Thursday, 31 March 2011

More pricing options for Virgin Media's TiVo to be revealed soon

Following up on Virgin's pre-registration offer for TiVo, Virgin Media staff member Digital Fanatic posted earlier on Cable Forum that:
There will be more announcements regarding pricing / options in the coming days..... that's all I can say for now....All will be revealed.... We can't say anything, sorry.

Analysis, reaction and a new poll for Virgin's Media's pre-registered offer for TiVo

The initial reaction to Virgin's TiVo offer to pre-registered customers has been met with some disappointment from various customers on-line, with the £40 installation fee in particular not being well received. Others say that for now, TiVo is a luxury product and is priced accordingly.

The email dispatched eariler reveals that acceptance of the offer will invoke a new 12 contract. While the XL TV pack requirement and £3 per month charge has been known for some time, the email also reveals that if you drop down to the M+ or L TV packs after getting TiVoed, the monthly charge increases to £8 per month. TiVo isn't available to TV M pack customers.

So, 'Dean', now the offer for pre-registered customers is out of the bag (£149 for the TiVo + £40 installation + £3 per month on XL), will you take Virgin up on it? That's the question for the new poll, which can be located at the top right of this blog's pages. Voting ends next Friday at 9pm. In the mean time, the PVR Comparison Document will be updated shortly to reflect today's news

UPDATED: Virgin Media TiVo pre-sale event begins on April 11th for registered customers

Virgin Media customers who have pre-registered for TiVo have or should get this email (which assumes that all customers are called Dean):

Hello Dean,

Now here’s something you don’t see everyday. You’ve got the chance to be one of the first to order our amazing 1TB TiVo® box before everyone else because you’re a Virgin Media customer and you pre-registered your interest in our TiVo service.

During the week beginning 11th April, we’ll be opening an exclusive pre-sale event just for you, so you can order Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo. We’ll email you the details on the day and you can be one of the first to get your hands on our latest kit before it goes on general sale.

Here’s the deal:
# 1TB TiVo box
# £149.95 one-off activation fee exclusively for existing customers (everyone else pays £199.95)
# £3 additional monthly fee with TV XL

Our exclusive pre-sale event for the 1TB box is only available to you. Think of it as a little ‘thank you’ from us for being a Virgin Media customer and for being one of the very first to register your interest in our TiVo service.

We’ll email you again during the week of 11th April to tell you more. If you’d like to take another look at what our TiVo service can do, head over to our Discover TiVo site for all the details.

Keep your eyes peeled on your inbox

The Virgin Media team

General: £40 installation fee applies. TiVo box remains property of Virgin Media. New 12-month minimum term contract applies. 1TB TiVo box: you must take, or upgrade to, TV XL to be eligible. If you cease to be an XL TV customer, we reserve the right to charge you the then applicable monthly TiVo charge (currently £8 for TV L or M+). TiVo is not available on TV M. Information about your TiVo use: By having the TiVo service and/or by using it you are providing your consent for us to use your viewing information to personalise your experience of the TiVo service (in addition to the other purposes set out in our privacy policy). We may share with third parties information about your use of the TiVo service in an aggregated form which will not personally identify you. This aggregated data may be used by those third parties for their marketing purposes (e.g. to improve their targeting of advertising based on user preferences).
 UPDATED: Virgin have just resent the emails with the correct customer names.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

BBC iPlayer app now delivers HD Catch-Up content on Virgin Media's TiVo

As reported by TechRadar (and eariler by the Virgin Media High Definition & TiVo Services Blog), the BBC iPlayer app has moved out of beta release and is now ready and willing to deliver HD Catch-Up content.

Other improvements include a much larger range of content (around 1000 hours compared to 350), radio shows, subtitling and signing. Virgin Media told TechRadar that:
The new service will also gain new functionality over time and supersedes the existing BBC iPlayer service on Virgin Media to provide the most complete TV on Demand service possible.

What Hi-Fi get their hands on a Virgin Media TiVo: "So far, [its] looking good, but we need to spend more time with it before issuing our final verdict."

