January 31, 2017

Discovery channels on Sky

Today’s is the last day for Sky and Discovery to agree a deal on these channels

  • Discovery Channel
  • Eurosport 1
  • Eurosport 2
  • Animal Planet
  • TLC
  • Investigation Discovery
  • DMAX
  • Discovery Turbo
  • Discovery Shed
  • Discovery Science
  • Discovery History
  • Home & Health
  • Quest

and all of their HD and +1 siblings. If there’s no 11th hour agreement today then that’s a lot of blank slots on the Sky EPG tomorrow. As carriage disputes go, it’s a doozy, and possibly a taste of things to come as the channels and platforms start to feel the commercial squeeze of those billions being invested in football.
Will people jump from Sky (and NowTV, which is also affected) because of the (temporary?) absence of a dozen or so documentary channels? I don’t think so. Discovery may be a big name but it’s hardly a big channel with compelling content these days. And that content is so widely available now that I’d be surprised if anyone made it a sole determinant of which provider they go with - I’d suggest availability, price and performance are more important. How many Virgin Media customers have a cheap NowTV box on stand by when Sky Atlantic has something interesting on? I do, and I would guess I’m by no means alone.
But maybe that’s just me. I don’t watch any of the Discovery lineup and if it disappeared from Virgin tonight I wouldn’t even notice. However, I have a friend who enjoys several Discovery shows and for him it’s a deal breaker - he’s had enough of Sky and is planning to try Virgin or BT, so what do I know?

Susanna Dinnage, managing director, Discovery Networks UK, said in a statement: “We want to thank our millions of viewers and fans for their overwhelming support over the last few days. We have reached a new agreement that guarantees Sky’s customers access to Discovery’s wide range of channels and programmes for years to come."
Read more at http://www.whathifi.com/news/sky-agrees-deal-to-keep-discovery-and-eurosport-tv-channels#i8q3bfgvI41RBxhu.99

January 30, 2017

Apologies for missing comments

For some reason Blogger has been a little over zealous in tagging comments posted on this site as 'For Moderation', which means a number of them haven't been published as promptly as you'd perhaps expect. I don't know why this suddenly happened but I've now approved the back log (around two dozen, almost all on posts made in January) and I've changed settings so that I get notified if a comment is flagged by Blogger for attention. Sorry.

January 26, 2017

Profits fall at Sky prompts "dish-free" Sky TV service in 2018

Sky is to make its full TV service of hundreds of channels available without the need for a satellite dish for the first time, as it looks to stem customer defections to rivals such as BT.
The pay-TV giant suffered an 18% plunge in profits at its UK business in the last six months of 2016  has announced that it will launch the broadband-delivered TV service next year.
Jeremy Darroch, the Sky chief executive, said it would allow Sky to target up to 6m households across Europe who cannot, or will not, have a satellite dish.
There's already the broadband-delivered 720p NowTV service of course but what the appetite will be for the full Sky TV service (and cost) will be interesting and possibly challenging for Virgin Media and other services. Too early to know whether it will include any 4K UHD services or what the hardware would be.
Sky and Discovery are also trading blows in a carriage dispute that could result in twelve Discovery-owned channels disappearing from the satellite service at the end of this month.
More details on both stories here and at http://www.whathifi.com/news/sky-q-tv-service-wont-require-satellite-dish-2018

January 23, 2017

V6 - a few problems UPDATED

All new hardware has bugs or, as one of my engineers once claimed, ‘undocumented features’, and the V6 appears to be no different. Overall I am very pleased with the new boxes and wouldn’t for a moment consider swapping them back for my old Samsung and Cisco TiVo relics, but over the weekend a couple of problems occurred that I’ve posted on the VM Community Boards in threads that suggest the difficulties I have had are not unique.
Power Save
Lots of reports on the Community Forum about this here: http://community.virginmedia.com/t5/Virgin-TV-V6/V6-Wake-from-Standby-Issues/td-p/3291846
The automatic power save function is the default setting but I strongly recommend that you disable it as it seems to have a life of its own and waking the box from Stand By is often a long and sometimes fraught process, requiring a full shut down and start up if the box locks. I didn’t want my boxes on though all night so I have tried manually putting them into Stand By overnight. Seemed to work but this morning I found that this had led to a failed recording from BBC1 HD reported in Recording Hiccups as “Power Lost”. There was no power cut and the only difference I can see between the successful recording made at 9pm and the failed one at 10.30 was that the box was in Stand By.
According to the V6 User Guide (you don’t get one but it’s online here: https://assets.virginmedia.com/help/assets/documents/Virgin_TV_V6_user_guide.pdf) you can’t view recordings remotely on either another box or device if the V6 is in Stand By either.
I can’t find any details of the difference in power consumption between On and Stand By, so I’ve set both my boxes now as Always On until Virgin Media fix it. Of course, there’s no longer a need to worry about any impact on Climate Change now that has been finally exposed as an evil Chinese plot... ;-(
There appears to be DNS issue if you are using a VM SuperHub in Modem Mode with an external router rather than relying on the SuperHub’s own Wi-Fi. I’ve found my SH2 Wi-Fi to be unreliable so have an Apple Time Capsule as my router. I have one V6 connected directly into the router via Ethernet, a second connected by Wi-Fi.
iPlayer and YouTube worked fine but Netflix failed initially on both boxes, showing an error that said “Application is loading. Netflix is loading onto the TiVo box. Please wait a moment and try starting Netflix again. (V312)”. Turns out I’m not alone and there’s a thread on the Community Board forum on this that suggests it’s a DNS problem. I resolved it for my V6 with the Ethernet connection by turning Modem Mode off on my SuperHub, rebooting the V6 and then Netflix worked. I then switched back to Modem Mode and it still works so that box is fine now.
However I was unable to do that successfully with the Wi-Fi connected box, despite wasting several hours on Sunday running up and down the stairs (not literally - I’m still recovering from a broken leg) and rebooting and re-rebooting anything and everything. Still no Netflix on that box, which is annoying as that ain’t connected to a Smart TV and so there’s no Netflix or similar downstairs at the moment.
Neither of these are showstoppers with the V6 but they are annoying and if I continue to get Failed Recordings that will be a serious problem.
Anyone else experiencing similar?

