Thursday, 29 December 2011

News roundup for Virgin Media's TiVo: Massive increase in TiVo subscribers?; AVForums Review; Onkyo amp hookup

VideoNet reports that since Virgin's 3rd Quarterly report, the number of TiVos has "increased massively beyond the 220,000 figure provided in October", according to Mark Brandon, Commercial Director at VMDS.

Meanwhile, AVForums have a comprehensive review of Virgin's TiVo online.
We’ve deliberated long and hard over our final verdict with TiVo, teetering between top marks or a ‘Highly Recommended’ and, ultimately, we’ve settled on an extremely rare 'Reference' badge. And the reason is simple, in essence, TiVo outperforms any of the competition in terms of the flexibility of recording options available and the near seamless integration of Virgin’s, market leading, catch-up services means you have virtually countless hours of content just a few button presses away. Add in the recommendation engine, with its ability to make suggestions of content your viewing habits would indicate you’ll enjoy, and it really is like no other Digital PVR available in the UK. Quite simply, if you like the sound of all that’s on offer, TiVo is the only show in town.
...Some may say that TiVo’s interface can be a little busy and slightly sluggish and we’d find it hard to disagree with that, also. To get the most out of it, you’re required to put a little effort in and we’d perfectly understand some may prefer the simplicity of say Sky - or even Virgin’s own V+ Box - but what we would say about that is, don’t knock it until you’ve tried and, although it took some time, we’d find it difficult to go back. Could we live with out it? Sure, but we’d rather not.
Meanwhile, owners of Onkyo TX-NR609 amplifiers may want to watch this video regarding connecting the amp to a TiVo:

Monday, 19 December 2011

You want Red Button? Virgin Media will give you Red Button for TiVo, and then some!

Lots of sport, lots of buttons - coming
next year to a TiVo near you
 Here's today's press release:

Virgin Media and the BBC today announced a new deal that will bring next-generation BBC TV services to the Virgin Media TiVo® Service in 2012, continuing the successful partnership which saw BBC iPlayer launch on its first TV platform.

The BBC and Virgin Media will now begin to develop new applications and user experiences for TiVo homes - paving the way for Virgin Media customers to gain access to the BBC’s interactive coverage of next year’s major sporting events via a brand new Red Button experience, including Formula 1, Wimbledon, Euro 2012 and the London 2012 Olympics.

A forthcoming BBC Sport app will build on these “enhanced Red Button” services to bring next-generation viewing experiences to connected TVs in 2012. The new app will bring together all the live streams from the BBC’s existing Red Button service, video streams on-demand and additional content from BBC Online - providing a next-generation TV experience of Wimbledon, Formula 1, Euro 2012 and London 2012.

The BBC Sport app will sit alongside the BBC’s existing BBC News and BBC iPlayer apps.

The partnership between Virgin Media and the BBC has already delivered full integration of BBC iPlayer into Virgin Media’s TiVo Service. BBC catch-up programmes are now even easier to access through the search, menus, and EPG, made possible by the openness and flexibility of the TiVo platform.

The award-winning BBC News app, which brings together the best of BBC News on TV and online in an on-demand service will launch on Virgin Media TiVo. Accessible via the Red Button and the Virgin Media TiVo ‘Apps and Games’ section, it is expected to launch in the first quarter of next year,
Jane Weedon, Controller of Business Development, BBC Future Media said: “With its pioneering BBC iPlayer service now available on more than 300 different internet-connected TV devices, the BBC has successfully taken catch-up TV beyond the PC and into the living room.

“Having partnered with Virgin Media to bring BBC iPlayer to TV back in 2008, we have since brought a vastly-improved, fully-integrated experience of BBC iPlayer to Virgin Media’s TiVo Service. With the addition of the BBC News app and enhanced BBC Sport services – all accessible via the Red Button – we plan to build on this partnership and continue to innovate in connected TV through 2012.”

Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media, said: “Our innovative new TiVo service offers a whole world of catch-up, on demand, HD, 3D and live TV content and we’re delighted to be adding the BBC’s next generation News and Sport services to the line-up.

“2012 promises to be an unforgettable year for UK viewers and our customers can look forward to every minute of it. We’re pleased to be partnering with the BBC to make even more of their content available on what is the UK’s most advanced TV platform.”

Now this is more like it. Enough of the promotional apps please for the likes of Harry Potter, Twilight, and Sky Premium Channels. I've seen the BBC News app on my Samsung TV, suffice to say it makes the existing BBC MultiScreen app look like its running on a Sinclair Spectrum:

Of course, running that Sammy app uses my home broadband connection which is shared among other networked devices. The TiVo version of the BBC apps will of course, use that dedicated 10mb broadband connection which I've typed a lot about, but until now, feel that Virgin haven't really exploited. The BBC apps will change that.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Have Virgin Media fixed the BBC iPlayer issues for TiVo?

Bandwidth bottleneck on Virgin Media's network -
responsible for making the unmissable unplayable on TiVo?
A couple of Virgin Media employees have posted feedback on the Help & Support Forums (here and here) regarding the BBC iPlayer issues which have surfaced on TiVo since the 15.2 software update.

The second post reveals the presence of a bandwidth bottleneck which has since been removed from the network, plus an increase in bandwidth to deal with the iPlayer content which will (hopefully) be streaming to a TiVo near you without buffering and the other issues previously reported:

Apologies about the delay in replying to this thread.  We have been awaiting some information regarding an upgrade that has been done. As of today we should start seeing a reduction in the problems with BBC I Player.

Can we ask that you do a few tests in the next 24 hours and ask anyone who has not done so in the last 48 hours to do a reboot on their boxes and try the application again.
Please let us know if your still getting problems and we can check individual accounts.
Can you also please start your own individual posts so we can keep a track on each persons query.

Once again we apologise for the delay and thank you for your patience with us in this matter.
Firstly sorry about the delay in posting about this, we've had some issues tracking the cause of this particular problem down. But after doing a lot of digging into the cause of this problem we've identified it and implemented a fix last night.
As of the 15.2 update we switched over to streaming all iPlayer content via the full iPlayer app and unfortunately we ran into a bandwidth bottleneck for some customers on one particular TiVo specific part of our network. The solution was to remove that bottleneck which we did last night and we've also made sure there is plenty of room for all of the iPlayer traffic that we're expecting over Christmas for everyone.
If you could confirm for us if you've seen an improvement or not we'd appreciate it.

Friday, 9 December 2011

News snippets for Virgin Media TiVo: Network page updated; TiVo remove app; Deadline closing in for Xmas TiVo installations

The Network Your TiVo page has been updated (thanks to some excellent feedback), with more details regarding how you can access a list of recorded content from your web browser (as in, a list - not playing back that content in your browser), as well as more options for remote controlling your networked TiVo, minus one option - Gizmo Lovers reports that TiVo Commander has been removed from the Android Market thanks to....TiVo.

Meanwhile, the Virgin Media High Definition & TiVo Services Blog reports that the deadline for Xmas installations is, at midnight! So if you want to get TiVoed in time for Xmas then you better get a move on and get on that phone sharpish.

