February 26, 2014

Ripper Street shows the way forward: Amazon pick up baton

The excellent Victorian period crime drama Ripper Street, so cruelly and unwisely dropped by the BBC, will be returning for a third series on Amazon's recently updated video-on-demand service. Amazon confirmed that filming on the third series will begin in May and be exclusive to subscribers to Prime Instant Video, (previously known as LoveFilm), and will be aired a few months later on BBC1.
Is this the future? When the BBC can't afford to keep something going they ask either Amazon or Netflix to pick up some/all of the costs? If so, can we please have a third season of The Hour?!

February 21, 2014

Amazon beefs up LoveFilm as "Prime Instant Video"

Amazon is taking on Netflix in the UK by folding LoveFilm into their British website next week, creating a one-stop service for digital streaming, DVD rental and ebooks. Existing LoveFilm subscribers will get access to the new service, to be called Prime Instant Video. Amazon aims to offer a broader service than Netflix by including the option of digitally renting or purchasing 50,000 new releases such as Captain Phillips and Game of Thrones too.
According to MediaGuardian:
Amazon Prime costs £49 annually. The new combined package will be charged at £79, about £6.58 a month, making it 35% cheaper than subscribing to each service separately. Users who only want access to Prime Instant Video can continue to pay £5.99. The LoveFilm brand will continue to be used for the DVD by post rental business Amazon is continuing to run.
No word yet on LoveFilm/Prime Instant Video appearing as an App on the VM TiVo yet, but it was rumoured last year and it may be that the two companies were waiting for this rebrand before sealing the deal.
If you have a Smart TV, games console or modern blu-ray player, chances are you have access to LoveFilm already on your main screen. I have it on my Sony blu-ray but was unimpressed with the picture quality when I looked at it a few years back - far inferior to Netflix from what I recall. The TV and film lineup though is pretty neat - have a look here.
For a recent assessment of what's the better service, those nice Trusted Reviews people did a comparison of the two last December. Well worth a read. Netflix vs Lovefilm Instant. By the look of this article (and the comments posted below it) Amazon is going to have to beef up the tech delivery to really compete with Netflix.

February 17, 2014

Netflix update updated

A big shuffle on Netflix UK this weekend. The following are all now gone:
A Day Without a Mexican, Ailsa, Anatomy for Beginners, As If I Am Not There, Beaver Falls, Before the Rain, Beyond Re-Animator, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, Black Moon Rising, Blonde, The Border, Campus, Cutting Edge: Cocaine, Cutting Edge: Katie: My Beautiful Friends, Cutting Edge: My Big Fat Royal Gypsy Wedding, Da Ali G Show, The Day of the Triffids, The Day of the Triffids, Dead Heat, Derren Brown: Enigma Stage Show 2010, Diana: Her True Story, Drop Dead Diva, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Even Stevens, Father Ted, Flowers in the Attic, Fresh Meat, Friday Night Dinner, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Green Wing, Heston's Fishy Feast, Hugh's Chicken Run, The Inbetweeners, The IT Crowd, Jesus of Montreal, Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace, The Lawnmower Man, Made in Chelsea, Madeline, Man with the Screaming Brain, Matando Cabos, Misfits, Music from the Inside Out, Parked, Peep Show, Penitentiary 2, Perfect Opposites, Pervert!, Pete Vs Life, The Philadelphia Experiment, Punk's Not Dead, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Red Dog, Red Scorpion, Return to Horror High, Shame, Shameless, Sirens, Skins, The Stuff, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, Thunderbirds, Tokyo Decadence, Tom Dowd and the Language of Music, Transylvania 6-5000, Trash
So pretty much all of the good Channel 4 shows have disappeared (Green Wing, IT Crowd, Father Ted, Peep Show, Misfits , Shameless, Skins etc) which is a real shame - I guess some license deal expired on those
There are 28 new films that have appeared, including Pixar's Cars; American Graffiti; Angela's Ashes; The Jerk; Monty Python's Meaning of Life; and Serenity (to go with the full series of Firelfly - yay!). And, as you may have heard, the entire second season of House of Cards.
Most of the news stuff is what I'd refer to as "Service Station" quality though, you know - the DVDs you see at the check out at a garage when paying for petrol, so I feel  like it hasn't been a particularly great weekend for Netflix UK. Critics of the service often accuse the movies on the UK service as being second or even third rate, and this latest change will only reinforce that belief. I don't think it's as bad as some suggest, but this latest shuffle of the pack isn't hugely impressive if you ask me.

