Monday, 31 January 2011

Digital Spy takes a look at Virgin Media's TiVo; Future software patch planned to increase dedicated broadband connection to 20Mb?

An article is online now at Digital Spy which has a close look at Virgin Media's TiVo box. Virgin Media's head of corporate relations Gareth Mead showed Digital Spy a demo of the box in London and explained that due to TiVo's advanced features, Virgin has to make extra effort to explain the benefits of the next generation PVR:
For someone who has never had Virgin Media before, this will take quite a lot of explaining, because it's so different in terms of how you interact with it. If you are a Sky customer, for example, the TV guide would be familiar to you but many of the other services would be brand new. When we do an install, we take a lot longer than normal simply because the engineer sits down with the customer and goes through each of the services. The difficult job our advertising and marketing colleagues will have is trying to capture the platform in a message.
In keeping with Virgin's plans to move their entire TV customer base over to TiVo,  the article mentions that subscribers on the legacy TV platform will be offered incentives, including possible offers and service tiers.

Gareth reveals that Virgin have a "scarily hectic" development programme to improve the service over the next 2 years. The article also states that despite the TiVo box containing a 10Mb cable modem, "Virgin has the ability to increase that to 20Mbps via a software patch for heavy users, or for future services such as 3D content streaming."

I'm speculating (not for the first time today) that the '10mb' cable modem is actually capable of faster speeds, but is limited to its default 10Mb via config files (like the normal cable modems for Virgin home broadband), either in the box itself or elsewhere in the cable network.

Check out the full article, which includes comments from Gareth comparing Virgin TiVo to Google TV and YouView.

And so it begins: Virgin Media start contacting registered customers for TiVo installs

I tell ya, its like waiting for the buses.

Earlier today I posted about the latest status of the TiVo rollout. Since then, according to this thread at the TiVoCommunity forums, Virgin's TiVO customer team have begun contacting urm, customers who have registered interest in the next generation PVR. Nialli from the Virgin Media High Definition & TiVo Services Blog has also confirmed that Virgin are now opening communications with customers regarding TiVo installs.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, the great wait is almost over:

The TiVO Team have also begun contacting owners of the TiVo Series 1 boxes within the cable network who have been given the option of upgrading to Virgin TiVo.

A quick 'Virgin Media Tivo' search on Twitter also reveals customers who have already received the holy phone call from Virgin.

So, keep those mobile phones well charged and if possible, those landline phones within earshot, because sooner or later, you'll be getting a call, followed a van looking something like this being parked near your house:

Facts and speculation regarding Customer rollout for Virgin Media's TiVo

Virgin said that TiVo would be with us in early 2011. As some of you have pointed out to me, its indeed early 2011.

So.....when can Virgin customers (me included) get their hands on one of these?

I've read loads of speculation, but, sadly, no facts regarding a customer release date for the next-generation PVR.

The facts I do have, are:
  • Virgin Media Technicians have been receiving training on TiVo installs, partly because the power levels have to be configured precisely in order to deliver the 10Mb deciated broadband connection which plays such an important part of the service.
  • Around 500 Virgin Media Staff members received a TiVo during December-January, and Virgin Customer Services staff have been receiving TiVo training.
  • Existing Customers who have pre-registered their interest in TiVo, along with remaining Virgin Media Staff members who weren't part of The TiVoed 500, will get first priority on TiVos. So, if you haven't registered yet, are interested in getting TiVo-ed, and live within Virgin's cable network, then you know what you have to do, don't you?
  • Virgin Media Staff on various forums can't really reveal details about TiVo until the restrictions set by the NDA they've signed are lifted, most likely when Virgin start contacting customers regarding TiVo installation dates. Speaking of which....
  • far as I know, Virgin haven't contacted any customers (excluding Staff) regarding TiVo installs - yet. This situation could and hopefully will change any day now.
  • Virgin Media have given some of their vans a new paint job. Note the hearts at the right of the van - with Valentine's Day coming up, could February 14th be Virgin Media TiVo Day? (Please take that as speculation on my part folks).

  • Virgin released the TiVo User Guide manual last week. They wouldn't be doing that unless the release day was close......would they? The customer help documents have been up for a while as well.
  • The speculation regarding a reduced TiVo price for existing customers remains exactly that for the moment - speculation. There's been no official word from Virgin regarding this. Yet.