The latest review - or in this case, hands-on report - of Virgin Media's TiVo, can be located at What Hi-Fi. Reviewer Andy Clough thinks that:
So far, the Virgin TiVo box is looking good, but we need to spend more time with it before issuing our final verdict. We'll have a full review in the June issue of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, on sale from May 10th.
In the meantime, Andy praised the BBC iPlayer app and the Catch-Up EPG, but:
...the biggest improvement is the inclusion of TiVo technology. For those not familiar with it, it's been a big hit in the States but less so (so far) over here.

Essentially TiVo analyses your viewing habits and the box uses smart technology to record automatically shows it thinks you might like. Very nifty. You can help it decide which programmes you like by using the thumbs up/thumbs down button on the remote (see below).

Press the thumbs up button three times and it will record similar genres of programme to the one you've rated highly; give a programme three thumbs down and it will know not to record that type of programming.
 Read the full article at What Hi-Fi.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

T3 reviews Virgin Media's TiVo: "While the usability issues are annoying, this is a big improvement on the old box."

While the Virgin Media TiVo boxes haven't been flying out as much as the majority of customers would like, at least the reviews are starting to fly in now. T3 is the latest site to take a close look at the next-generation PVR, they (like TechRadar) also gave 4 stars out of 5:
While the usability issues are annoying, this is a big improvement on the old box. The menus are slicker, it’s easier to find the shows you want, and the remote is well laid out and simple to use. And the extras, though nice, are far from a deal breaker. The price will be a little high for some, with a £199 one off fee, £26.50 a month for the XL TiVo package of over 160 channels (including a phone line; it’s £32.50 a month without), and a £40 installation fee. It’s a shame, because if the price came down and the basic usability issues were ironed out, this’d really give Sky HD a run for its money.

TechRadar reviews Virgin Media's TiVo: "With a bit of polish, [this] will become the finest PVR on the market"

TechRadar's review of Virgin Media's TiVo is online now. Awarding the next-generation PVR 4 stars out of 5, TechRadar liked most of what they saw but they wish Virgin would give the whole package a polish:

Will it keep the TiVo fans and television nuts happy? Yes. Is it the most powerful box on the market? Yes. But is it better than Sky's flagship 1TB Sky+ HD box? Not yet. And it won't be until it's given a much needed polish.

We hope that the blips will be quickly wiped out as Virgin Media gathers feedback and improves its product, and we're always impressed by a product that gives you the power to do something seriously cool.
Perhaps the most important point about the TiVo box is that it takes the best points about being on cable – fast internet, instant HD on demand and the capacity to quickly suck in data, and makes them more fun, more usable and more powerful.

Sky's deep pockets, greater range of context and simpler user interface remain a powerful force in British pay-television, but finally we have a challenger with the power and the hardware to genuinely mount a challenge. And with a bit of polish, The Virgin Media powered by TiVo box will become the finest PVR on the market.
Read the full review at TechRadar, and compare Virgin Media TiVo to Sky's HD 1TB box in the PVR Comparison Document.

Monday, 28 March 2011

UPDATED: Virgin Media TiVo 'Special Deal' emails to be sent this week to pre-registered customers; Order online?

As previously reported, Virgin will be dispatching emails this week to all customers who pre-registered for TiVo, all of those emails should be sent by Thursday - however, according this this post and this post by Virgin Media Staff member and Cable Forum poster Digital Fanatic:
A further mail will then be sent to invite you to order online in the following days...(this week's email is) a update email because they said they'd be in touch before the end of March. It's to make sure everyone is aware how the ordering process is going to go.

ElectricPig reviews Virgin Media's TiVo: "One of the best TV innovations we have seen released into the UK market"

ElectricPig.Co.Uk's review of Virgin's Media TiVo is online now, and reviewer Will Moore awarded the next-generation PVR 5 stars out of 5:
The Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo is one of the best TV innovations we have seen released into the UK market, and it easily trumps the Sky+ HD box in both looks and functionality.

At a £199 install price, and only a few pounds more a month, it’s comparatively reasonable in price too.

It should be noted that you have to be on the Virgin XL TV pack to be eligible for TiVo at present, but we are sure this will change over time.