Why the 15.2 software update has affected BBC iPlayer for Virgin Media's TiVo

The 15.2 software update has improved the TiVo service provided by Virgin Media - apart from one area: BBC iPlayer.

iPlayer has been a shining example of the Video-on-Demand (VOD) capability of Virgin's network - Virgin was the first TV platform to provide iPlayer and as of January 2011, 16% of all iPlayer views were made from Virgin TV customers.

With Virgin, there's dedicated frequencies within the physical cable for each service that enters your home. Think of the cable as a 5 line Motorway, with separate traffic lanes for Linear TV Channels, VOD, Home Broadband, TiVo's 10Mb Broadband and Voice Data for your phone.

Until now, when you've requested some iPlayer content on TiVo, its been delivered as a MPEG 2 stream via the 'VOD' lane of the Motorway/Cable, and that iPlayer content, along with the majority of other VOD content, has been delivered from your local headend. There's over 50 regional headends and they each contain VOD servers which provide the on-demand content for your area.

One problem with that approach is keeping content in sync for the VOD servers at those regional headends. When new content becomes available (from the BBC and every other supplier of VOD content), it needs to be copied to all of those regional headends. That's why you may not have VOD content which other customers report as being available in their area, the recent rollout of  Sky Anytime content is a recent example of this.

With 15.2 on TiVo (and only on TiVo - V and V+ HD boxes are unaffected), that's changed for iPlayer. Now, all iPlayer content is delivered directly from the BBC. The advantages of this approach is that as soon as the BBC make the content available, its also available for your TiVo, and the delay between a BBC programme being broadcasted and becoming available to watch on TiVo via iPlayer, is greatly reduced.

It also means a lot more iPlayer content is available to watch via TiVo, compared to the older V/V+ HD boxes - up to 950 hours on TiVo from 350 hours on older Virgin boxes.

It sounds good, and it also has the advantage of not using one of TiVo's three tuners to watch iPlayer content. So you could watch last week's Top Gear while recording up to three programmes.

So....why all the recent complaints about iPlayer not working since the 15.2 update?

Well, leaving aside the annoying delay between requesting iPlayer content and the completion of the iPlayer app loading (seriously Virgin, can't we just play the damn content already instead of loading the app first?!?), the problem isn't TiVo's dedicated broadband connection which provides up to 10Mb of bandwidth - that's more then enough bandwidth to stream HD iPlayer content which requires a bitrate of 3.5Mb.

The problem is somewhere else in the network - either a lack of bandwidth between the Beeb and your TiVo, or a lack of server capacity at the BBC's server farms or content delivery network, in which case the iPlayer servers are being bombarded by so many requests from VOD-hungry TiVo's that they're struggling to stream content without buffering issues.

Virgin have acknowledged there's an issue and are working to fix it. Someone, somewhere, has been caught out by the extra bandwidth and/or server capacity requirements needed to feed iPlayer content to all those TiVos - and there isn't exactly a lack of demand for them, especially at this time of year.

Looking ahead, Virgin will potentially face the same issues as they go from using the legacy delivery system of VOD (streaming MPEG 2), to using TiVo's broadband connection (streaming MPEG 4) to provide content from other on-demand providers like 4oD, Demand Five and Warner. Hopefully Virgin can avoid the issues which has made the unmissable missed for fans of BBC iPlayer.

Monday, 5 December 2011

News for Virgin Media's TiVo: More on 15.2 software update; Wireless Keyboard Fun; iPlayer Issues

I was going to do an in-depth article on the 15.2 software update, but zekeisaszekedoes has done such a great job in a discussion thread over at Cable Forum that I might as well direct you to there instead.

Among the nuggests of information in that thread are the TiVo keyboard shortcuts for those customers who have a wireless keyboard. I purchased one this weekend, placed the USB wireless adapter into the back of the TiVo and volia, typing keywords for content searches has become a lot easier.

But its not all good news: There's been various reports (here and here on Virgin's Help and Support Forums) of issues with BBC iPlayer since 15.2 was deployed: Catch-up EPG links not linking to the content in iPlayer, and reports of content buffering and or/playback stopping altogether when attempting to play back content. This has been raised as a National fault by Virgin and is currently under investigation. With more and more people getting TiVoed and accessing apps like iPlayer, Virgin and third-party video content suppliers may need to upgrade their networks to cope with demand.

Meanwhile, TechRadar have a great article up comparing the numerous VOD and streaming services in the UK, Virgin's VOD service is included and gets 4 out of 5.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Networking your Virgin Media TiVo

A new page devoted to networking your Virgin Media TiVo is now online, and can be located via the hypertext link at the top of this and every other page on this blog.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Spotify App is live for Virgin Media's TiVo

Virgin said that the Spotify App would be deployed on the 29th of this month. They lied. Its actually gone live now and you can find via Home >>> Apps >>> Music.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Time for a new blog (and its related to Virgin Media's TiVo)

As Netflix prepares to invade the UK, how will Lovefilm respond? What's happening on Sky Anytime? Any streaming apps coming to Virgin Media's TiVo? What do BT Vision think about all this and how will their VoD sevice respond? Any new movie and TV content on YouTube? And what about YouView? Will Apple be looking to take a fruity bite out of everyone? What about the PS3 and Xbox 360? Is that Roku coming over the hill?

Will The UK TV Streaming Services Blog answer all these questions and more? Probably not. Will it have a go now and then? Probably.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

15.2 Software Update for Virgin Media's TiVo - First Impressions

TiVo from Virgin Media. Now with more performance, less PIN nagging
and remote buttons which actually do what their supposed to!
Its here! First impressions.
  • Its fast! It took around 5 to 7 seconds for 15.1 to display My Shows on my 1TB TiVo (77% capacity used). It takes 15.2 just under 3 seconds! Everything has been given a performance boost, from changing channels to flicking through menus to Wishlist lookups to viewing information regarding shows and actors. Its early days yet but so far, I've yet to see the spinning 'please wait' red doughnut.
  • The PIN nagging is over! You can now stop PIN requests for content recorded after 9pm.
  • Pressing Info produces programme info!
  • Stop really means STOP when playing a recording!
  • Finally, I can watch Sky Sports News (and other Sky channels) in the mini-window.
  • As previously mentioned, multi-room streaming is in 15.2 but at present the broadcasters are preventing content from streaming (or so says the on-screen message). It will be interesting to see if Virgin get permission from Sky to allow their content to be streamed.
  • Because the Ethernet ports are now open, that means all sorts of potential fun for those customers who have connected their TiVo(s) to their home network (via CAT 5 or Homeplugs). Got a Android phone or tablet? Check out TiVo Commander, which allows you to remotely control your TiVo! TiVo Net Controller does the same thing for Windows PCs (Windows 7 & Vista).
  • Those USB ports are open too. Time to get hold of a wireless keyboard.
  • Standard definition content looks a little better on my Samsung 40 inch TV, from 8ft away.
  • Entering search words for content is a lot quicker thanks to SMS-style entry.
  • Channel names are now displayed on the right when viewing past days in the EPG.
  • Programme start and end times are now displayed in the EPG.
  • Is it me, or has 'View from On-Demand' replaced 'View Available Episodes' for the button linking to VOD content for a show?
  • 1 step forward for the (new look) YouTube app, which can now playback HD content.
  • 3 steps back for the YouTube app, which no longer allows you to log into your account (which didn't work properly anyway).
  • Express Series Link - only record 10 episodes by default? Really? What's the point? I can see some people getting caught out by that since most shows have more than 10 episodes per season. The ones not caught out will have to manually change the number of episodes, a process which due to its non-expressly nature, makes this new feature near useless.