So, the waiting continues. But given recent events, TiVo really should be 'coming soon'.....I hope.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Complete guide to your Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo

The user guide for Virgin Media's TiVo is now online for your reading pleasure in PDF format.
With so many channels and thousands of hours of On Demand programmes, sometimes it’s hard to be sure that you’re seeing all the best shows on TV. This smart little box makes it easy.

Now you can search for specific shows and stars in one place, browse for programmes by your tastes, the sort of show you are looking for or even your mood. It gets to know you and recommends more of the TV you love and saves it for you so you don’t miss anything. It even brings online stuff like YouTube and eBay to your TV. Sounds good doesn’t it? But to really get to know your TiVo® box, get involved and see where it can take you.

Accessibility improvements for Virgin Media's TiVo; BBC iPlayer app lives on TiVo? (and brings subtitles with it)

Virgin Media's PDF document explaining how they've improved accessibility for their TV service is online, and also included details of TiVo's accessibility features.
The new TiVo service gives you the same basic accessibility features that are on our standard TV service, like Audio Description and subtitles. The difference is that, on our TiVo service, these features are now much easier to find and use. You can find them in the main Settings menu, as well as through new areas, like the Info Banner. There’s even a dedicated Subtitles button on the remote control.

Over time, we’re hoping to carry on developing our new TiVo service, to make it even more accessible.
The last page of the document is interesting - if its to be believed, then contrary to a previous reports (and blog post), the BBC iPlayer app lives on TiVo! And so does subtitles on said iPlayer app:
Since we launched our TV On Demand service, we’ve been aware that the lack of access services has been a source of frustration to the many customers who rely on subtitles or audio description. The problem is that, while on demand programmes look and feel like ordinary TV shows, the technology behind them is very different. This means that providing access services is very complicated – not just for us, but for on demand services from all providers.
That’s why we’re delighted to announce that the first version of our new TiVo product can deliver subtitles on BBC iPlayer.

Virgin Media reveal Customer Help documents galore for TiVo

Everything you wanted to know about the next-generation PVR you're still waiting for can be found by searching for TiVo on Virgin's Customer Help Site.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Virgin Media working with TiVo on 3D EPG

Broadband TV News reports that Virgin (and Sky) are planning on introducing 3D versions of their EPGs.

Virgin's Head of VOD Development Kevin O’Neil told the DTG 3D Seminar that Virgin will be updating its future boxes to use HDMI 1.4, which allows for automatic switching by the TV to the appropriate 3D format:
We’ve just launched TiVo with a brand new UI and we’re now working very closely with them and that is the platform we will initially work to create a full 3D EPG with Z-plane.
To enjoy the forthcoming 3D EPG will require a 3D TV, a TiVo, HDMI cable and 3D glasses.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Virgin Media TiVo Blog is now on Twitter

You can now follow the twitter feed for this blog via:

Virgin Media reveal FAQ for TiVo; 18 month contract for next-generation PVR

As the waiting continues for the Virgin's next-generation PVR to be unleashed within Digital Cable TV areas, I've noticed Virgin's own TiVo FAQ on their Help website. I have no idea how long the FAQ has been there for, nevertheless, here are the highlights from the document:
We aim to make TiVo available in early 2011 (current Virgin Media customers will get the chance to upgrade first). By pre-registering your interest you’ll be kept up to date with the latest news on TiVo such as great new features and, a confirmed launch date once we are able to make this available.
TiVo will be offered to existing customers before any new customers are offered the service. We launched it to our staff first, current Virgin Media customers will be next and then we’ll offer it to new customers. 
[Can I have TiVo alongside other Virgin Media boxes?] Yes, as long as you sign up for an additional outlet offer. There is no problem technically having one box powered by TiVo, while other boxes are running on Virgin Media’s existing TV service.
The contract for TiVo will be 18 months.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

No BBC iPlayer app for Virgin Media's TiVo?

According to Broadband TV News, the BBC will no longer be accepting requests from platform operators and receiver manufacturers to build separate versions of its catch-up TV platform, the iPlayer.

BBC iPlayer has been very successful on Virgin's TV service (which was the first TV platform to support the iPlayer) and at least some of iPlayer's content will also be available via TiVo, obtaining its content via Virgin's VOD service and the Catch-Up enabled EPG.

However,  the screen-shot below from the TiVo interface clearly shows an icon for a separate iPlayer application, which was believed to pull content via the dedicated broadband connection.