If you are already an XL customer, we highly recommend upgrading to the TiVo service – it really will change the way you watch TV forever, and if you are a Sky customer coming to the end of your contract – maybe now is the time to ditch the dish and enter the world of fibre optic.
Note that the £199 price is for new customers. Existing customers (at least, those lucky enough to have received a TiVo) have reported on various forums paying £149 for the box. The 'few pounds more a month' is actually £3 extra per month for both new and existing customers, plus a one-off charge of £40 for installation.

As reported yesterday, existing customers who have pre-registered for TiVo should be receiving emails from Virgin Media this week containing details of a 'special deal' and hopefully, the option to order a TiVo installation online.

In the mean time, you can read the full review of TiVo at ElectricPig.Co.Uk.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

PVR Comparison Document updated; Virgin Media's TiVo vs V+ HD vs Sky+ HD 1TB

There's been a few updates to the PVR Comparison Document recently, including updated information on the number of recording hours for TiVo after the recent software updates; Clarification on the Sky HD channels available on the Virgin STBs, and updated Tuner information for TiVo and Sky+ HD.

Virgin Media TiVo 'Special Deal' emails to be sent this week to pre-registered customers; Order online?

Virgin Media Staff member and Cable Forum poster Digital Fanatic has revealed that customers who pre-registered for TiVo should be receiving an email in the coming week - this email will contain details of a special deal for TiVo, plus hopefully (as previously reported), details of how to order your TiVo box online.

So, keep an eye on your inbox.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Virgin Media unleash another software update for TiVo

As reported on the TiVo Community Forums, another software update for Virgin Media's TiVo was released in the early hours of this morning. The included bug fixes/additional functionality are below:
  • New Lx loader to resolve Cisco failure to boot STBs.
  • SD recording menus default for series link now set for New and reruns.
  • Recording capacity accuracy improved
  • In the VOD navigation pane, the “available until” pane is now displayed correctly.
  • Greying out of channels now recovers when RF is recovered.
  • Channel logos no longer overlap programme synopsis.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

So, what else was in the 3rd Tuner software update for Virgin Media's TiVo?

According to a reported post at the Virgin Media Community Tivo forum, below is the list of bugs fixed in the previous software update for Virgin's TiVo:
  • 3rd Tuner support
  • Recommendations improved by incorporating customer collaborative Thumbs data into the Discovery bar and recorded recommendations
  • Box no longer displays ‘Channel not authorised’ during normal channel changes
  • Customers no longer PIN challenged on watershed compliant channels
  • Bookmarks supported in Movies
  • Trailers now available and working for movies
  • STB no longer reboots when return path is lost. 
  • Green button now links to catch-up content correctly
  • Music playlist fixes
  • Metadata improvements 
  • Quicker to restore TV service after reboot 
  • Medium description utilised in VoD screens (adds rating guidance information) 
  • User presented with choice of HD or SD assets in ‘Get from On Demand’ screen 
  • Front panel LED’s now function when box is in standby

Monday, 21 March 2011

Investment bank estimates cost of TiVo deal for Virgin Media to be £29 million

As the majority of disappointed customers learn that they haven't won Virgin's latest TiVo lottery (hell, I didn't even get an email), an old PaidContent:UK report reveals what the TiVo deal is costing Virgin:
Investment bank Lazard Capital Markets estimates the hookup as a “$48 million deal” (£29 million) for TiVo, saying “the deal is multi-year, substantial, and has minimum guarantees”.

From a Tivo SEC filing, some language on the Virgin deal: “The monthly fees, which commence upon delivery, are guaranteed and increase over time. The agreement has a multi-year term with additional limited renewal rights granted to Virgin. The agreement creates a mutually exclusive distribution arrangement under which TiVo will develop software for DVR set top box platforms and non-DVR set top boxes that will be deployed in the future by Virgin in the United Kingdom. Virgin Media will promote the product and will have exclusive rights to use the TiVo brand and technology in the United Kingdom. As part of the agreement, Virgin Media and TiVo have entered into a mutual covenant not to assert with regards to each party’s intellectual property.”

Thursday, 17 March 2011

3rd tuner activated for Virgin Media's TiVo; Record 3 programmes while watching a recording? Yes it can!

