Friday, 22 April 2011

Planned updates for Virgin Media's TiVo revealed: Reminders; Multi room streaming; TiVo download for V HD boxes; Red button & more

A post by °Keir° on the TiVo Community Forum has revealed what updates TiVo's development team have  planned for Virgin Media's TiVo:
Q. Parental control options on You Tube?
A. Looking at this option but could be next year. Last resort we have the ability to take off You Tube from an individual box.

Q. Will we have the ability to create files within files.
A. The team have been looking at the ability to create file for Mum, Dad, Jane etc. The idea to set play lists of shows you have recorded is also in the pipe line. The team love the idea but may be very difficult to build on the network. I will feedback more info as I get it.

Q. How do I get hold of a silver remote?
A. You cant, this was a limited edition remote which was given to selected customers.

Q. Will we have to option to set reminders.
A. The main idea of TiVo is the ability to record multiple shows with the massive hard drive the use of a reminder function seem unnecessary. Due to massive feedback about this function the TiVo team admit this was unexpected feedback and are now looking to give TiVo users the ability to set reminders. I will keep you posted when this is available.

Q. Will the info button work on the mini guide?
A. Yes, The phase 2 update (Q3) will see this function activated.

Q.When will we be able to transfer content to a computer?
A. This will not happen to contracts and copy right laws we have with our content providers.

Q. Will the ipad / iphone be able to be used as a remote control for TiVo.
A. Yes. This looks very cool, I was shown a video with someone using their iPad as a remote control, skipping through the guide and info pages while the TV was still showing full screen programme.

When using the Mini guide the ability to press 'info' to obtain show information - End of Q2 2011
Text style typing to search for content - End of Q2 2011
When going back in time on the channel guide the channel names will display on the right of the screen - End of Q2 2011

Due to a change in contract with Sky, previously blacked out Sky channels while viewing the guide will now be shown - 2011
Price of VOD movies will show as soon as the movie is highlighted rather than having to go through 5 screens before this info is shown - 2011
When viewing Sky movies TiVo customers will only be asked for PIN when needed and not on every movie. - 2011

Multi room streaming will give customer the ability to watch recorded programmes from one box TiVo box to another. - 2011/2012
VHD boxes will be turned into TiVo style boxes with no hard drives. Anyone who has the VHD box will have the TiVo display and functions. Cost may be involved. 2011/2012

Red button functions will be more app orientated. By the time the 2012 Olympics start we hope to gave users an option of 24 different events VIA the 'BBCi app' - 2012
Multi files for Mum, Dad, Gran etc so only shows enjoyed by a certain family member will appear in these personal files.
Sky sports red button will not be available on TiVo until late 2011 early 2012 however will be available next month on V+ and V boxes.

Finally just a little info on the 'Baby TiVo' box that we are launching next month.

The box should be available to buy as early as the end of May.

The box will have half the recording time but apart from that the box looks and works the same as its big brother.

The price will be £49.95 for activation and £40 for install. £3 extra per month for the service.

The main difference is the ability to have this box on M+ and LTV as well as XLTV. The TiVo cost will be £8 per month on M+ and LTV packages.

Feel free to talk about this box as well as the 1 terabyte box available now.
The absence of reminders from Virgin's next-generation PVR has been a issue of some debate, both on this blog and over at Cable Forum, so the addition of that functionality, commonly found on the vast majority of PVRs, is good news for those who desire it.

The planned update to give V HD boxes TiVo functionality (minus the recording features of course) would be consistent with Virgin's plans to migrate their entire TV customer base over to TiVo, and opens the door for an established TiVo multi-room streaming base on Digital Cable, once that functionality is released.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Virgin Media TiVo installed: First impressions