In short: 15.2 is a big improvement. The performance improvements and other tweaks (like Info and Stop buttons actually doing what they're supposed to do) make the box more pleasurable to use, with the exception of the YouTube app which has improved in looks and has lost functionality.

Longer term, there are potential issues (and recording clashes) which may arise due to the default padding which 15.2 introduces, which is now 1 minutes before and 4 minutes after. The lack of a global option to change these defaults is glaring. The continued, inefficient use of tuners in 15.2 (especially when recording back-to-back recordings on the same channel) doesn't help and both of these issues should be on TiVo's fix-it list for future sofware updates.

Still, everything else is faster, a little snapper, sharper (in standard definition) and in places, easier to use with 15.2, and that's only a good thing. I'll take a more in-depth look at 15.2 later this week.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

And so it begins: 15.2 software rollout underway for Virgin Media's TiVo

The first major software update for Virgin Media's TiVo is underway, and initial feedback at Virgin's Help & Support Forums looks promising, with reports of improvements in performance and SD picture quality, along of course with the other features previously mentioned, including one which wasn't previously mentioned - the start and end times of programmes are now displayed in the EPG.

The software version is SW: 15.2.RC8-VMC-2-C00. The Flash Player version is 15-2-mr/2011.10.26-1905, while the user interface version is HDUI: compass-2/2011.10.28-1830

Functionality for Multi room streaming is in the update, but this thread indicates that the actual streaming is being blocked by broadcaster restrictions.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Virgin Media spread the word for TiVo 15.2 software update; Spotify app launching soon

Virgin Media continue to spread the word about 15.2 - TiVo customers have (or will shortly) receive a letter regarding the update and why you should kill anyone that interrupts it. Most of the letter is a word-for-word copy of the on-screen message which first appeared on TiVoed TV sets last night.

The rear of the letter mentions some of the key features of the update, and also mentions that the Spotify app will be launched on November 29th.

An online version of the letter is erm, online now, and its also available via your TiVo (Home >>> Help & Settings >>> Customer News >>> Your TiVo Service, but better). Update Alerts are also being delivered via TiVo's Discovery Bar.

You can find a link to all the 15.2 related posts on this blog, via the link around the top right of all pages, as we prepare to say goodbye to 15.1 - the deployment of the 15.2 updates are scheduled to start tomorrow (Thursday) morning.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Virgin Media: "We're updating your TiVo box (and don't you dare interrupt us!)"

The 15.2 software update is coming, and so is a warning delived by the pop-up messages via a TiVo near you:

Ok, that's normal, leave the box on standby between 17th to 24th of November and its really, really important that you don't interrupt the update, reading the rest of the message reveals why:

Whoa! Saved settings and recordings will be nuked wiped if the update is interrupted! The staff at the nearest power station have just become my new best friends!

Tell your family and your pets that the update shall not be interrupted. Also tell them that their scheduled, early morning recording of....whatever, may not record. That actually shouldn't be a problem if the programme to be recorded is repeated, because TiVo should hunt down the repeat without mercy and kill it record it.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Examining the energy cost of Virgin Media's TiVo

After recently becoming a member of the Dual-TiVo club, I started to wonder how much energy that 2nd TiVo was using, and how much extra I would be paying on my electric bill.

So, how much does Virgin's Media TiVo cost to run?

The answer will partly depend on what cost your energy supplier charges you per unit for electric. 1 unit equals 1 Kilowatt hour (kWh). 1 kWh equals 1000 watts of electricity. A Kilowatt hour is the measurement of energy used by UK energy companies to charge customers on their bills.

Virgin's TiVo uses around 20 watts. Lets assume (for now anyway) that everyone gets charged what I do for 1 unit, which is 10p.

So, first we calculate the number of kilowatts used:

20 watts divided by 1000 = 0.02 Kilowatts

To get the Kilowatt Hours, we multiply the number of Kilowatts by the number of hours the device is on. So, assuming you're leaving your TiVo on 24 hours per day (which is recommended to receive EPG downloads, eagerly awaited software updates and of course, to, you know, record stuff from time to time), then:

24 hours x 0.02 Kilowatts = 0.48 kWh

And at 10p per unit/Kilowatt Hour, the daily energy cost of Virgin's Media TiVo is:

0.48 kWh x 0.10p = 0.048p per day

That means that leaving a TiVo box on all year will account for around £17.52 of your annual electric bill.

By comparison, V+ HD uses at least 27 watts (or it did before the recent software update which among other things, turned off the retina-burning halo lights in standby), and uses 0.648 kWh per day of electric, meaning a daily cost of 0.064p and a yearly energy cost of £23.36.

At first glance, both Virgin PVRs compare well against Sky+ HD, which (according to the user manual) uses an maximum of 45 watts, that's 1.08 kWh per day, that will cost you 0.108p per day and £39.42 per year. However, in standby its been reported that it uses around 18 to 19 watts, so it will cost you around the same as TiVo.

I think there's room for improvement as far as energy consumption is concerned for TiVo. At the moment, the hard drive is constantly spinning, even in standby. That's nice if you come in from work and you want to watch something which has gone into a tuner buffer but then, if that's the case, chances are you'll record that programme anyway.

V+ HD did the same thing for a while, until a software update automatically turned off the hard drive when it wasn't in use (cue sigh of relief from the UK's power stations). It would be nice if TiVo did the same thing, perhaps with an option to 'opt-out' of that feature in order to keep users who really want triple tuner buffering 24 hours a day.

Monday, 7 November 2011

15.2 software update rollout schedule for Virgin Media's TiVo released?

Media Boy has revealed information regarding the rollout schedule of the 15.2 software update to each regional headend on Virgin Media's Cable Network. Virgin themselves would like to remind everyone that the rollout dates haven't been officially confirmed.

Meanwhile, its also been revealed that the pause timeout for VOD content during playback has been increased from a 'barely time to make a pee' 3 minutes to a 'take a pee and make yourself a sandwich' 10 minutes. Also, the number of skip bars within content has increased to once every 5 minutes from the current 10 or 15 minutes.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

And the winner is....Virgin Media's TiVo!