UPDATE: Virgin Media engineering have acknowledged that there are bugs with the Stand By functionality and I’ve been recommended to disable it for now.

January 20, 2017

Nialli's initial experience of the V6

I had my two TiVo boxes swapped yesterday for a pair of V6s. Here are my initial observations:

The Installation:
  1. It’s a pretty straightforward hardware swap – the most time-consuming part is when the engineer has to call VM to activate the boxes. Our man was on hold for around 15 minutes. As always, the hold music emanating from his mobile was dire…
  2. Total time to install both boxes was under half an hour
  3. The speed of the V6 makes the configuration a doddle. My boxes did three software downloads, each faster than the previous
  4. The EPG was fully populated within the hour – I seem to recall this could take several hours with the TiVos and even longer with the V+
  5.  I’ve got one V6 wired to my router using Ethernet. (My router is a SuperHub 2 in modem mode, connected to an Apple Time Capsule for reliable Wi-Fi coverage.) Our second V6 is just on the Wi-Fi, which meant it took a little longer to do the downloads as my Wi-Fi speed drop in the evenings (it was around 75mbps during the install). I didn’t have to hardwire the second box before the Wi-Fi option appeared – it just worked
  6. Overall, I was impressed. Our engineer didn’t know much about the new box and it was the end of his shift and my dinner was ready so I ushered him out of the door rather than have him attempt instruction. Besides, it's always more fun to play...
The V6:
  1. My two TiVos weren’t as sluggish as some people’s but even after a few hours I couldn’t go back. Has anyone else noticed how unbelievably nippy and snappy the V6 is?? I’m seriously impressed, and TiVo software running at this speed suddenly feels lively and modern
  2. If the V6 was the same size as the old TiVo then the design of the new hardware would feel like a throwback to the old cable boxes of the nineties, but it ain’t – it’s about half the width and it almost disappears in my TV stand. In fact the second box I’ve put on its side and tucked away behind the TV, so you can’t even see it
  3. Connecting the two boxes so they can share recordings works faultlessly
  4. Streaming to my iPad works fine too
  5. The TV Anywhere iOS applications no longer seem to have the connectivity issues I was experiencing with the TiVos
  6. The engineer left both of my original remotes as well as the new, which work fine with the V6s so I have spares now which is useful. The new remotes automatically control my Sony TVs, which saved me having to do that remote code fun and games to get the volume and on/off buttons working
Overall, I’m impressed and delighted with the new boxes. Well done Virgin Media!

January 13, 2017

Great service from Karl in Retensions

I called Retentions (as I was seriously considering a Now/Humax alternative to save money) and got myself upgraded to Vivid 200 broadband, two V6s (one off charge of £112) and my monthly bill DOWN by a tenner. Install date? Next Thursday. Very happy bunny. And we'll be doing some serious binge viewing this week of our old recordings

January 11, 2017

I'm back

Sorry it’s been so quiet on the blog over the last month or so. I managed to break my leg in late November and it limited the time I could comfortably spend on my laptop, and, unfortunately for the blog, working on my second novel took precedent.
Anyway, I’m back now, the leg’s on the mend and the second draft of the book is almost done. I still haven’t found time to call Virgin and ask them to swap my TiVos for V6s yet, and I’m unlikely to do so until I’ve waded through most of the recordings I’ll lose when I surrender my boxes.

Sky Cinema HD channels all renumbered

For once, a Virgin Media EPG shuffle that makes sense as the SD and HD movie channels from Sky swap places in the programme guide. Here are the new numbers:

Premiere is now 401
Showcase 403
Movie Greats 404
Disney 405
Family 406
Action & Adventure 407
Comedy 408
Crime & Thriller 409
Drama & Romance 410
Sci-Fi & Horror 411
Select 412

The renumbering shouldn’t affect any recordings or planned recordings you may have.