The Channel 4 series appear to have returned! Hurrah! I haven't checked them all but all of the ones I had in My Shows are back (Green Wing, IT Crowd, Father Ted, etc)

February 14, 2014

Season 2, all 13 episodes, now available on UK Netflix

Virgin Media 2013 financial results

From the Liberty Global financial report:

In 2013, we increased the number of customer relationships and product subscriptions, or RGUs, with momentum improving in H2, as well as sequentially from Q3 to Q4. This growth was partly the result of an improvement in customer churn in Q4 following the launch of BT Sport on our TV platform along with other enhancements to our bundles and our service. The impact of improvements in our services is apparent from the most recent data published by the independent industry regulator, Ofcom, which found that we generate the least complaints of all broadband and telephony providers in the U.K. Churn for Q4 was at 14.0% on an annualized basis,18 which was fractionally higher than last year. In addition, we improved Average Monthly Revenue per Customer Relationship by 2.5% to £48.21 in Q4, the highest total in the U.K. market, driven by price increases during the year and continued success in upselling customers to higher value products. In Q4, the company announced an average price rise of  6.7% which is currently being implemented.

Our internet subscribers increased 103,500 in 2013 driving internet revenues up 9%, with Q4
representing our strongest subscriber growth of the year. Of all of our 4.4 million internet customers, 3.2 million, or 74%, subscribe to superfast broadband services of 30 Mbps or faster, an increase of 1.0 million in twelve months, including a 209,300 increase in Q4. We continue to see that nearly half of our new internet customers subscribe to speeds of 60 Mbps or higher, showing the strong, ongoing demand for faster speeds. We will again demonstrate the power of our network during 2014 with another significant speed increase beginning in February, when our top tier increases to 152 Mbps, twice the speed of VDSL products offered by competitors.

During Q4, we experienced a return to overall television subscriber growth after three quarters of losses. Strong uptake of TiVo continued throughout the year, as we added 628,800 customers, including 136,900 during Q4. The TiVo service is in 2.0 million homes or 52% of our television subscriber base. The growth of TiVo has helped drive growth in paying TV customers, which increased by 56,000 during 2013, including 18,600 in Q4. We continue to enhance the value of the service and during Q4 we
extended Virgin TV Anywhere to Android devices and added more live streaming channels to make it the most comprehensive cloud-based entertainment service offered by any U.K. pay TV provider.

In December 2013, we extended our range of triple-play bundles with the launch of our “Essential Family Collection” which combines 30 Mbps broadband and our XL TV service with TiVo and BT Sport. We ended 2013 with 2.5 RGUs per customer and triple-play penetration of 65.7%. 

February 13, 2014

Two million TiVos

Virgin Media has announced it has installed its two millionth TiVo receiver. Scott Kewley, Virgin Media’s director of digital entertainment, said: “Reaching two million TiVo customers is a huge milestone for us and we’re delighted so many people are enjoying what we believe is the best way to watch television. Virgin Media TiVo started a revolution in the way people watch and discover great TV and it’s clear from our growth that our customers agree. By offering different ways to watch, with subscription and pay-per-view options, all integrated into a straightforward, intuitive experience, there’s an unrivalled world of great entertainment at our customers’ fingertips.”
App usage on Virgin Media TiVo has reportedly increased significantly in 2013, boosted by the addition of Netflix in November. Netflix has become the second most popular app behind BBC iPlayer with YouTube third. A shame that launching an App can still result in the TiVo resetting, particularly the Spotify App which I find flaky on launch. And I still think the implementation of BBC iPlayer is something of a mess, too. The TiVo's Apps catalogue has never quite grown as promised and most Apps lack the grace or elegance you get on the newer consoles or Smart TVs. The Apps are also buried pretty deep in the EPG layout - I access Netflix via channel 204 - drilling down via the Home menu is a lengthy, fraught process at times.

February 05, 2014

Virgin Media acquires SmallWorld

Virgin Media has just grown its cable broadband footprint by around 40,000 homes passed with the acquisition of SmallWorld who operated as an independent cable provider in Irvine, Dreghorn, Troon, Kilmarnock and Carlisle, Lancaster and Morecambe.
For customers reading this and in a state of shock, it appears that nothing will change immediately but SmallWorld will write to customers once changes are about to take place. For customers it does mean the prospect of access to the Virgin Media TiVo set-top box and the faster speeds (Virgin Media is starting to roll-out 152 Mbps).
Since SmallWorld utilises DOCSIS technology like Virgin Media it should not require major changes to the physical network and hopefully be a smooth transition. No doubt the Virgin Media advertising machine will launch a large push in the area to increase take-up on the network.