Virgin Media's TiVo has won Stuff's Home Cinema Gadget of the year Award for 2011:
Allow us to present Stuff’s First Theorem, a formula tells us that as TV gets ever more overrun by idiots making fools of themselves to amuse cretins, you need a really good PVR to cut through the rubbish. Virgin’s TiVo is that PVR: it learns from your viewing habits, suggesting and recording shows it thinks you’ll like. And most of the time it gets it right. With super-smart search features, three tuners and 1TB of space for recordings, the only barrier between you and a perfect night’s viewing will be your own good taste.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

More news snippets for Virgin Media's TiVo: 15.2 rollout; TiVo Monthly Charge

Monday, 31 October 2011

News snippets for Virgin Media's TiVo: 15.2 software rollout; Spotify; Sky; EPG

Some TiVo related snippets:
  • The 15.2 software deployment dates for each regional headend (there's 50+ of them) will be announced later this week by Virgin Media, who will be eager to complete the task well before Xmas.
  • The Spotify app is due to be released within the next month, following Virgin's announcement of their Spotify plans for TV, Broadband and Mobile customers.
  • Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch, referring to competition from Virgin's TiVo, believes that "It’s always a trap to assume that customers think through the extreme of some technical gizmo, they think across the whole experience, simplicity, ease of use, and the importance of the user interface, which remains fundamental. Not to say that some gadget magazine might give you an easy quote."
  • Speaking of Sky, they've come up with a PVR comparsion chart which, among other features,  highlights the lack of reminders and red button services on TiVo. I'm sure it won't be long until Sky have to update the red button section, along with the 'remote record from tablet' section.
  • Speaking of red button - its available (and has been for a while now) on ITV, pressing the magic button on that channel just takes you to ITV Net Player content. Baby Steps, people.
  • In my review, I mentioned that that "the assignment of EPG categories to channels needs some work. For instance, the HD category reveals the Sky Sports HD channels, but the Sports category doesn't. This is the same EPG limitation as on the legacy V+ HD, I could have sworn it would be fixed for TiVo."
    This issue has now been fixed - for instance, selecting the Movies Category will show both the SD and HD versions of the Sky Movies Channels. Likewise for Sky Sports.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Video of 15.2 software update for Virgin Media's TiVo

A very nice video which shows of the snapper peformance of the 15.2 software update has been created and put online by Cable Forum poster MarkyUK:

The video also features a look at a couple of multi-room streaming configuration screens. At present, Virgin haven't mentioned that this feature would be enabled in the 15.2 update, nor (to my knowledge) has any customer with the update successfully streamed content from one TiVo to another. If future multi-room streaming is something you'd be interested in, then I advise you to order a 2nd TiVo, quickly.

The software, which was piloted to 3500 TiVo customers in Crawley and Cambridge, is now rolling out region by region. A quick check to see if you have it is to goto any Sky channel and then press the Home Button - if you can continue to watch the channel within the Mini-TV window, then congratulations - you've been been updated to 15.2.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Virgin Media CEO on TiVo; Open Platform; IPTV

Comments from Neil A. Berkett (Virgin Media CEO) on the 2011 3rd Quarter results, and TiVo:

The main news on TV is strong uptake of TiVo. We have 128,000 net adds in the quarter, taking us up to 163,000 at quarter end. We've seen strong demand from both new and existing Virgin Media customers, with around 1/3 of TiVo subscribers to date being new to Virgin Media. In fact, in Q3, nearly 40% of TiVo net adds were new to Virgin Media.

Sales continued strongly since the quarter end, and as of yesterday, we have 222,000 Virgin Media TiVo customers. That is around 5% penetration of our total TV base after just one quarter of above-the-line marketing. I'm delighted in success we've had this quarter and with the positive reaction from customers. TiVo will eventually be rolled out to our entire TV base. The only question is how quickly, so we're evaluating the opportunity to accelerate this.

So why is TiVo doing so well and how is it changing customer behavior? Well, firstly, it's a superior product and our customers are loving the features. It is either a 500-gig or 1-terabyte hard drive, which can record hundreds of hours of programming. Unlike Sky Plus, it has 3 tuners so you can actually record 3 different programs at the same time as watching one you recorded earlier. TiVo really brings to life our massive, unrivaled video-on-demand library.

For example, our EPG allows customers to go backwards in time and catch up on shows they've missed. We have great search features that allow customer to discover content more easily. They can search by title, by actor, director or topic. TiVo gives intuitive programming recommendations based on the customers of viewing patterns, again, helping our customers to discover great programming on both linear and in VOD. Customers can give a thumbs up or thumbs down to individual programs to further enhance the recommendation effectiveness. In fact, the TiVo box will even record program suggestions based on viewing patterns. So even if like me, you're away and forgot to record the Mighty New Zealand winning the World Cup, if you're a rugby fan, the box will probably record it for you anyway.

The other great thing about TiVo is that it's dedicated over-the-top connection, allowing our customers to access the content and application outside our TV. Unlike in a DSL home, the bandwidth disconnection users will not impede the bandwidth of other devices they're using at the same time.

We have an open platform. We have no fear of adding to over-the-top provider as an application on TiVo because although TV is the key to the wallet for us, it is not the wallet. We make most of our margins in connectivity. We will continue to add innovative applications, like Spotify, where we're exclusively the only TV and broadband platform in the U.K. able to offer access to this music streaming service in a bundled way. We will also soon be launching our companion iPad app. Through TiVo with the first major operator to launch a TV service that will ultimately reside on everyone of our customer TVs, PCs, tablets and mobile devices. It will be the glue that brings together the TV, the PC and the mobile with a better tablet or a smartphone. It is a truly converged platform.

Others have talked about launching IPTV. We've done it. We've done it on time, on budget and it's actually the best product in the market by a long way. It's a superior service and should continue to see us acquire digitally savvy customers. Perhaps our competitors' subscribers who are attracted by the combination of the best broadband connectivity and the best TV application. It's an ARPU driver because we're charging for quality with a GBP 3 premium per month. It should also drive improved loyalty, and therefore, improve churn as we roll it out to the existing base. And that is a vastly superior service to our existing TV platform. We will also continue to add increased functionality as the year progresses. In fact, as flash-based software, it is the service that will continue to improve and evolve.

Our product today is just at the first round of a very long ladder. So how are our customers finding it? Well, firstly, they love it. Our net promoter score or customer satisfaction is much higher for TiVo than our legacy TV product. In fact, TiVo customers are twice as likely to recommend Virgin Media to their friends, by telling their friend and their family about the game-changing technology, about the content discovery and about their control. TiVo is facilitating the personalization that customers want. It's liberating them and putting them in control of their own viewing.

80% say that TiVo gives them more freedom to watch TV when they want it, 50% are watching more catch-up TV. Customers are finding the search and browse functions really, really valuable and engaging with their TV more. Half say they're watching more good quality TV, i.e. content that is more relevant to them. TiVo users love the meg of hard drive. 3/4 of our customers say they no longer have to worry about disk space. In fact, the average customers whose had the box for 3 months still hasn't filled it up. I think consumers will continue to get more and more demanding over time, that's what we're witnessing in this segment that we're targeting. With TiVo, we have a platform that we'll be able to meet, and in fact, exceed those demand.

Virgin Media release Q3 2011 results: 222,000 TiVo customers

Their numbers are growing
The 3rd Quarter results are in for Virgin Media, and the TiVo invasion of the Digital Cable network is very much underway! The 2nd Quarter results revealed that 50,000 customers had gone for the next-gen PVR.

Today's results reveal that Virgin have quadrupled their TiVo stronghold in the last 3 months, with 222,000 TV customers now in possession of the box as of yesterday (probably helped by a TV advertising campaign, the reduced activation fee and the retirement of V+ HD). According to Pocket-Lint, that works out to 1 TiVo install per minute.

The presentation also reveals some feedback from customers:
  • 80% say TiVo gives more freedom
  • 50% watching more catch-up
  • Content discovery through search / browse
  • 50% watching more good quality TV
  • 75% no longer worry about disk space

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Why Netflix could become the killer app for Virgin Media's TiVo

Coming soon to Virgin Media's TiVo?
Yesterday's announcement of Netflix's expansion into the UK leads to the question: Will there be a Netflix app for Virgin Media's TiVo?