  • My install took the best part of 2 hours, the 1st box installed was faulty and the 2nd box wasn't using the correct IP address to download the TiVo software. Once all that was sorted, it was time to play!
  • Wow, the TiVo is small compared to my TV Drive/V+ HD.
  • Speaking of which, Virgin offered to re-locate my V+ HD for no extra install charge and no monthly charge. Needless to say, I gladly accepted their offer. A few customers on Cable Forum have reported being offered this offer, but there doesn't seem to be any consistency regarding what kind of customer gets contacted by Virgin for this 'free multi-room' offer.
  • I guess I need to write a 'forgive me please?' letter for my V+HD.
  • I had a surreal moment a few minutes after the install, when TiVo thought that BBC 1 was an adult channel and insisted on me entering the PIN in order to watch the 1pm News.
  • The Standard-Definition picture from my TiVo is a little bit softer compared to the SD pictures delivered by my V+HD (this is on my Samsung 40" C650 TV).
  • As for High-Definition picture quality? Maybe just a little bit better compared to the V+ HD.
  • Wishlists truly rock! I wasn't able to create series links for the new seasons of Warehouse 13 and Haven because their not being shown in the next 2 weeks - but I was able to set up Wishlists to record future episodes of those programmes.
  • Its a little jarring to go from a HD user-interface screen, to a SD user interface screen while using TiVo. The Home screen for instance, is in HD but the page for editing Wishlists is in SD and doesn't look great by comparison.
  • At the moment, the majority of 'new' premiere dates for programmes are based on the USA premiere airdate. Hence the default for recording being 'New & Reruns'. This isn't as bad as it sounds because TiVo won't record an episode if its already been recorded within 28 days of its broadcast, thus keeping the chances of duplicate recordings to a minimum. In the mean time, hopefully, Tribune (who supply the EPG data for Virgin) will get the premiere dates issue sorted out.
  • As customers have posted recently on Cable Forum, there seems to be an issue of VOD content not showing up from 'Search & Browse' searches. For example, I could locate Smallville manually in TV Choice On Demand, but searching for Smallville from 'Search & Browse' only gives me the option to watch it live or create a Series Link.
  • Actually, no, I take that back, I was just able to search for NCIS and watch an episode from VOD. And now, a search for Smallville locates VOD episodes. I guess the TiVo was downloading more data in the background as I was typing. Either that, or its watching what I type.
  • There are times when using TiVo, that you come across too many screens while attempting to do certain things. For instance, I've located an episode of Smallville to watch from VOD. There's one screen which gives you the single option to 'Watch Now', that's followed by another screen which has the single option of 'Play'. Why the extra screen? Shouldn't 'Watch Now' play the episode?
  • I couldn't wait to give 3 thumbs down for The X-Factor! I'll give it 6 thumbs down if I could!
  • So far, the performance of my TiVo has been excellent. Nice and speedy.
  • I gave 2 thumbs up for the underated NCIS (the superior original, not the inferior NCIS Los Angeles) and, I'll give TiVo its due, the Discovery Bar was updated with CSI, Burn Notice, Cold Case, and yes - NCIS Los Angeles.
  • Any doubts I had regarding inferior video quality from the BBC iPlayer app not using the legacy VOD streams have been blown away. I watched EastEnders in HD from the app (purely for research purposes, honestly!) and the picture quality was superb. But what about the audio? That (according to my amp) was PCM 48Khz - I don't know if EastEnders was broadcast on BBC HD/Legacy VOD in 5.1 or not.
  • A shame that, for now anyway, you can't watch any BBC iPlayer content directly from the Catch-Up EPG. I suspect that the change in the BBC's syndication policy pulled the rug underneath Virgin's plans to do that. However, you can watch some VOD from ITV, C4 and Channel Five directly from the EPG. I say 'some', because on occasion, you'll get directed to the Catch-Up Menu instead of directly being able to play the content you selected.
  • Being able to buffer content on all three tuners (and rewind any of them) is, well, cool. I can see that being very useful for sports fans if for instance, Sky Sports 1 & 2 are simultaneously showing live football games on the final day of the season. Watching SS1 and missed a goal on SS2? No worries, switch to that tuner and rewind, sorted.
  • Nice - unlike the V+, you can watch Delayed TV while accessing the TV Guide and other menus. Heck, you can even watch VOD content while accessing the Guide.
  • The TiVo is a quiet, little, powerful box. Its just sits there, watching you watching it, while it silently adds a thumbs up you anything you record, constantly on the prowl for suggestions you'd like and Wishlisted content to record (if you let it). If it and the thousands of other installed TiVos ever develop Skynet-like intelligence, and decides to give the Human Race 3 thumbs down, were so fracked.
  • How polite of the TiVo to ask me if it was OK to switch a tuner over to Watch to record an episode of No Ordinary Family. Now, here's the thing: Why did it ask me in the first place? Nothing else was being recorded at the time.
  • 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, could have sworn it would be fixed for TiVo.
  • The Discovery Bar is great, and context sensitive. Add the cast information and you've got the closest thing to IMDB on your TV. For instance, I did a search for Gossip Girl (again, purely for research purposes) and the Discovery Bar had an entry for cast member Leighton Meester. You can then view what other shows she's been in, right down to individual episodes, like Series 2 Episode 20 of Numbers. Or, a better example - you can search for Smallville, select Laura Vandervoort from the cast info, and oh, what's this? She's in V and I can watch that from VOD? Excellent!
  • Virgin, as a fan of live sport, I beg you, please add reminder functionality. It won't harm anyone who believes that everything should be recorded, will it? At least then I'll have the choice, like I have on my V+ HD. If England are playing football and they score a goal, I want to watch it as close to live as possible, not 30 minutes ago or even 30 seconds ago via time-shifting/recording.
  • Channel-changing speed looks the same to me, compared to my TV Drive/V+ HD.
  • I had to reset my TiVo before the channel logos appeared in the EPG. And they look good.
  • Yes, its worth every penny, especially if Virgin offer you free multi-room. Even if they don't, TiVo is in a different league to any previous STB supplied by Virgin. One of the installers mentioned that Virgin were only expecting around 2,000 pre-registration requests - so far its 65,000, I can see why. Don't forget that the more affordable Baby TiVo is on its way next month for existing customers.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Virgin Media's TiVo: Now available to order for new & existing customers; Baby TiVo arrival news

