sport 1, 2 and ESPN channels including HD will be available to all Virgin TV customers for free from 6am Friday 25th October until 6am Monday 28th October.
There's quite a bit on the channels this weekend, including Crystal Palace v Arsenal, live German and Italian football, Aviva Premiership rugby and Major League Baseball.

Premier Sports on Virgin Media

Premier Sports in standard definition has appeared on channel 551 this morning, just in time for the Rugby League World Cup. More information on the channel can be found here.
Apparently it's free on all packages until the end of the year then £7.99 a month next year, but there's still no official word from either Virgin or Premier Sports on the deal - but the channel has been broadcasting since the early hours of this morning (25th).

October 24, 2013

Sherlock's return announced

My favourite UK show EVER (steady on, old chap) is returning soon, but for some reason the BBC has still to announce the actual broadcast dates for Sherlock season 3. But the US broadcaster PBS has let the cat out the bag by revealing that Sherlock will return to PBS Masterpiece on January 19th.
This is apparently the first time the mystery-thriller’s U. air date has been announced before the BBC reveals its UK premiere date (the BBC has the “first window” rights to air the show, so we can at least take heart in knowing they will almost certainly get season 3 sometime before January 19th). My money would be on the three feature length episodes appearing around Christmas and the New Year.
More details at Entertainment Weekly.

October 23, 2013

Netflix numbers up more than 30% globally

Netflix's investment into original programming has paid off, with global subscriber numbers jumping past 40 million and profits quadrupling from the same period last year.
"We are very pleased to have over 40 million members, up from less than 30 million just one year ago," Netflix said to shareholders. "The Netflix original series Orange is the New Black is a critical and popular success, and our earlier series House of Cardsis the first internet TV series to win a Primetime Emmy Award. We launched our 41st country and the Dutch seem to like Netflix."The online video streaming firm said its net profit was $32m in the three months to the end of September, compared to an $8m income in the same quarter of 2012.
The company said it was hoping to hit a net income of around $37m in the fourth quarter with an extra 3.3 million users.
Since original programming has done so much for the firm's fortunes, Netflix is now planning to double its investment in making new shows, although that will still be less than ten per cent of its overall content expenses

Netflix will be arriving on TiVo in the next month or two. The current pilot has now been rolled out to the Manchester area and it sounds like it is just about ready to go nationwide. Still no word on pricing through Virgin Media

October 20, 2013

Media Boy reports the following to appear before the end of the year

Media Boy's posted an amazing list of missing SD and HD channels and I'll be stunned if they all arrive in the next few months. I've not heard any confirmation on any of these, which are pretty much all that we're missing on Virgin Media worth having:
I can now reveal that the following channels should launch before 2014 on Virgin Media:
Sky Atlantic HD
Sky News HD
Sky Sports F1 HD
Sky Sports 3 HD
Sky Sports 4 HD
Sky Sports News HD
Channel 4 +1 HD
Disney Channel HD Disney XD HD
Universal Channel HD
Add in the confirmed BBC News, CBBC, CBeebies, BBC3 and BBC4 HD launches and that's an early Christmas present for all VM customers!

October 19, 2013

Bloody hell ITV4!

What's the point of having ITV4 in HD when they only show Scorsese's fab Casino in upscaled SD?!

October 17, 2013

Updates on the TiVo and Netflix pilot

If you want to keep tabs on how the pilot for the forthcoming update to TiVo, including the introduction of the Netflix App, is going, VM has a small public community board running at http://community.virginmedia.com/t5/TiVo-and-Netflix-Pilot/bd-p/tivopilot

October 15, 2013

TiVo update FAQ

Due in the next few weeks, along with the arrival of the Netflix App, is a major update to the TiVo software. Here's the VM FAQ for people who are in the trial areas:
So, what’s new with TiVo?
Even more great entertainment at your fingertips with Netflix
You can now watch Netflix using your TiVo box if you’re a Netflix customer already or by registering atwww.netflix.com/virginmedia. To see what’s on Netflix hit the Home button, go to Apps & Games > TV & Movies, and select the Netflix icon. You can also find Netflix films and shows using TiVo search.
A More energy efficient TiVo box
You can now save energy and money on your electricity bill by automatically setting your TiVo box to go into standby mode, this means you won’t have to switch off your box at the mains any more. Even when in standby mode your TiVo box won’t miss a show – it wakes itself up to make any recordings you’ve requested. 
You can set to go into standby if you haven’t used your box for two or four hours. To change your default setting, go to Help & Settings > Settings > Devices > Power Saving Settings.
When your box is in standby mode, you’ll see a red light to the left on the front panel, but no picture or sound. Waking your box is easy, just press any of these buttons on your TiVo remote:
• Home
• TV
• Channel up/down
• Any number key
• Power
It’s easier to find the stars and shows you love with WishList™