Ignoring the fact that Netflix's hopefully cheap, stream-all-you-want business model could become a serious competitor for Pay TV services in the UK (as it has done in the US), there's no reason why - technically - should an app wouldn't be possible. In fact, the TiVo Premiere (which Virgin's TiVo is based on) already has a Netflix app.

The potential ace up Virgin's sleeve is the 10Mb dedicated broadband connection for TiVo. There's no caps or STMing for this connection, so users of a Virgin TiVo Netflix app wouldn't have to worry about blasting through their broadband caps while streaming a blockbuster movie in HD - unlike users of any other playback device using a normal broadband connection. Nor would Virgin TiVo customers have to worry about playback being affected by other networked devices sharing that broadband connection.

If Netflix will be able to get enough content in place, and if Virgin can indeed do a deal with Netflix - remains to be seen. We're still waiting on the much-wished-for Lovefilm app.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Gadget Show PVR Showdown: Virgin Media's TiVo vs Sky +HD

In brief: Sky +HD has the better, faster user interface, with TiVo's described as clunky, slow and at times, irritating. Sky also won the remote battle.

TiVo won on the features, especially with recording and VOD.

Both PVRs were awarded with four stars out of five.

View the video review here.

Friday, 21 October 2011

My 1TB Virgin Media TiVo is about to get a Baby Brother

I will not get another TiVo.
I will not get another TiVo.
I will not get another TiVo.

Oh bugger it.

500Gb TiVo ordered to replace the 6 year old TV Drive/V+ HD box.

When I ordered the 1TB version, Virgin offered to move the V+ HD box to another room and waived the multi-room fee. I was assured that would still be the case after swapping the V+ HD for the 500Gb TiVo.

£49.95 fee paid for installation, which won't be until November 5th. Interestingly, Customer Services hadn't been informed about the reported change for the monthly fee.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

More details on the 15.2 software update for Virgin Media's TiVo; Streaming; YouTube; Express; Padding

  • Multi Room streaming support is in there, or at least a sub-screen within the System Info page is in there, which reports that streaming isn't possible on a home network which contains only 1 TiVo. Hmm. Might be time to swap out my Silver TV Drive/V HD+ box for another TiVo (and by the looks of it, I better do it before November)
  • The YouTube application (supplied by Google for Smart TVs and Smart PVRs) doesn't let you log in to your account. Well, I guess that's one way to solve the 'can't view favourites when logged in' issue. Also, according to various reports, it automatically plays random videos when opened, which appears to be selected from the Teenagers Behaving Badly collection. You sense that's a Daily Mail headline just waiting to happen.
  • The Express series link option uses the series link defaults. Nothing wrong with that....unless you want to keep more than 10 episodes.
  • TiVo still uses 2 tuners to record back-to-back programmes on the same channel. But, padding is now clipped when there's a clash.

Monthly charge changing for Virgin Media's TiVo: £3 per TiVo from November?

Want to stream content for TiVos ordered
from November? It will this extra, per month
According to comments on Virgin Media's Facebook page, the monthly charge for TiVo will be changing from November, and not for the better.

All TiVos ordered before November are charged at £3 per month per account, so for example, 2 TiVos on one account would cost £3 per month.

According to the Facebook comments by a Virgin Media Staff Member, TiVos ordered from 1st November will be charged at £3 per TiVo. For the above example, that will be £6 per month.

This would be a disappointing move, especially if multi-room streaming is enabled in the 15.2 software update. Virgin, this would a great way to kill off enthusiasm for those considering buying a 2nd TiVo for multi-room streaming!

Those considering streaming content from TiVo to TiVo may want to reconsider, or order a 2nd TiVo within the next week or so and avoid paying £36 extra per year for their 2nd TiVo.

More confirmation from Virgin Media to follow if and when its received.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Virgin Media's Cindy Rose on TiVo 3rd Party Micropayments; Core features; Adoption Curve

An interview with Cindy Rose (Virgin Media's Executive Director of Digital Entertainment) is online at New Media Age. Below are a few TiVo-related snippets:
We are researching the possibility of introducing micropayments on the TiVo platform [from third parties like ITV for their Catch-Up content] and I can imagine there being a place for it in the world of gaming, and other areas like fantasy football where you would want a micropayment mechanism of some sort. We’re working a lot with Facebook, which is doing some great things in this space.

With TiVo, we decided not to market the most advanced and sophisticated features that would be exciting to the techophiles, but to hone in on the core features...we marketed all the things that have solved problems that were annoying people, instead of the most advanced things – we will get to that later.

We’re seeing a more accelerated adoption curve than I expected. I’m big on the customer journey – taking people along with you as you move toward the end game when the TV resembles more of a web experience. I expected people to use the EPG and try the odd search or browse the odd collection, dabble in the odd app. But we are finding the adoption effect is faster than expected. The discovery tools are working so people are not only watching what they know and love already, but are discovering new stuff.
 Read the full interview at New Media Age.

More details for Virgin Media's Winter 2011 software update for TiVo

Scarlett Johansson wasn't happy to discover that access to
Red Button content wasn't included in the Winter software update
Some follow-up details regarding the pilot for the Winter 2011 software update for Virgin's TiVo:
  • The pilot was only rolled out to 3500 TiVo customers in Crawley and Cambridge. The new software version is 15.2
  • Early feedback suggests that the pilot includes performance improvements. This would be in sync with the software for the Premiere Elite which, despite having the same memory and CPU as the Premiere, boasts performance improvements.  That software is expected to be rolled out for the Premiere (which Virgin's TiVo is based on).
  • Posts at Cable Forum (here and here) suggest that support for multi-room streaming is included. This, again, would also be in sync with the software released for the Elite. Streaming was enabled a while ago for the Premiere but someone at TiVo later flicked the 'off' switch for that (I'm guessing that was a pilot in itself). 
  • Just to clarify, the pilot software does not and will not instantly provide access to Red Button content to BBC, Sky Sports etc. when its downloaded to your TiVo. The pilot software provides support for developers to create Red Button apps at a later date.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Limited pilot for Winter 2011 software update unleased for Virgin Media's TiVo; Includes Spotify Support

Whoa, no PIN nagging and Stop means Stop!?! Rejoice!
From Virgin's Help and Support Forum:

This week we have begun a limited pilot of our next TiVo software release. This new software includes many new improvements as well as key developments that will enable the launch of future products. We’ll be rolling it out to everyone well before Christmas. Here’s a sneak peek of what you can expect:

  • Spotify Support: We’ll support Spotify’s high quality streaming format, which will enable the Spotify Premium App on the TiVo platform.
  • Red Button: This update adds extra functionality necessary to support Red Button services developed by our channel partners, such as BBC, ITV, and Sky Sports
  • TiVo App support: We've enabled the connection of your TiVo box to iOS devices through your wireless router to use our fantastic TiVo app, which allows you to control the TiVo box, browse, search and manage recordings all from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.
  • A new look for YouTube: We’ll support Google’s completely revamped YouTube app, which allows for a more relaxed viewing and browsing experience, and supports HD video!
  • Full BBC iPlayer integration: We’ve changed the way Catch-up TV through BBC iPlayer works. Every BBC iPlayer programme will now be available through Search & Browse, including much more HD content, and you’ll never use up a tuner for BBC iPlayer viewing.
  • Express Series Links: Create a Series Link with default settings at the click of a button.
  • Multi-tap text entry: Use the number keys on your remote like a mobile phone for text entry for typing into search.
  • Automatic Padding: We’ve had tremendous feedback from customers about clipped recordings, so we’ve installed a default level of padding for all recordings.
  • Improved Parental Controls: We’ve made some changes with PIN entry requirements to suit every household. In the new update, PIN challenges on pre-watershed playback of programmes in My Shows become optional. We’ve also added the ability to require PIN to access any application.
  • Skippable Music Playlists: Playlists on Music on Demand will be skippable by track
  • Live Pay-per-view Events: Live pay-per-view events become bookable with your remote control.
  • HD Upscaling: As promised on this forum, we’ve addressed the issue with our picture quality and this new update features better standard definition picture quality with improved upscaling.
  • Connection reliability: HDMI and SCART compatibility improved.
  • Info and Stop button functionality improved: You’ll be able to use the ‘info’ button in the TV programme guide and the mini guide, while the Stop button now works as you would expect.
  • Video Preview for every channel: Every channel will keep playing in the TV Guide window, including all the Sky channels.

There are plenty more updates already in the pipeline and, as ever, we will use your feedback to continue to improve our TiVo service.

We’ll be keeping you up to date on this forum.


Simon Hunt
Product Director (TV)
Virgin Media

There's plenty to like there. Finally, pressing stop will stop the recording and pressing info will give info! The days of  PIN nagging are coming to an end, and it will also be nice to watch the likes of Sky Sports News and not have the preview picture and sound go when accessing a TiVo Menu. SD picture quality will be improved and as for Red Button - this update appears to be the dependency which will allows red button support in the future.

The big addition to the previously leaked list of features is support for Spotify. There's still no official word from Virgin regarding pricing.

The only disappointment is the automatic padding - it defaults to 1 minute before and 4 after. However, there appears to be no way to alter these defaults, so customers who don't want padding will have to reset the defaults when creating Series Links and recordable Wishlists. Also, where's the reminders?

Still, the update is very welcome, hopefully it will include some performance improvements as well.

Sky Anytime comes to Virgin Media, and TiVo

Virgin Media are in the process of adding truckloads of addition VOD content from Sky Anytime. At present, none of that content is showing up via TiVo's search functionality but that will hopefully be fixed in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

TiVo Premiere Elite: Why it could be good for your Virgin Media TiVo

The TiVo Premiere Elite has launched in the States. The newest TiVo box contains four tuners, 2TB of recording capacity and by the sounds of it, updated software which finally activates the 2nd CPU core which, among other things, appears to have halfed the boot-up time. The software also appears to support multi-room streaming between Premieres.

There's a great thread at the TiVo Community Forum which details performance improvements over the Premiere. Another thread contains first impressions about the new box.

What the frack does any of this have to do with Virgin Media you ask? Well, a modified version of this software will hopefully be released for the Premiere and eventually (please?) Virgin Media's TiVo box which is based on the Premiere. With any luck the 2nd core, along with other performance improvements, will help speed up the user interface.

And before anyone asks, no - the updated software for the Elite doesn't feature a completed HD user interface, or reminders.

As for the Elite itself - is there a UK market for a box which can record 4 programmes while allowing you to watch a 5th? (Or record 3 programmes while watching live TV?) I'm thinking 'yes' myself but that's just me

Either way, it would reduce the chances of recording clashes. If Virgin decide to offer the Elite as an option to their customers (and at what price) remains to be seen.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Why you should consider turning off Overlap Protection for Virgin Media's TiVo

When TiVo encounters a recording clash, it will (by default) clip the lowest priority recording by up to 5 minutes, instead of cancelling that recording.

That sounds nice, but, why have your recordings clipped? Why not have the whole recording plus your padding too? There is indeed a way to have all of your cake and eat it too. How? Simple:

Turn off Overlap Protection.

What I hear you cry? Didn't your father teach you to always use protection?!!? Bear with me.

TiVo is smart, in that when a clash occurs, it will attempt to locate a repeat of the cancelled recording and it will record that instead. For Series Link recordings, it will search for a repeat on the same channel. For Wishlists, TiVo will search all channels.

Turning off Overlap Protection tells TiVo not to clip any recording when there's a clash and to always hunt for a repeat to record. The trick is, to reorder your recording priorities so that the programmes which aren't repeated have higher priority compared to the shows which are repeated. As I've previously stated, you can have a quick look at the upcoming episodes list to see if episodes of a programme are repeated throughout the week.

For instance, I've noticed that programmes broadcasted on BBC 1 HD (including the likes of Doctor Who, Merlin and Waterloo Road) don't seem to be repeated on that channel, but they are repeated on the BBC HD channel (while we still have it that is). If you have a Series Link for a BBC 1 HD programme, give that high priority.

If in doubt, give your Series Links higher priority compared to Wishlists. A Series Link for Castle on Alibi for instance, will hunt for repeats on Alibi, whereas a Wishlist for the same programme will find repeats on Alibi, Alibi +1, Alibi HD (when that launches next year) and any other channel Castle is on.

Overlap Protection is switched on by default. Since turning it off 3 weeks ago, I've not missed any recordings, and that's with padding set to 1 minute before and 5 minutes after for all recordings. There's some vigilance required on your part as far as checking for repeats is concerned, but in return you can use padding without worrying about programmes not being recorded as a result of a clash.

Still not convinced? Well, bear in mind that when Overlap Protection is on, and a recording will be clipped by more then 5 minutes, TiVo will cancel the recording and go hunting for repeats anyway.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Virgin Media slash activation fee for TiVo: 500Gb TiVo now free; 1TB TiVo now £49.95

Virgin Media have changed their TV packages today, which not only makes TiVo more attractive to new and existing customers - but also marks the end of the legacy V+ HD:
  • For new customers
    The activation fee for the 500Gb TiVo was previously £49.95. The fee for that box has now dropped to £0.00.

    The activation fee for the 1TB TiVo has dropped to £49.95 (previously £99.95).

    If new customers order online, they get free installation. As for additional boxes:
    Any subsequent TiVo box purchases in the same order will be charged at £49.95 and £99.95 activation fee for the 500Gb TiVo and 1Tb TiVo box respectively.
  • For existing customers
    The activation fee prices are as above, but you have to pay an installation fee of £49.95. Want more boxes? Well:
    Irrespective of the number of set-top boxes you already have, for every new sale - If you take a 500GB TiVo box as your first box, the activation fee will be waived; if you take a 1TB TiVo box as your first box, we will reduce the activation fee to £49.95

The £3 monthly TiVo charge (per customer account) still applies. Additional boxes will (usually) cost an additional £6.50 per month.

Today's news continues Virgin's big push for TiVo and also marks the online ordering death of V+ HD. The legacy PVR is now no longer available to order from Virgin's website. It was going to happen sooner or later, and its an important step towards Virgin's long-term plan to get all of their TV customers on MPEG 4 compatible hardware, which would mean reduced bandwidth usage for linear HD channels and hopefully, more HD channels.