Its been promised, and now, its here. In the early hours of this morning, Virgin dispatched a software update for their TiVo boxes to activate the 3rd tuner. Rejoice.

But wait - not only does this allow the TiVo to record 2 programmes while you're watching live TV/VOD content/another recording, but you can record 3 programmes simultaneously! Better yet, you can watch a recording while recording 3 programmes simultaneously! This is a significant upgrade over Virgin's V+ HD (3 tuners) and Sky's HD (2 tuners), which always use 1 tuner to display the current programme/VOD content.

The software update has also improved the calculation used to report available recording hours. Pre-update, the TiVo reported an available 325 hours of Standard-Definition recording and 99 hours of High-Definition recording. Post-update, that's changed to 477 hours of Standard-Definition recording and 121 hours of High-Definition recording.

According to this thread at the TiVo Community Forums, the update doesn't appear to have killed off any reported bugs, but another update (pre-April?) will hopefully take care of those.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Today is the last chance to pre-register your interest in Virgin Media's TiVo

The pre-registration form for Virgin Media's TiVo is now requesting that interested customers sign up before tomorrow (March 13th):
Our new TiVo service is launching. We can hardly wait! Enter your details [into the form] before 13th March 2011 to be the first to find out more.
As previously reported, Virgin will be contacting pre-registered customers via email towards the end of March. That email will contain details of how to order your TiVo online. The rollout of TiVo to new customers is expected to start in April.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Sir Richard Branson believes that TiVo is Virgin Media's weapon against Sky

Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson talked to TechRadar about Virgin Media's next-generation PVR, and how its the tip of the spear aimed at Sky:
I think that it is fantastic. There's numerous things one can do and I think that we have finally got a weapon that can give Sky a run for their money.

We may well get thousands of people switching over from Sky to Virgin; it's a weapon that we've got that they can never develop which obviously gives us a bit of an advantage.

The only problem is whether I have to sell my island to move to a place where I can get TiVo, someone suggested that I swap Necker Island for the Isle of Wight so I'm going to have to work out if I go that far or maybe lay an enormous cable from here to the Caribbean; that would be tremendous.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Are Virgin Media preparing to unleash a cheaper TiVo?

Square Eyes has informed the Virgin Media High Definition & TiVo Services Blog that a new version of the TiVo box will be available soon for £49.95 (plus £40 installation fee and £3 per month TiVo fee).

This cheaper version would include a 500Gb hard drive. If the 1TB version is any indication, the 500Gb version would be capable of holding around 162 hours of standard definition recording, or around 50 hours of high-definition recordings.

While there's no official word from Virgin yet on this version of the next-generation PVR, such a version would fit in with previous announced plans to introduce a family of TiVo products for the Digital Cable network, as well as making TiVo an much more attractive (and affordable) option for Virgin Media customers.

Software development and rollout details for Virgin Media's TiVo

TiVO Community Forum Poster Technix has re-posted the following from the Official Virgin Media Forum:
Hi all

Firstly I hope you are enjoying use of your new Virgin Media TV service powered by Tivo.

I wanted to share some good news which is that we have now launched the BBC iplayer app in our Apps and Games section! Please check it out and let us know your thoughts.

I also wanted to let you know that we are working hard to prepare the product for general commercial availability, which we expect to be in April.

In particular we are in the final stages of creating the the triple tuner functionality (allowing you to record/watch up to 3 channels simultaneously) and we anticipate releasing this software to your boxes around the middle of March. This software will also contain significant bug fixes and other improvements.

I'd also like to address some specific issues which have cropped up quite frequently:

---- Reminders: In "Tivo world" reminders do not exist, because in a world where you have a massive hard disk plus our upcoming three tuners, there is less and less need to watch TV according to reminders. The easiest thing is to simply record programmes if the timing is not convenient for you. We realise this is different to the way some people use our current V+ service but we do believe that "Tivo-type" usage will eventually overtake the use of reminders.

---- Padding: ie giving recordings "leeway" either side to ensure that endings or starts are not missed. We definitely understand the importance of this and is a high priority in our roadmap. Given the cycle of code releases we have with Tivo, this is likely to be available in September.