The 1TB version of the next-generation PVR is now available to order from Virgin Media's website for new and existing customers.

As expected, only XL customers can order the 1TB version.

The new pages on the site also confirm that the 500Gb 'Baby' TiVo will be available in May for existing customers and July for new customers (thanks to Xonification for the correction).

Friday, 15 April 2011

Virgin Media's TiVo gets a Trusted Review[s]: "the most powerful set top out there at the moment"

Trusted Reviews have erm, reviewed Virgin's next-generation PVR. Awarding the box 8 out of 10, Reviewer David Gilbert believes that:
Virgin Media Powered By TiVo is a step into the future where television can be viewed on your terms. With its 1TB hard drive, three tuners and unique learning brain, TiVo could change the way we watch television but this is very much a first foray into the future rather than a fully developed solution. The TiVo box is the most powerful set top out there at the moment and it has laid down the challenge for everyone else to follow.

...While there are certainly some drawbacks, Virgin Media freely admit that this is just the beginning and the powerful box offers so much more than any of its competitors do. Its unique learning brain will bring you to television places you could only have dreamed of. It will introduce you to shows you will love (and hate) and will help you view television in the way you want to view it. The potential for growth is huge with TiVo and if Virgin Media get it right then it will set the standard for how we watch TV for a long time into the future.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The breakup letter to my TV Drive/V+ HD (Virgin Media TiVo is the 'other' PVR)

We need to talk.

We've had five, wonderful years together. You've helped to make me laugh, and you've helped to make me weep. I'll always remember our first Xmas together, it was so special wasn't it? Back in the NTL days. Me setting recordings and you silently recording the TV I love.

Now, I've always been honest with you, and, I don't wish to hurt you, but, I need to be honest with you now.

You're not big enough.

No, I don't mean you're too fat, you look great, shiny and silvery and urm, boxy. But, you can only hold 20 hours of HD content, and the truth is, I need more. Its Virgin's fault, really, god-damn them! They have a lot to answer for, going from 1 HD channel to 17 on the XL pack. They don't care about the damage they cause to relationships like the one we had - I mean, have.

Now, thanks to Virgin, I'm recording HD content and setting HD series links all over the place.

You've tried your best to indulge me, but, I don't think our relationship can last. Why? Because, recently, I've been...urm, interested in someone else.
It started around 4 months ago, just a chance encounter online in December. She's sent me the odd email now and then, promising to see me soon, promising to rock my world, and to take me to content I didn't even knew existed. She's seduced me with promises of Catch-Up EPGs, 14 days-ahead EPGs, Apps and even a dedicated broadband connection.
And, well, the awkward thing is, she's coming around in a week or two:

And here's the snag. There's only room for one of you.

So, I think its best if you prepare to move out. Best for the both of us. You deserve better, someone you can truly love you for many years to come. Either that or some scrapyard.

Lets enjoy our last week or two of our relationship. I promise to watch all the remaining, recorded content before the Engineer from Virgin comes to take you away, and I promise not to moan at you for being really slow in the early hours of the morning when I'm attempting to do....anything with you.
Will I miss you? Yeah, its been fun. But its time to move on...we can stay friends, right?

Monday, 11 April 2011

Virgin Media begin dispatch of pre-registration order emails for TiVo

Its taken them 4 months, but, finally, Virgin have started sending emails this week containing ordering information for TiVo (the 1TB version) to pre-registered customers.

VIP customers will be the first to receive these emails, followed by Triple XL customers, and then customers on the XL TV pack, so, don't panic if you've yet to receive your email. VIP 50/100 customers get the £3 per month charge waived, all existing customers (pre-registered or not) will get the £40 installation fee waived for bookings made in April, as previously reported.

