November 30, 2013

February price rises

Whenever Virgin Media raises its prices it's a confusing time as we all have different deals and I can only really comment on how the rise affects me. I'm on the VIP package and have just renewed it for a further twelve months to get the Netflix deal, and I've had the email saying that my monthly charge from February will be up by £4.95. Elsewhere I've seen it reported that prices are going up by an average of 6.7%, but it really does vary depending on what deal you've got - my increase is actually 4.3%.
That'll be affordable for me but some may say enough's enough. Virgin Media has sweetened the pill slightly by upping broadband speeds around the same time with the top tier of 130mbps being elevated to a BT-thumping 152mbps. (It would be nice if they'd throw in Sky Atlantic and the missing Sky HD channels to sweeten it further, but I still have no news on that front to offer.)

November 27, 2013

TV Anywhere on Android

Apparently still not arrived. Latest news on VM's own blog
(I don't have any Android devices so can't keep track on this one. Sorry)

November 23, 2013

Discovering Netflix

Still playing with Netflix? I think I'm watching nothing but at the moment. I've just finished the final season of Breaking Bad (I was already on season 4 via my laptop's Netflix before it turned up on TiVo) and I can't rate that show highly enough - it really does live up to the hype. How UK broadcasters ignored this after season 2 is beyond me - better than anything on Sky Atlantic or anywhere if you ask me.
My family are also enjoying Firefly and I think we'll be dipping in to the Spacey House of Cards before long. And the temptation to re-visit the entire run of Battlestar Galatica in HD is probably too great for lil' ol' me. The TV back catalogues available really are first class, and most of the recent ones are in Super HD, full 1080p. The series from BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are great too, although I haven't noticed many in HD yet. Not bad for a free service for the next six months if you're on VIP or Premier.
But I can't pretend to understand which studios have signed up to provide films to Netflix in the UK. For example, I'm not aware of any of the following appearing on Sky Movies yet: The Hobbit, Unexpected Journey; The Raid; Seven Psychopaths; The Woman in Black; Hansel & Gretel; Magic Mike; Lawless; Gambit; Amour and even the Hunger Games, yet they're all on Netflix UK. Also, why all the great Pixar movies...except the three Toy Stories? Very odd. Does anyone know how this works?
BTW, the quickest way to launch Netflix: go to channel 204 and press the red button.

November 22, 2013

Calling Virgin Media

If you dial 150 from a VM landline it's free, but it can prove expensive from a mobile if you're on hold for a while. Android or Apple mobile users though can use the Smart Call App to dial 150 and it's free.
Also, if you don't like dealing with the offshore support team it's best to call VM during off hours and you get the UK call centre for TV and account queries in my experience. 

November 18, 2013

US Netflix on TV gets a major update

I doubt we'll see this immediately on TiVo, but here's what we can expect next...

Netflix On TV Gets A Major Makeover

(From Netflix)
Around the world our members stream a lot of programmes and films via their televisions, through a Smart TV app or through internet-connected devices such as game consoles, set-top boxes and Blu-ray players. In fact, the majority of the more than one billion hours our members watch each month is done on a TV.

Today we are excited to unveil the biggest update to our TV experience in Netflix history. This update improves the Netflix TV experience for Netflix members around the world, and for the first time extends rich features to platforms such as Roku, Smart TV and Blu-ray players as well as PlayStation and Xbox 360.

More than a year and half in the making, this new experience evolved through a process of design exploration, iteration and testing that extended throughout all parts of the Netflix TV experience. We set out to deliver an update that would make it even easier to discover something great to watch and we think we succeeded.

After starting Netflix, you’ll immediately notice the cinematic and rich visual experience. As you navigate, three large images for each programme and film provide much more context about a title. We also added a shorter, more descriptive synopsis as well as personalised information to provide more detail about why you should watch a specific title. This personalised information can be based on your social network, viewing history or taste preferences.

As you look at the details of a particular title, you’ll see a broader synopsis and more detail on the cast. For TV shows we have added a refined episode selector that uses images for each episode along with a synopsis.