An endangered species

Friday, 23 September 2011

Cisco Systems to continue making hardware for Virgin Media's TiVo - along with Samsung

I previously reported that Samsung would be taking over the manufacture of hardware for Virgin Media TiVo - I was wrong - as Vision 2 Mobile reports, Cisco Systems always expected to lose exclusivity for making the TiVo hardware.  As Everth Flores (director and general manager for service providers in EMEA) explains:

"Quite the feeding frenzy this week over an expected bit of news about our partner, Virgin Media, and its supply chain plans for digital set-top boxes! Yeesh. To our competition: Bring it."

"[Cisco had a] certain understanding that Virgin, like any sensibly minded operator, would at some point introduce a second source."

"No one was ejected, no one was axed, no contracts expired. As un-sexy as it may sound, this was quite simply a second source supply decision, wholly anticipated by everyone involved."

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

More news on the Winter 2011 Software Update for Virgin Media's TiVo

Coming soon to TiVo? It looks like it
This is interesting - someone posed on Cable Forum earlier today more details about the Winter 2011 Software Update (that's what I'm calling it now for reasons which will become clear real soon) - that post has since been removed, but a copy was posted on Digital Spy Forums before the orginal post was removed.

While the feature set remains the same, the post claims that the update will be deployed "before Christmas this year." Also:
What’s happening with Red Button?
On TiVo, we’ve got a Red Button link to our full BBC iPlayer app on BBC channels and we’re working with our channel partners to get the Red Button extended to other channels.

We’re hoping to have a wider range of red button services by early next year. TiVo customers can check our progress in the Customer News area in Help on their TiVo Box.

What’s happening with reminders?
With the ability to record 3 simultaneous programmes we thought that reminders wouldn’t be necessary anymore. We now know that customers miss the feature enormously and we are looking at introducing them in a future release.

If true, this appears to be mixed news. On the plus side, it appears that reminders are coming to TiVo (and 72% of you will be happy about that). On the down side, those TiVo customers hoping to actually use Reminders and Red Button Services this side of Xmas may be disappointed.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Features for major update revealed for Virgin Media's TiVo?

A couple of posts at Cable Forum (here and here) claim to reveal the improvements in the forthcoming major update for Virgin Media's TiVo:
  • Improved 1080i up scaling so improving the picture quality.
  • HDMI connection reliability fixed
  • Info button now provides programme information in guide and mini guide
  • SCART aspect ratio corrected
  • Express Series Link – You can set your series links in a flash
  • Padding – Automatic padding around the start and finish of new recordings and series links (doesn’t change existing series links)
  • Multi-tap text entry – You can now search using the number buttons on your remote, just like texting on your mobile phone
  • More flexible parental control – If you don’t want to be asked for your PIN when you’re playing a recording from My Shows, you can now switch it off!
  • Skippable playlists – Full skipping functionality for Music On Demand playlists will be available
  • Live Events – Great news! You can now buy a live event on your TiVo box
  • BBC iPlayer – Full integration of all the content from the BBC iPlayer is now available in the TV Guide, the Catch Up & On Demand menus and in TiVo Search and Browse
  • PIN access on Apps – You can now control access to Apps and Games
  • YouTube app – The YouTube app has been given a whole new look with more videos than ever and now supports HD quality video
  • TiVo Buddy App – Just after we launch the new code you’ll be able to download this great new tool from the Apple App Store. If you connect your wireless router to the TiVo box with a cable you’ll be able to control many features from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. Watch this space for more info.

More information on the automatic padding feature was posted by Virgin at the Help and Support Forums:
Automatic padding will be available later this year. It defaults at 1 min before and 4 mins after for all recordings, which seems to be the best way to avoid recordings cutting off early. You will still be able to change this on individual recordings.... it will be a new default, rather than a user controllable "General" setting.
This may actually cause more problems then it solves considering that TiVo uses 2 tuners to record back-to-back padded programmes (compared to 1 tuner on V+ HD). While the padding can be manually removed, that may be annoying for users who don't use padding.

As for the other improvements, a few random thoughts:
  • The improved picture quality fix is very welcome, since the display of standard definition content on TiVo has been a little subpar compared to the same content on V+ HD.
  • Express Series Link - Not on my personal 'to do' list for TiVo, but I'll take it.
  • The BBC iPlayer integration is an odd one - wasn't that done already?
  • More flexible parental control - Reduced PIN nagging? Thank God!
  • YouTube App - I hope this means that the bug preventing favourites being displayed has been fixed.
  • TiVo Buddy App - Will there be an Android version?
Still no Red Button or Reminders, or more efficient use of tuners. But there remains a glimmer of hope for those features, since the major update is a dependency for a series of smaller updates to follow.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

TiVo confirm that Android version of iPad App is "on our active road map"; Virgin Media version to follow?

According to a report at Total Telecom, TiVo is working on an App for Android devices to:
....let users manage its digital TV recording devices.

The Android app would follow an earlier remote-control application for Apple Inc.'s iPad that allows users to remotely manage their TiVo boxes as they record television shows and watch live TV.

Android "is on our active road map," TiVo Chief Executive Tom Rogers told Dow Jones Newswires. He declined to provide a timeframe for the application's debut.
There's no word (yet) from Virgin Media if this App would be released for customers with TiVo boxes, but with the growing popularity of Android and the release of the Version 3.0 software (aka HoneyComb, optimized for Tablet devices), we can pray......right?

The release of the iPad App has been confirmed, and indeed, Virgin released some pictures of the App last week.

Monday, 12 September 2011

From V+ HD to Virgin Media's TiVo

Considering upgrading from Virgin Media's V+ HD to TiVo? Then you may want to read the V+ HD to TiVo article. The goals of the article is to:
  1. Provide a one-stop page to...
  2. ...highlight key functionality differences between TiVo and V+ HD/UK PVRs so you know what to expect before upgrading and then discovering that TiVo has some feature missing which you were expecting to find, which may or may not be included in the forthcoming update(s), and
  3. To avoid disappointment. 
You can read the article via this link, or via the link at the top of this and every other page within the blog.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Why you should consider changing recording priorities for your Virgin Media TiVo

At first glance, TiVo's series link functionality seems pretty standard. You select a series to record, and every episode records. Job done.

However, there's more going on here then meets the eye, in part due to TiVo's ability to locate alternative broadcasts for an episode. When you setup a series link, TiVo will assume that you want to record the first broadcast of every episode.

For instance, going back to the Triple-Tuner-Thursday example I've previously mentioned, I have the following programmes set to record between 9pm to 10.05pm (with 5 minutes of trailing padding set). The episodes shown on Thursday are 'new':
  • Warehouse 13 (Syfy HD, Wishlist)
  • Torchwood: Miracle Day (BBC One HD, Series Link)
  • The Killing (C4 HD, Series Link)
Recently, I set a Series Link for Lost Girl (Syfy HD), new episodes of this programme broadcast every Thursday between 10pm to 11pm. The Series Link priority for Lost Girl was set below the programmes previously recorded between 9pm to 10.05pm - as such, TiVo informed me that the first 5 minutes of Lost Girl would be clipped, due to the 5 minute trailing padding on Torchwood.