Today's announcement by the BBC may mean the lack of the IP-based iPlayer App on TiVo, and several other devices:
The move would impact platforms such as Virgin Media and its recently launched TiVo box. There is currently no BBC iPlayer app, instead the assets are made available through the main TiVo interface over DVB-C as opposed to IP. Although Virgin has been working with the BBC for some time there are concerns that the consumer experience may alter as the quality of the IP delivery is not as good as through DVB-C. The existing Liberate/TV Navigator version of the iPlayer was developed between the operator and the BBC.
Virgin believe that the BBC "is becoming increasingly prescriptive and inflexible in its dealings", but, from the looks of it, Virgin will have to pay the BBC development and maintenance costs to get the full iPlayer application onto their next-generation PVR.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

More photos of Virgin Media's TiVo box

Dave Zatz of the Zatz Not Funny! website went to the invite-only TiVo booth at this year's CES. While he couldn't share any information (yet) gained from his visit, he did manage to take some photos of a unclassified Virgin Media TiVo box.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

TiVo: Virgin Media to deploy the 'World's Most Advanced Cable Set-Top Box'

While the waiting continues for Digital Cable customers who wish to get their hands on Virgin's TiVo box, TiVo themselves unleashed a press release at the CES about the World's Most Advanced Cable Set-Top Box, in part thanks to the 10mb dedicated broadband connection which will play a key part in streaming internet content to the home:
This deployment marks the first time a cable provider anywhere in the world has offered its customers an advanced cable solution encompassing linear TV, on-demand content and web-based video with a dedicated broadband connection, rather than having to share bandwidth with other content. As a result Virgin Media customers using the TiVo powered set-top box can enjoy the ultimate television entertainment experience through the award winning TiVo user interface to seamlessly search across all the content sources provided by the UK's number one cable operator.

Cindy Rose, Executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media, had some words to add:
After laying all the necessary groundwork to bring the exciting TiVo experience to our customers in record time, we are thrilled to have begun rolling out our next-generation entertainment platform. TiVo has implemented a complex solution, which stitches together the full breadth of Virgin Media's content assets and created a television user interface which is second to none. We are the only UK company to provide a true entertainment discovery experience and offer the ultimate digital lifestyle for our customers.
Joshua Danovitz, VP & General Manager, International, TiVo Inc, wasn't short on words either:
There is a lot of discussion in the cable industry about the need to provide internet content to the living room. Unlike current offerings which provide 'best efforts' delivery of Internet video, Virgin Media has redefined the term 'over the top' by providing dedicated bandwidth for these services within the cable video plant and by unifying the consumption experience for end users. As a result of Virgin Media's groundbreaking approach, subscribers with a TiVo powered set-top box will have access to the best TiVo technology and features at their fingertips enabling all kinds of interactive content to be searched, discovered, and delivered in a truly elegant way.
I can't wait for my TiVo to be delivered, in any way.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Virgin Media prepares Entertainment Metadata and Advert Sales for TiVo

Probably not a surprise this, but Virgin Media have signed a deal with Tribune Media Services who will supply all sorts of metadata for TiVo to do its magic. As reported by PR Newswire:
TMS will provide Virgin Media with rich, deep and robust entertainment content including linear TV schedules, program and video-on-demand metadata, celebrity metadata and images.  The agreement also includes TMS TV Showcards which offer show synopses, logos, cast ensemble and cast-in-character photos plus award histories.  TMS Unique IDs serve as the data taxonomy which ties all the information together allowing easy search and discovery of related content across all programming sources and consumer devices. 
TMS have a knack for doing this sort of thing, they already supply metadata for 40 countries and their clients include Microsoft, Google, Comcast, Multichoice, IMDb, Zon Multimedia and of course, TiVo. Ian Mecklenburgh, Virgin's Director of Consumer Platforms, sounded quite pleased with the deal:
For the first time, UK viewers are enjoying a truly personalised viewing experience and getting the most out of great online, on demand  and live TV content, all in one place.  We're really excited to bring our customers what is just the first of successive generations of transformational digital entertainment services and our agreement with TMS will help them find exactly what they want and discover even more.
Meanwhile, MediaWeek reports that Virgin Media's Digital Sales Team will be looking after the adverts on the TiVo platform, as well as adverts on Virgin's VOD system and on

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