Searching for something specific? Search is now much more visual, designed for use on TV screens and providing results for titles as well as for actors and directors.

Our popular section for kids also has the new design. The kids area also uses a subtle blue background and subtle “kids” label so parents can see from a distance that kids are using the appropriate part of Netflix. This update also extends the kids experience to Roku and some Smart TVs for the first time.

A few other notable aspects of this major TV experience update:
  • Support for Netflix Profiles across all devices
  • Support for voice on Xbox 360
  • Support for pointer-based navigation on Smart TVs
  • A redesign of post-play, the feature that automatically starts the next episode of a TV programme or displays recommendations after watching a film
The updated Netflix TV experience rolls out globally beginning on 13th Nov and will take about two weeks to reach all devices. The update will go to devices including PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Roku 3, and new and future Smart TVs and Blu-ray players. In addition, some recent Smart TVs and Blu-ray players may receive this based on manufacturer’s update plans. Additional devices, including other Roku boxes, will be added at a later date.

We hope you enjoy the update. For us, this has been one of our biggest and most exciting projects and we are thrilled to finally share it with you!

Chris and the Netflix TV team.

Chris Jaffe is vice president of product innovation at Netflix

What's new on Netflix

It's not the prettiest site I've seen, but this site has the latest content added to Netflix each week:

Does anyone know if content is removed from Netflix on a regular basis, or does it stay there indefinitely?

November 17, 2013

Netflix Super HD

So what is this "Super HD" that I can get on most movies and TV series on my TiVo's Netflix App?
BLOODY AWESOME PICTURE QUALITY is what I see! Here's some background from the Netflix official blog:

Highest Quality HD Now Available To All Netflix Members

All Netflix members, regardless of their Internet service provider (ISP), now have access to the highest quality HD streams available on Netflix.

This means that the great TV shows and movies on Netflix will look even better on HD screens with a higher bit rate stream, Super HD, that applies less compression to the 1080p image.

We initially rolled out Super HD in January only through ISPs with a direct connection to Netflix. Based on the performance data we’ve seen, and in response to member requests, we are now expanding availability to give all our members the ability to enjoy Netflix in the best possible quality.

Netflix uses “adaptive streaming” to dynamically adjust the video quality based on the available bandwidth. This means that the ability to receive Super HD depends on broadband quality and performance. Netflix members who subscribe to an ISP with a direct Netflix connection will get the best experience. Find out more about ISP performance by consulting the Netflix ISP Speed Index.

Note that HD and Super HD are only available on certain titles and can only be displayed on devices that support HD. More detail is available in the Netflix Help Center

VMHD blog adds Netflix content

I did think of creating a separate Netflix blog but frankly just don't have the time. Instead, there'll be increased Netflix posting on VMHD for the foreseeable future as I learn more about the service via TiVo. Let me know what you think.

November 15, 2013

Netflix remote shortcut?

Still playing with Netflix and the updated TiVo software (that SuperHD is AWESOME!) but one question for you guys and gals - has anyone found a shortcut on the TiVo remote to jump straight to the Netflix screen? I can't find one. Failing that, a short cut to the Apps or Favourite Apps screen?
At the moment it's a fair few presses to launch (albeit quick to load after the first time). Browsing through the selections is a little tedious on the TiVo - Search capability is nice and prompt though.

November 12, 2013

Netflix on TiVo FAQ

Check out this page's FAQ - it seems to answer most of the questions I have 

Netflix free for six months for VIP and Premier Collection customers

Virgin Media lights up TV screens with Netflix launch
●        Netflix app now available in over 1.8 million Virgin Media TiVo homes
●        Customers taking a Premiere or VIP Collection eligible for a six-month gift subscription to Netflix
●        Unbeatable choice of latest blockbusters now available on Virgin Media
Netflix launches on Virgin Media TiVo today, bringing critically acclaimed original series including House of Cards, Hemlock Grove, Arrested Development and Orange is the New Black, as well as Netflix exclusives like the hit series Breaking Bad, to over 1.8 million UK homes1.
The brand new Netflix app complements Virgin Media’s huge collection of On Demand entertainment, with over 6,000 hours all ready to watch instantly. This includes an unbeatable choice of films from Virgin Movies, Sky Movies, PictureBox and now Netflix, the world’s leading internet television network, alongside dedicated movie channels such as Film4 and TCM.
New and existing Virgin Media customers can enjoy an unprecedented six month gift subscription to Netflix if they sign-up to Virgin Media’s Premiere or VIP Collections2.  Virgin Media TiVo customers on other packages will be able to make the most of the one-month free trial offered to all new Netflix members.

