June 30, 2016

New Now TV box

The new Now TV Smart Box will be available as a standalone purchase for £40 from early July. That’s quite a price hike, but I think it’s still excellent value.

The new Now TV Smart Box is larger and slimmer than the current Now TV box, measuring 165 x 165 x 20.5mm (HWD), weighing 432g, it’s gloss black with the Now TV branding in blue. I think the logo that makes it look a bit cheap but that’s probably just me.

Sky has added a Freeview tuner to the box so it’s equipped with a digital aerial socket, alongside an HDMI out to connect to your TV. It has 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound over HDMI, but the video output is limited to 1080p full HD and the NowTV service is currently limited to 720p. Given that Sky’s regular satellite service is only 1080i, I’d expect it not to go up to full HD until Sky launches its 4K TV services. Other connections include an Ethernet port for a wired internet connection - the box does also have built-in wi-fi - a microSD card slot, and a USB connection for viewing media on external devices.

So not all the rumours were true. No 4k (never likely, despite the fact that it’s competing with Amazon and Netflix) and no built-in hard drive (and you can’t connect an external one), so there’s no option to record. However, you can pause live TV and rewind programmes by up to 30 minutes.

I'll do a separate post about the new Now TV Combo bundles that offer a combined Sky phone and Broadband package that make this a very real alternative to Virgin Media and the aging TiVo box.

June 19, 2016

TiVo Apps - the verdict

I ran a poll on this blog last week regarding the Apps on TiVo and I must say that the results probably aren’t a great surprise. Over half of the 280 respondents said that they never used the Apps, whilst a further third said they used them rarely. In fact, only 6% said they used them regularly, and I’m guessing that would be Netflix, iPlayer or Spotify (the first two might not be considered ‘Apps’ by most as they can be accessed without going into the Applications menus).
Not surprising though, given how shockingly poor the Apps are.

June 16, 2016


I normally try to keep this site on topic, but this week I’ve just published my first novel so I hope you don’t mind me just dropping a little ad on the right here for When She Was Bad, which is available on Amazon.

June 15, 2016

Sky Movies becomes Sky Cinema, and HD as standard from July 8th

Sky Movies is being replaced by Sky Cinema to give customers "even more of the biggest and best movies closer to cinema release than any other subscription service."
Launching on July 8th, Sky Cinema customers will receive a new movie premiere every day, more on demand films, pop up channels as well as better HD picture and sound quality. All of these extras are designed to take them "closer to the cinema experience," according to Sky.
Among the first films featuring on Sky Cinema in July are Spectre, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Ant-Man. In August, The Martian, Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens and The Man from U.N.C.L.E will be added.
And here's the important bit for us: Sky Cinema will be available at no extra cost to existing and new subscribers. This includes customers who currently access Sky Movies on NOW TV, BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk.
HD content will be offered as standard to all Sky Cinema customers on the Sky and Virgin Media platforms.

June 14, 2016

TiVo speed improvements

I haven’t had the new update to the TiVo in my area yet (it’s still being tested in only a few areas) but this quick post from Jobbie8 at Cable Forum suggests it’s going to be worth the wait:
I’ve just had the new software update this week, the TiVos are so fast now, almost instant page loading and page up and down in TV Guide.
There’s also the suggestion on the same thread that resetting your Thumbs Up/Down in Settings can improve the speed of your box. I haven’t tried this but that would explain why one of my TiVos, which has lots of ‘Thumbs’ is notably slower than the other (which has none).

June 11, 2016

TiVo apps poll

The quiet announcement that the Spotify app is disappearing with the new TiVo software update is the latest step in the demise of the disappointing tale of the TiVo app. Do any of them work anymore? Has anyone got the patience to use the TiVo's cumbersome YouTube or BBC iPlayer sloths? They're either broken or unusably slow these days, which makes me wonder if anyone actually uses them. I've set up a poll (top right) to see what you think. Let me know.

June 09, 2016

Spotify leaves TiVo

Virgin Media chap Spiderplant has confirmed that the Spotify app on TiVo is no more.
“We’re sorry, the Spotify app is no longer available on Virgin TV. To carry on enjoying your Spotify subscription you can head online to Spotify.com.
If you have your Spotify subscription through Virgin Media you’re still able to enjoy your full Spotify service across any of your other devices.”
It was not a great App (if I called it ‘weak’ I’d be being generous) but it’s another lost service for VM customers that I know people used. Originally it had all kinds of problems and I stopped using it when I found that I had to type in my email and password every single time I used it.
The NowTV box Spotify App is better, and even better are the desktop and mobile applications Apps which you can connect to Bluetooth speakers with.

June 07, 2016

TiVo to quit its US hardware business?

Tivo’s new management has suggested that it might get out of box retailing in the US and focus on software and services.
New owner Rovi’s chief financial officer Peter Halt’ said in an SEC presentation:
“What the consumer channel gives TiVo is a direct contact with the consumer and a very passionate loyal audience that gives them direct feedback, but being in the hardware business isn’t something that necessarily excites us.”
Instead, Halt suggests that deals with box-builders could be on the cards. “There are several box providers out there who are direct-to-retail. We’ll be looking at the possibilities of working with them, having them control the box.
“And while that would be a partnership and we wouldn’t get all the sales as a result, we think that’s probably a better way to approach the consumer space.”
Such a deal would maintain a presence in the consumer market, without the company having to continue designing and building its own hardware.
That would leave Rovi/TiVo focussing on its search capability and Tivo’s recommendation engine, which by the look of recent Virgin Media statements will be running on Liberty Global’s Horizon hardware in the UK before too long.

June 06, 2016

Now TV On Demand issue with episode 7 of Game of Thrones

Now TV users: if you’re trying to watch episode 7 of Game of Thrones on Monday evening, you’re probably having little luck as there’s something seriously at fault at stately NowTV manor. There is a workaround though: try playing the previous episode, fast forwarding to near the end and then click Play Next episode.
(Or, like me, give up with your legal box tonight and use naughty means to download it. You try to stick to being good but sometimes the buggers just won’t let you...)

June 01, 2016

New on Netflix in June

Lots of new stuff this month, including the first seasons of two great BBC series The Detectorists and Happy Valley
Full details on Vodzilla.