---- Multitap text entry: Again we understand the importance of this and indeed we do have this on several of our Apps. For core Tivo Search we anticipate this being available in September.
---- Some channels not playing in Picture-in-Graphic (the small video window when you're looking at menus): This is a legal rights-based issue and is the same for our V+ service.

---- Tivo Suggestions in your recordings: Most people are finding these great, while some are finding these more random! Anyway this element of the service should get better and better, especially the more you use Thumbs Up and Down. I would strongly encourage you to use the Thumbs (especially giving more than 2 Thumbs either way!) to allow the system to learn better about you.

---- Finally, regarding our roll out plans, we have deliberately phased the roll-out to non-staff in a VERY tightly controlled way, prior to general commercial availability. We have run 3 promotions - an offer to 1000 of our VIPs (VIPs are our highest spending customers), a prize draw of 1000 Tivo boxes among all XL TV customers who also have Broadband and Telephony from Virgin Media, and a specific promotion to Tivo series 1 users. This has been deliberately done in order to control the roll-out to a very limited numbers of customers. When we move towards general availability we will prioritise those customers who have pre-registered their interest. We realise this has caused some "healthy impatience" in our marketplace but we feel this is right way to manage a controlled release of the product.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Virgin Media to allow pre-registered customers to order TiVo online

Virgin Media Staff member and Cable Forum poster Digital Fanatic has posted updates here and here on how Virgin plan to contact customers who pre-registered for TiVo:
I've been told that pre regs will recieve a special email with ordering details, you will then order online before any other customers.

Once all pre regs have install dates, then it will be opened up to other customers and then new customers after that.

You should get your email towards the end of the month....It's going to be quicker than calling everyone and you should have an install in April.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Telco 2.0 compares Virgin Media's TiVo to other platforms/PVRs

Telco2's analysis of Virgin Media’s recent investor day includes comments about how the cable company can use TiVo as a TV differentiator:
We are enormously impressed by the TiVo box, and we have no doubt that this is a better product than either the Sky+ HD box or the forthcoming YouView box.

The User Interface looks great and vastly improves search and discovery. That is before the forthcoming tablet and mobile applications. Our favourite bit is that [Virgin] now has total flexibility between nVOD based on their catch-up service, and user defined record+play through the PVR functionality - and it’s all done in a easy to understand way.

....What sets the box apart is that there is an in-built modem with a dedicated 10-meg connection to the Internet on totally separate bandwidth to normal household access. No-one else will be able to match this fire power. There are rumours suggesting that the reason for the dedicated bandwidth is that there is content caching and p2p technology within the box which will further improve experience within cable network segments as penetration increases.

This follows a key principle of network theory - the cheapest and wisest place to put intelligence is at the edge of the network. It relegates BT’s Content Connect service to a second rate citizen before it is even launched.

That is before the all the other features and upstream benefits that the TiVo platform offers, especially in the area of audience measurement and advert insertion - which will become more critical as more TV consumption moves from linear to on-demand. In addition, the TiVo box has the ability to add applications, such as games, within a well-known flash-development environment.

The [Virgin] plan that the TiVo box is a product for all their customers is eminently sensible and follows BSkyB’s simple-is-better philosophy. There is a 3-to-4 year timeframe to replace their current Liberate platform in all their homes. However, BSkyB definitely have a big head start with most of their c. 3m HD-boxes ready for the on-demand upgrade.

Curbing our enthusiasm, this is currently a strategic advantage, but it is one which is replicable over time. TiVo is a great partner, but whether they can keep up with the rate of industry innovation is another matter.