Virgin Media viewers can easily search and browse Netflix’s acclaimed line-up and right across Virgin TV’s entire choice of entertainment, including content apps such as BBC iPlayer and catch-up TV from all the UK’s terrestrial broadcasters, Virgin Movies and complete series of On Demand television.
Dana Strong, Virgin Media’s chief operating officer, said: “With the addition of our Netflix app, Virgin Media customers have an unbeatable line-up of movies and TV series to choose from. Whether it’s part of a subscription or pay-per-view, Virgin Media TiVo will help you find everything from the classic gem you’ve always wanted to watch to this summer’s biggest hits, all seamlessly integrated for simple, easy viewing.
“People love watching with Virgin Media TiVo and we continue to lead the way as the fastest growing pay TV service in the country. In two years, 1.8 million homes have signed up to Virgin Media TiVo and what we believe is the best way to watch television.”
Bill Holmes, global head of business development, Netflix, said: “By partnering with Virgin Media we’re bringing an amazing Netflix experience to millions of TV fans and movie lovers.”
Following a successful pilot, Netflix is available in the Apps & Games section of Virgin Media TiVo and coincides with the latest updates to Virgin Media TiVo for all customers. From greater energy efficiency for each set-top box, to improved WishLists and recommendations, Virgin Media continues to develop the service, making Virgin Media TiVo the best way to watch TV, ever.

couple of foot notes on the press release I missed:

1 The Netflix app roll-out is underway and will be complete by 15th November
2 Customers already taking the Premiere or VIP Collections package will need to re-contract for another 12 months to enjoy the six month gift subscription to Netflix. Limited availability. After the initial promotion period Netflix will cost £5.99 on a month-by-month basis.

November 07, 2013

TiVo and Android TV Anywhere

Just heard today that the TiVo roll out should be all completed for November 14th and the TV Anywhere for Android is to be released around November 18th, barring any last minute changes.

TiVo Netflix update, update

Areas added Nov 6
Coventry Warwick Reading Leeds Birmingham Dundee Edinburgh

Areas added Nov 7
Northampton Guildford Glasgow Cardiff Southampton Derby Southport

November 05, 2013

Update on the TiVo Netflix update

The following areas have received our new TiVo update today:

  • Nottingham
  • Grimsby
  • Belfast
  • Swansea
  • Brighton
  • Wearside (Sunderland)
  • Preston
We appear to have moved on from the Pilot and are now seeing a full roll out. Check here for daily updates.

November 03, 2013

Shows unavailable on Now TV live streaming

Quite a list, but at least they communicate it via this Sky forum

Here's what wasn't on Now TV yesterday:

01/11/13Sky 1Jingle All The Way23:0000:45
01/11/13Sky LivingThe Mob Doctor23:0000:00
02/11/13Comedy CentralThe Office01:3002:00
02/11/13Sky AtlanticHouse Of Lies01:4002:15
02/11/13Sky 1Futurama02:4503:00
02/11/13Comedy CentralKing of Queens02:5503:45
02/11/13Sky LivingMedium03:3004:20
02/11/13Sky 1Game Changers09:0010:00
02/11/13Sky AtlanticER12:0013:00
02/11/13Sky AtlanticER13:0014:00
02/11/13Sky LivingThe Biggest Loser USA14:0015:00
02/11/13Sky AtlanticER14:0015:00
02/11/13Sky LivingThe Biggest Loser USA15:0016:00
02/11/13MTVThe Fresh Prince of Bel Air18:0019:30
02/11/13Sky 1The Simpsons19:0019:30
02/11/13Sky 1The Simpsons19:3020:00
02/11/13Sky 1Jingle All The Way20:0021:45
03/11/13MTVSouth Park01:0003:00
03/11/13Sky 1Futurama01:4502:00
03/11/13Comedy CentralKing of Queens02:5503:4