TiVo also gave me the option of getting the Lost Girl series link with the first 5 minutes clipped, or not to get that series link with clipping - I selected the latter option, and TiVo then located the repeat broadcast on Sundays at 9pm, and set the series link to that day and time.

That's pretty smart functionality, but that leaves one problem - there seems to be no way to tell TiVo to create a series link for a programme, where the recording will take place at the same time on the same day for a repeat and when there's no recording clashes (short of setting up a manual recording which, after using series links on V+ HD is a backwards step).

So, what the heck does all this mean? Well:

  • When setting series links (and Wishlists), don't set higher priority to programmes which are more 'important' (yes, my brain is having trouble with that one too after using V+ HD). Instead, give higher priority to programmes which aren't repeated. Give the programmes with repeated episodes lower priority, so that TiVo can locate and record the repeats in event of a recording clash with higher priority recordings. You can use the 'upcoming episodes' list to see if a programme has repeats or not.
  • Remember that TiVo will find repeats only for the same channel as the series link. If the repeat is on a different channel, it won't be recorded. This almost caught me out with my Torchwood series link on BBC 1 HD when I cancelled that recording to watch live football - the Torchwood repeats are not on BBC 1 HD, but on BBC HD and various other BBC channel variants.
  • Of course, if I had set Torchwood up as a Wishlist that wouldn't have been an issue because TiVo would have searched all channels for that repeated episode and not just BBC 1 HD.
  • If the programme you're recording is on Catch-Up TV, and you're going to be watching it within 7 days of the original broadcast, then consider knocking it down the priority list.
  • Can I just record Season 5? Without the Season 1 repeats?
  • TiVo really could do with a 'record every episode at this time every week' option for creating series links (as V+ HD and probably every other PVR has as default for series links). Its not an issue if the episodes to be recorded are 'new' (meaning, new to the UK according to Tribune) and are marked as such in the metadata, but when they aren't, that can cause problems for programmes which are repeated throughout the week, and which feature 'new' episodes (to that channel) which are shown on a specific day of the week. In that case, at best, you end up recording episodes you don't want to watch and then spending time deleting them.

    As a real-life example of the above scenario: Season 5 of Ice Road Truckers (History Channel) starts on Thursday next week, with repeats on Friday. But repeats of Season 1 are on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Since the Season 5 episodes aren't marked as New (I'm assuming they've been previously broadcasted on another channel - or Tribune have messed up again), there's no way for me to record the Season 5 episodes only (without using a Manual recording, which strikes me as a backwards step compared to V+ HD).
  • This feature would also be useful (in my opinion) for avoiding clashes with live TV. For example, I can't tell TiVo to record the repeat Friday 8pm broadcast of Warehouse 13. If TiVo provided that option, I would have avoided the whole 'Which recording will TiVo cancel?' scenario I previously encountered when watching live Europa League football on ESPN HD. On the V+ HD, I could have just selected the repeat broadcast on Friday in the EPG, and created a series link to record every repeated episode of Warehouse 13 on Friday.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Samsung to manufacture future boxes for Virgin Media's TiVo

Various sources have reported that Samsung have won the contract to make future TiVos for Virgin Media. Pocket-Lint reports that the new boxes will be rolling out later this year and they look very similar to the existing Cisco hardware.

This is the second time that Samsung have taken over the manufacturing of TV boxes for Virgin. The TV Drive (now known as the V+ HD) was initially made by Scientific Atlanta (now known as Cisco). Since then, Samsung have made the V+ HD boxes, and those boxes featured a significant performance increase over the Scientific Atlanta hardware.

However, any hopes that future TiVo owners may have for a faster Samsung TiVo (compared to the Cisco boxes) appear to have been dashed, with Virgin Staff on Cable Forum stating that the Samsung TiVos will have identical performance, hardware and technology.

Major software update for Virgin Media's TiVo will contain support for iPad Companion App


AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 09/08/11 -- TiVo Inc. (NASDAQ: TIVO), a leader in advanced television services and personal video recorders (PVRs), and Virgin Media Inc. (NASDAQ: VMED) (LSE: VMED), the UK's leading digital entertainment provider, today announced details of a key new feature coming to their next-generation connected TV offering which will allow customers to take control of the TiVo powered service through a cutting-edge iPad companion app. The feature will be made available as part of the first major software update for the system and is designed to build on the user experience of the award-winning service. Virgin Media plans to roll-out the software update, which will feature the companion app as well as other new features to be announced, in the coming months.

The TiVo companion app will allow Virgin Media customers to use their Apple iPads to interact directly with their TiVo service and extend their viewing experience beyond the remote control. After installing the free TiVo companion app, users can interact with the elegant, intuitive TiVo user interface directly on their iPads to search across Virgin Media's content, including the TV Guide and thousands of hours of content available through its video on demand library, without interrupting what they are already watching on TV. With just a couple of swipes on the iPad user can immediately and seamlessly begin viewing the content they have discovered via their TiVo app right on their TV.

Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media, said, "The way viewers watch television is changing faster than ever. Partnering with TiVo has helped us develop the most advanced and flexible TV system in the UK ensuring our customers are able to enjoy the best connected television offering available in the market today. In less than a year since launch we are already building new features to offer our customers more ways to enjoy their service with an unprecedented user experience, and maintaining our position at forefront of technological innovation in TV. The companion app and other forthcoming enhancements we are working on form part of our long term strategy to deliver the most dynamic and user friendly multi-screen entertainment experience in the U.K."

Since its launch in December 2010, the Virgin Media: TiVo service has been heralded by mainstream media(1) as 'the most sophisticated piece of hardware you can connect to your television.' Users of the product are able to enjoy a host of content ranging from hundreds of traditional television channels to a myriad of content streamed directly from the online sources via BBC iPlayer and YouTube through its built-in broadband connection as well as Virgin Media's vast video on demand library all seamlessly folded into TiVo's award-wining user interface with its easy-to-navigate search and discovery functionality.

Joshua Danovitz, VP & General Manager, International, TiVo Inc., said, "Virgin Media is a partner that recognizes where the future of television is headed. Through working with TiVo, Virgin Media has quickly implemented an award-winning user interface with TV's most innovative features and functionality, available anywhere in the U.K. With the initial rollout of Virgin Media: TiVo Service underway, it is already driving more measurable user satisfaction than any other hybrid television experience in the UK further demonstrating that TiVo continues to be the best way to watch television, bar none."

TiVo and Virgin Media made this announcement during the 2011 IBC Conference which runs from September 8-13 in Amsterdam.
You can check out large photos of the App here, here, here and here. Meanwhile, Nick Ontiveros, Virgin Media head of TV Strategy (Digital Entertainment), posted on the Help and Support Forums that:
 ....the introduction of new features to TiVo planned for the second half of this year will not come all in a single update.

I just hope to set expectations because it seems that a rumour has been heavily perpetuated on this board that there is one all encompassing update to come. In actuality, there will be a large update, but other feature updates will follow very soon after this update (as their introduction had the update itself as a dependency).
The actual contents of the update (or should that be updates?) remain secret to anyone outside the beta trial panel, but we do know that improved picture quality for standard definition content is among the list of issues which Virgin are looking to fix. Red button functionality is probably on the list somewhere, indeed the website states that "Red Button functionality will be coming in the future to our TiVo service."

My Blog List