April 29, 2016

Virgin doing the okey cokey with UKTV

According to the Telegraph, Virgin Media is weighing a bid for the BBC’s stake in UKTV. It’s only a few years ago that Virgin sold its stake in the company, a legacy from its Telewest heritage, in order to get out of the content game. Now it’s looking to dive back in as David Bouchier, the company’s television chief, said it would “absolutely” be able to take on the 50pc stake in a joint venture with the US media group Scripps.

April 27, 2016

HDR television explained

I've just come across an article at What Hi-Fi that explains the science and benefits of HDR (High Dynamic Range) television:
Every few years, manufacturers come up with a whole bunch of new tech, most of which has a confusing acronym. UHD and 4K. HDCP. OLED. And those are just the first few that come to mind.
The latest? HDR. But what is it and why it will make your TV picture look better than ever? Read on for all you need to know about HDR TV technology...

Read more at http://www.whathifi.com/advice/hdr-tv-what-it-how-can-you-get-it#hflQJQ7kcZ2wCoHi.99

April 25, 2016

New TiVo boxes delayed until 2017

According to an article in Sunday’s Telegraph, we’re not going to see the new TiVo hardware until next year:
At the turn of the year Virgin Media will launch a new set-top box to rival Sky Q, with ultra-high-definition pictures and a similar ability to sling programmes to tablets and smartphones around the home. Beyond that, there will be a major overhaul of the ageing plumbing that powers Virgin Media’s broadcasting, to allow it to shift to Liberty Global’s next generation distribution system, Horizon, which is already in use elsewhere in Europe.
That’s disappointing to say the least as the initial rumours were of a new TiVo for this summer’s Olympics.
Whilst I appreciate that there may be considerable challenges in rolling out new equipment to the cable network Sky’s Q technology has hardly been a trade secret, and Virgin/Liberty aren’t really in a position to give Sky a year’s head start on modern technology and retain customers.
The Telegraph article also talks about ‘making the pipes sing with content’, which is a poetic turn of phrase but pretty meaningless when a subscription to NowTV Entertainment delivers more compelling content (Sky Atlantic, ITV Encore, etc) and better curated box sets for £6.99 a month on a cracking little badged Roku box that costs £14.99, less than Virgin’s hard sold monthly fixed phone line cost.
With Q stealing away VM’s last remaining high end customers and NowTV and BT luring the core middle of the TV market the Virgin television business is relying on the apathy of customers reluctant to change suppliers rather than any compelling USP to keep us on board.
Virgin’s answer, according to Chief Digital Entertainment Officer David Bouchier, is to go back to the content market again. But in returning to that particular table Virgin will find only slim pickings indeed as Sky has tied up the US networks HBO and ShowCase whilst BT has AMC. Throw in the competition for programming from a rejuvenated Five (now owned by Discovery) and the occasional big US swoop by Channel 4 and there’s precious little left worth talking about.
Virgin does have Netflix of course, but today’s smart TVs deliver over the top services much slicker than the TiVo, and often have the Amazon Prime network available too. There’s no mention of Amazon coming to the TiVo these days, which means the odd underwhelming pick up like Kingdom and Ash vs Evil Dead are hardly going to sustain existing customers or attract new ones.
It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs. Although the Telegraph can run some puff about how efficient Liberty Global is with it’s economies behind the scenes it can’t really hide the reality of a TV offering that has lacked the necessary vision, attention and investment for far too long, a typical example of a media company that’s been run by accountants who have turned a blind eye to the opportunities of today’s technology and compelling content.
Jam tomorrow maybe whilst raising prices today? Who is gullible enough to fall for that?

April 19, 2016

Yet another price rise for Virgin Media customers

From the Community Forums:

We’re raising our prices because Sky is increasing their cost to us
Sky has increased the cost for Sky Movies and Sky Sports to their customers including us, and unfortunately this means we’re having to pass on the increase to our customers too, from June 1st 2016.
This way we can continue to show you all the best sport and movie channels in HD and over 1000 movies on demand.
We’re campaigning for a fairer deal for fans
The way live Premier League rights are sold is continuing to drive up the price for broadcasting live games. We’re campaigning for #moreballs, so we’ve asked the regulator Ofcom to look into the way TV rights are auctioned, to secure more games and a better deal for UK football fans. Currently, an element of these price rises eventually ends up hitting the pockets of fans.
Whilst we don’t agree with the bidding system, the customer is the most important focus for Virgin Media. Throughout 2016, we will continue to increase both the sports and entertainment content on Virgin Media TV.
We’re bringing you an unmissable sports and movies line-up
More Premier League action than ever next season – exclusive live coverage of every available game whether on BT or Sky (including 126 games in total on Sky Sports, 10 more than this season), plus all the new Friday Night football and Super Sunday action.
Exclusive live coverage of all the golf majors from Sky Sports, the new home of golf – including The Open at Royal Troon for the first time, plus all the play from The Ryder Cup, the European Tour and PGA Tour.
Every practice, qualifying and race in the Formula One™ calendar – with more than half of them shown exclusively live on Sky Sports.
More of the latest blockbusters – five new premieres a week on Sky Movies, many shown 12 months before online subscription services, so get ready for Jurassic World, Ricki and the Flash, Hot Pursuit and loads more.
Exclusive pop-up channels and movie seasons – so you can enjoy the greatest collections of Hollywood hits, with the likes of Sky Movies May the 4th Be With You and Queens of Comedy.
So, more balls (to use VM’s own phrase) from Virgin and Sky. Sky satellite customers are getting a similar hike, too, but I’ve not seen anything announced yet for Now customers. Sky Q customers are getting a hike on that service too, just weeks after it started shipping to paying customers.

Interesting that the VM announcement, currently tucked away in their Community Boards, doesn’t mention how much the increase is. I hear it’s £2.50 a month, which is on top of the increase we all saw earlier this year.
Bloody hell.

April 18, 2016

HBO struggles weaken Sky Atlantic

Sky Atlantic is, according to some, the great content differentiator between the TV packages from Sky and Virgin Media. Virgin customers have never had the channel and those hungry for HBO and Showcase content have to either invest in Sky’s 720p NowTV Entertainment package (and, in doing so, may wonder why they fork out so much for Virgin TV each month) or dip into the murky depths of dodgy downloads. With NowTV the clamour for Atlantic on VM has died down; I have it but jump in and out of the service depending on what’s showing on Atlantic. This month I’m in for Game of Thrones, having just watched Vinyl. But the only other show scheduled for this year I’m interested in is the final season of The Leftovers. And after that? HBO, and therefore Sky Atlantic, is looking pretty bare.
I’m not the only one thinking this. Here’s a report from The Guardian that makes a similar observation, and industry watcher Hollywood Reporter has raised the alarm too: Game of Thrones apart, HBO is on the ropes. The new content kings in town are Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, whilst US cable network AMC has a more impressive track record of late (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Walking Dead series and the forthcoming Preacher) and that’s now tied to BT in the UK (some Sky customers get just the SD version and no OnDemand).
I don’t doubt that Sky will flash more cash and buy up more content if HBO continues to fail to deliver popular series, but it’s not the channel it was and, Game of Thrones apart, it’s looking less of a gaping hole on my TiVo’s EPG.
What does everyone else think?

April 15, 2016

Netflix price rise in May poll

Quick VMHD poll to my right, specifically for current Netflix customers.
Personally, given that we got two years’ advance warning this was going to happen I’m staying with the service. It will be interesting though to see if Amazon Prime will follow suit (it’s £79 a year, which is £6.58 a month but comes a lot of other Amazon benefits).

April 12, 2016

Netflix price rise in May

Prices for Virgin Media's Netflix customers on the original £5.99 deal will be rising as Netflix ends its legacy pricing for long-term subscribers. New pricing takes affect in May.
Currently, Netflix offers three package tiers in the UK for new customers: Basic, Standard, and Premium:

  • Basic, at £5.99 per month, allows users to log in on only one screen at a time, and only offers standard definition picture quality. 
  • Standard, at £7.49 per month, gets you HD content (up to 1080p), and access on two screens at once. 
  • Premium, at £8.99 a month, includes the  4K quality and allows up to four screens to be logged in simultaneously.

Netflix says that VM customers currently enjoying the £5.99 legacy pricing will be rising to the current £7.49 that a new member would pay for Standard – a £1.50 increase. The increase follows a similar move in the US, where long-term customers currently paying $7.99 for the Standard package will be facing a two dollar increase, taking it to $9.99 per month. For Americans, it's the second Netflix price increase since new pricing models and the introduction of the Basic plan were announced in May 2014, which bumped the $7.99 package to $8.99 at the time. But then the American Netflix catalogue is far more extensive than the UK's, although it's recently lost a sizeable chunk of its Hollywood films.
Netflix will suggest that if you want to pay what you currently pay you still can, but you'll only get SD on a single screen.