November 02, 2013

Sky Atlantic on the Now TV box - first impressions

Well, that was a disappointing start. Plugged in my new Now TV box (HDMI, power) and turned to Sky Atlantic and... no ER. Ho hum. I'm not sure how many other shows are going to be missing but it looks like Sky have scrimped on the "all platforms" rights on some US imports. This could get frustrating.
Fortunately, the next show I try is Blue Bloods, the Tom Selleck Atlantic exclusive. Now this is more like it. Haven't got a clue what's going on as I've never seen it before, but the picture quality is very good on my 32in - certainly at the high end of the standard definition spectrum (think BBC1 SD rather than 5USA). I've seen worse HD picture quality to be truthful. No buffering or blocking whatsoever either. I'm impressed.
It's the same with the Atlantic On Demand content too - a few minutes of Boardwalk Empire (season 4) and Attenborough's Flying Monsters and the PQ holds up extremely well. It's a sharp and well balanced picture for SD, good colour saturation and nicely detailed. I hadn't expected this at all.
Sadly, one of my expectations, limited On Demand shows, proves accurate. There's no opportunity to catch up with the Atlantic headline acts - Games of Thrones and Mad Men are both currently absent - but there are the last month's broadcast episodes of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Newsroom, Hello Ladies, Veep and a better selection of the UK Atlantic originals Alan Partridge's Mid Morning Matters (6 eps from season 1); The British (7 eps from season 1); 3 episodes of Attenborough's Kingdom of Plants; the Jack Dee panel show Don't Sit in the Front Row; Falcon (4 eps); Fish Town (10 eps); Hunderby (all 8); The Tunnel and something I'd never heard of called This is Jinsy. There are also 13 episodes from season 1 of Rescue Me - I didn't know that was on Atlantic.
There are ad breaks but they don't feature ads - just a short Atlantic promo. Maybe the ads will follow as the service matures?
It's a fair line up, somewhat light on the heavyweight imports and certainly short of the Sky Box Sets they have on the satellite service - for example, The Wire ain't there. With HBO it's catch up only by the look of things. Disappointing compared to Netflix's complete runs of Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Arrested Developments  etc. But at £4.99 a month, it's good, and if I had just Freeview, it would be very attractive indeed - Sky 1, Fox, Atlantic, Living, Arts 1, Gold etc. Sky has got a winner here methinks. Clever buggers. But remember though that £4.99 is tagged as only an "introductory" price. There's no word yet what the regular pricing will be.
The box is tiny and discrete, the remote and interface are fairly snappy, and although the EPG is a little bit of a struggle to get the hang of that's probably just down to it being unfamiliar. Did I mention the audio? I only have stereo (which sounds good) but 5.1 is an option too for those better equipped than me (!).
It's good. And for a tenner, a neat box. I had a quick look at the iPlayer and the PQ was fine on HD but very poor on SD. Not as good as VM's on either count.
So they're my first impressions. Neat. And I have Sky Atlantic at long, long last. What's the betting it will be on Virgin Media in the next few weeks now? Ho well, at least I've not signed up to an expensive contract.
BTW, Stephen Merchant's Hello Ladies is pretty darn funny, but the second episode PQ is a little soft to my eyes.
Any questions or things you'd like me to check out on my Now TV box, let me know.

Android TV Anywhere update

I've had confirmation from a very reliable chap at Virgin Media that the Android version of TV Anywhere should be released this month. There's no official confirmation just yet but it's happening. Having used the iOS version on my iPad and iPhone for a while I think it's fantastic. I used it daily to set recordings and check the schedules.

November 01, 2013

Now TV

My little Now TV box arrived in the post this morning. Sky Atlantic ahoy! I'll set it up this weekend and let you know how it performs. (And, yes, I know Sky Atlantic has very little on at the moment but at just a tenner to buy and a fiver for a month, one has to try these things!)