We’ve made WishLists™ even easier to set up. Just let TiVo know the actors, directors or shows you can’t bear to miss and TiVo will automatically record anything that fits the bill. And you can do it without interrupting what you’re watching.
We’ve even redesigned the WishList™ menus in HD, so they look that little bit nicer.
Clever TiVo will make even better Suggestions for you
TiVo will suggest more of the shows and films you love based on the stuff you record and give the Thumbs Up. 
Discover your new Discovery Bar
Your brand new Discovery bar makes it much clearer why we’ve suggested films and programmes for you to watch, whether it’s a live sports event, it’s similar to other programmes you’ve enjoyed, or simply because our team have handpicked it for you to enjoy.
We’ve now introduced high contrast displays for some of our screens, these include our full screen guide, mini guide and channel banner.
To turn this on go to Home >Help & Settings > Settings > Display and Subtitles > High Contrast Display
Note: If you were part of the earlier phase of this pilot in Peterborough, Crawley, Andover, Londonderry and Swindon your TiVo box was set to automatically go into Standby if it is not used for four hours. To change the default to use of one the other energy saving modes or to switch this off go to Help & Settings > Settings > Devices > Power Saving Settings.
To wake your TiVo box up again just press the <Home><Power>, <TV>, <Channel up/down> or Any number key on your TiVo remote.

October 10, 2013

Live football - confirmed televised fixtures for December and New Year

BT Sport has confirmed coverage of the following games at the end of the year:

  • Crystal Palace v West Ham - Tuesday December 3, 8pm
  • Swansea v Newcastle - Wednesday December 4, 7.45pm
  • Manchester United v Newcastle - Saturday December 7, 12.45pm
  • Manchester City v Arsenal - Saturday December 14, 12.45pm
  • Liverpool v Cardiff - Saturday December 21, 12.45pm
  • West Ham v Arsenal - Boxing Day, 3pm
  • Manchester City v Liverpool - Boxing Day, 5.30pm
  • Southampton v Chelsea - New Year's Day, 3pm
  • Manchester United v Tottenham - New Year's Day, 5.30pm

And here are the confirmed Sky Sports games for the same period:

  • Sat 7: Sunderland v Tottenham (ko 5.30pm) 
  • Sun 8: Fulham v Aston Villa (ko 1.30pm) 
  • Sun 8: Arsenal v Everton (ko 4pm) 
  • Mon 9: Swansea City v Hull City (ko 8pm) 
  • Sat 14: Hull City v Stoke City (ko 5.30pm) 
  • Sun 15: Aston Villa v Man Utd (ko 1.30pm) 
  • Sun 15: Tottenham v Liverpool (ko 4pm) 
  • Sun 22: Southampton v Tottenham (ko 1.30pm) 
  • Sun 22: Swansea City v Everton (ko 4pm) 
  • Mon 23: Arsenal v Chelsea (ko 8pm) 
  • Thu 26: Hull City v Man Utd (ko 12.45pm) 
  • Sat 28: West Ham v West Brom (ko 12.45pm) 
  • Sat 28: Cardiff City v Sunderland (ko 5.30pm) 
  • Sun 29: Newcastle United v Arsenal (ko 1.30pm) 
  • Sun 29: Chelsea v Liverpool (ko 4pm) 
  • Wed Jan 1: Swansea v Man City (ko 12.45pm)
Looking at this I think BT Sport has a few standout games (Man C v Arsenal, Man C v Liverpool, Man U v Spurs) which stacks up pretty well against the Sky headliners (Spurs v Liverpool, Arsenal v Chelsea, Chelsea v Liverpool). Good to see Sky getting a serious challenge after all this season.


I'm thinking of starting a companion blog to VMHD, concentrating on the new Netflix service arriving on TiVo in the coming weeks. To this end I've set up a small poll (top right) to gauge interest in the new service. Let me know what you think.