Virgin Media prepare to give birth to Baby TiVo; 500Gb Hard Drive; £49.95; Available on all TV packs

TiVo. Yours for £50 plus change. Well, 1p change.
TechRadar had a nice chat with Virgin Media, who have confirmed the existence of the cheaper TiVo model.
Whilst the 1TB box is available exclusively to XL TV customers, the great news is that the 500GB box will be available to Virgin Media TV customers for just £49.95 and can be used with our L or M+ TV packs too, making it even easier for more telly fans to join the TV revolution that is Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo.
The Baby TiVo is due to be available in mid-May. Apart from the smaller hard drive capacity, the rest of the spec remains the same as the 1TB version - 3 tuners; Wishlists; Recommendations; Search & Browse; Dedicated broadband connection etc etc.

The £3 per month charge remains in place on the XL pack. For customers on the M+ or L packs, the monthly fee is £8. Don't forget the installation fee of £40. M pack customers will need to upgrade their TV pack if they desire to get TiVo.

If the 1TB version is any indication, then the 500Gb version should have enough recording capacity for around 250 hours of standard definition recordings, and 60 hours of high-definition recordings.

The beginning of the end for V+ HD?
This appears to be the first step for Virgin migrating their customers from the legacy boxes to TiVo. The existing V+ HD box also has a one-off 'HD activation' fee of £49.95 - the same one-off cost as the 500Gb version of TiVo. Given the much superior features of TiVo, plus a 500Gb Hard Drive compared to the 160Gb in V+ HD, the choice seems pretty clear regarding which Virgin PVR you should spend your £49.95 on.

The availability of 'Baby TiVo' to customers on the M+ and L packs, as well as XL of course - greatly makes the next generation PVR more attractive to Virgin's TV customer base.

By comparison, Sky's standard HD box is free to customers joining online, but also requires signing up to the HD pack at £10.25 per month. The actual number of HD channels received depends on the number of packs you've signed up with and well, its not TiVo now, is it?

Customers on Virgin's XL pack currently receive 17 HD channels for no extra charge - that will soon be 19 channels with the recently announced additions of Sky Arts 1 HD and Sky Arts 2 HD.

UPDATE: Apparently, the pre-registration ordering emails which Virgin begun dispatching today confirm the  details for the 500Gb version:
Coming 16th May, our 500GB Tivo box. Exclusively for existing customers

Tivo 500GB box
Storage for around 250 hours of standard TV
£49.95 for box activation
£3 additional monthly fee on TV XL
£40 installation fee applies

Prices correct as at 04/11
The 500Gb version will be exclusively available for existing customers first from May 16th, and available to new customers later.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

BBC's new syndication policy means removal of iPlayer content from Virgin Media TiVo's Backward EPG

While the update to the BBC iPlayer app has brought more Catch-Up content from the Beeb to Virgin Media's TiVo, one drawback is the removal of links (for now anyway) to that Catch-Up content from the Backwards EPG. Broadband TV News reports that:

The BBC has begun to enforce rules under its new syndication policy that prevents platforms from creating their own versions of the BBC iPlayer. This week Virgin Media was forced to remove direct access to BBC content on its new TiVo service, replacing it with the new BBC-endorsed Flash-based version.
A new contract signed between the cableco and the BBC means that instead of being able to access BBC content through its backwards EPG, Virgin TiVo users must instead go through the Apps and Games area. Alternatively, Virgin customers can continue to press the Red Button from a BBC channel, as is the case with boxes running the Liberate/TV Navigator middleware that remains unaffected by the changes.
Although the BBC syndication policy is yet to be officially approved by the BBC Trust, the BBC told Broadband TV News that it was working within the guidelines of the draft policy.
Virgin’s own figures show that 80% of traffic for the iPlayer is currently running through its own servers rather than those of the BBC. Although the proportion could fall now that the iPlayer has been separated from the rest of Virgin’s on demand offer – a move against the cableco’s wishes – it is still early days for viewer usage patterns to emerge. Broadband TV News understands that the link between the iPlayer and TiVo may be restored later in the year.
A positive for Virgin is that the new format will allow an increase in the amount of programmes available that will increase from around 300 to 700 hours on average. This brings Virgin into line with the iPlayer on connected TV devices.

Poll results: Virgin's Media's pre-registered offer for TiVo

Voting closed last night for the latest poll, where I wondered how many people would accept Virgin's TiVo offer for pre-registered customers. The initial offer wasn't greeted with much enthusiasm, mainly due to the requirement of paying the £40 install fee.