Pocket-Lint reviews Virgin Media's TiVo

Pocket-Lint's screen-shot packed review is online now, and reviewer Rik Henderson appears to like the next-generation PVR, awarding it 4 and a half stars out of 5, along with 'Hot Product' status:
So there you have it the Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo box – not just an upgrade for the company, but perhaps television per se. At £199, the “activation fee” may seem steep to some, especially when combined with the £40 installation cost and £3 per month extra on the bill, but not only is it cheaper than Sky’s initial HD device was when it was launched, it’s also a small price to pay for a remarkably powerful slice of technology.
It does suffer from the occasional gltch, after all these are early days and teething troubles are to be expected, but it is undoubtedly the future of TV. And it’s here. Now.
Once you’ve spent some time navigating around the gloriously designed menu structure and search functionality, you may never want to rely on plain old linear TV again. It’s all well and good having a billion HD channels, but if you can’t choose what to watch when you want to watch it, and in such style to boot, then what’s the point. There’s never anything good on.
There is on Virgin Media’s TiVo box.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

TiVo talk from Virgin Media's Earnings Conference Call for Q4 & Full Year 2010

The transcript of Virgin Media's Earnings Conference Call for Q4 & Full Year 2010 is online, below are a few TiVo-related comments from Virgin Media's CEO, Neil Berkett:
The power of our fiber optic network allows us to create long-term sustainable network advantage, it gives us advantage in connectivity. We are now seeing how we can exploit that advantage in application, read TiVo, and you will see increasingly us taking a position in terms of convergence, it is the true digital story, and within that, we've continued to expand our video-on-demand, our HD, clearly we've launched TiVo, we've driven contract mobile through our market and as I've said, we've begun the journey of fixed mobile convergence.

....Clearly, the launch of TiVo, the launch of 100 megabits per second, more video-on-demand, more HD, what we're doing around convergence with mobile credits will continue, and that's what generated our growth to date.

 ....So it's no coincidence for example, that you've seen us launch our upgrade from 20 to 30 meg and we allowed our 20 meg customers to upgrade to 30 for a good 6 weeks before we launched the 30 meg to the marketplace. Sounds simple, but in the same way as it is only Virgin Media customers that are enjoying TiVo today and then we will launch TiVo to the marketplace in the second quarter.

And it all leverages back to our connectivity advantage, and it's not just about broadband. As we discussed at the Investor Day back in December, we have significant spectrum advantage. On average, 750 megahertz of spectrum into the home and the wonderful thing about technology today, if you need to realign it like shutting down analog channels to be able to run more HD channels or increase your bandwidth for upstream or create another IP pipe for the back of your TiVo box or enhance your video-on-demand capability, it can all be done, not on a dynamic basis but certainly on a planned basis, and that compares to the other fixed network in the country which operates on just over 30 megahertz. And as I often say, if you don't think we're comparing apples with apples, 750 to 30, halve it, you still don't believe me, halve it again. It is a massive, massive competitive advantage.

...It's not just about broadband, it's as much about the separate connection into the back of TiVo, it's as much about reallocating the spectrum to be able to take it where it needs to be. But connectivity is nothing without application, and application is nothing without connectivity. So we are the first major network operator to launch an IP TV platform that will ultimately reside on every one of our customers televisions, PCs, and mobile, it will be our middleware in a few years time, and it will be the glue that brings the TV, the social screen, the PC, the personal screen, the mobile, the remote screen whether that's a tablet or a smartphone altogether.

And it is so important because the application to open content, again a unique position of Virgin Media, we don't run exclusive wall gardens that you must use and you must view when I have it available for you. With TiVo we will be completely open. We have no fears of bringing a blockbuster or a love film on as an application into TiVo. Why? Because the application and content is the key to the wallet but in our case, it is not the wallet, which allows us to be completely open versus our competitors or major competitor in the space that needs to be closed. And you've seen the progress of next generation TV.

....Just a couple of other words on TiVo. I think it is a huge achievement that from the day that we decided that we were going to use TiVo as our middleware to the day that it was working and we launched it was just over 12 months. That is the sign of an organization that knows how to focus and it knows how to actually agree within itself what is right, because we're constantly, constantly facing investment decisions of choosing right from right. That is the hallmark of an organization that is focused, compare and contrast. With IP TV platforms on a global basis, that without exception are running late in terms of delivery.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

BBC iPlayer app arrives on Virgin Media TiVo

According to this thread over at the TiVo Community Forums, the BBC iPlayer app has gone live on Virgin Media's TiVo.

Unlike the normal DVB-C app on the V and V+HD boxes, the app on TiVo uses the dedicated broadband connection to stream its content and appears to offer a wider selection of content compared to the app on Virgin's older STBs.

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