However, while the poll was running, news came through that the installation fee was being waived for any TiVo installations booked during April, following the launch of TiVo for pre-registered customers, so the final results are somewhat slewed.

Anyway, from 271 votes, 124 of you (45%) said yes, you would accept the offer, this is up from around 37% before news of the free April installation broke. 147 votes (55%) said no, you wouldn't accept the offer.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Pricing update for Virgin Media's TiVo; Free installation for existing customers booking in April; Discounts for VIP 50/100 customers; Baby TiVo

Virgin Media staff member and Cable Forum poster Digital Fanatic has posted an update regarding TiVo pricing for pre-registered customers, before the official TiVo launch date of next Monday:
Some of you will get an email to book online and some will be directed to a special pre-sales orderline, this is because some of you have complicated billing arrangements!

Install is free in April, so you are getting that knocked off.

VIP's (50 & 100 only) are getting the TiVo monthly charge waived. It will appear on the bill, but you will get a bigger discount to cover.

[The £149 for the TiVo box] will go on to the bill (existing customers only), so no credit card required. we will up your credit limit on your account to cover the cost and stop any billing issues.
The free installation offer is valid for existing customers only and applies when you book an installation in April - customers who take advantage of this offer will save £40, bringing the price of the 1TB 'Daddy' TiVo down to £149 + £3 extra per month (XL pack required).

VIP 50 & VIP 100 customers look like they will get a discount to cover the £3 monthly charge.

Meanwhile, screen-shots of an TiVo article in Virgin Media's Electric! Magazine have been posted online at the TiVo Community Forum. The text at the bottom of Page 7 mentions the coming arrival of the Baby TiVo:
A lower spec box will be available soon, but the 1TB TiVo box is still our flagship product.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Virgin Media Tivo vs Sky HD at TechRadar

TechRadar compare the premium boxes from Sky and Virgin Media in their article, comparing both offerings for ease of use; user interface; HD content; 3D programming; VOD and urm, Wow Factor. They conclude that:

While both Freesat and Freeview HD have plenty to offer, they can't compete directly with the powerful Pay TV propositions of Sky and Virgin Media. Of the two, Sky is our first choice when it comes to hi-def and 3D.
However, the satcaster has some serious catching up to do when it comes to Catch Up TV and VOD services, and its content Search options remain rooted in the past. Sky broadband users can take advantage of Sky Anytime+, but this is not an all-embracing solution.

When it comes to streaming video and Catch Up TV, Virgin Media's Tivo sets the new gold standard. Powered by the cablenet's high speed fibre optic broadband, it offers an unbeatable VOD catalogue ingeniously interweaved with regular programming. Its unique recommendation engine is also enormously compelling.

In the end, each proposal has clear, definable strengths. Ultimately, your choice may be decided by other factors such as location and availability. The good news is that whatever way you jump, both services guarantee you'll always have something great to watch.
You can also compare the premium boxes from Sky and Virgin Media in the PVR Comparison document.

Virgin Media to give birth to cheaper, 'Baby' TiVo this Spring

I guess TiVo is the father, which makes Virgin Media 'Mummy' ?
Virgin Media previously announced that the 1TB version of TiVo was just the first in a family of TiVo products. That was followed later by unconfirmed reports of a cheaper, 500Gb version.

Today, Virgin Media staff member and Cable Forum poster Digital Fanatic has revealed that the 'baby' TiVo is indeed on the way:
You'll have all the details on launch day (around the 11th April). VM will announce the spec/price of the lower spec TiVo, so you can make an informed decision. It's likely that the spec will indeed be around the HDD size, rather than functionality. I can't confirm pricing, but the "baby TiVo" (my wording, not VM's) will be considerably cheaper than the 1TB model.
'Baby TiVo' is believed to have a 500Gb Hard Drive. All other specs and functionality are expected to be the same as the 1TB 'Daddy' TiVo. If 500Gb is indeed the hard drive capacity, then (based on the reported recording hours for the 1TB version), that should be enough for around 268 hours of standard definition recordings, and 60 hours of high-definition recordings.

Meanwhile, Cindy Rose, Virgin Media's digital entertainment executive director, sent the following email reply to a couple of customers who enquired about the special deal offer for registered customers:
Please let me assure you that we have given a lot of thought to how we price Tivo to our customer base, and we are delighted to be able to offer our 1Tb Tivo box to our customers for £50 less than new customers will be paying. Tivo is a premium product with some ground breaking functionality and worth every penny! However, I fully appreciate that this offer may not be for you. We will be coming out with a lower priced box late Spring, and you may decide to wait until then to place your order.

As you have pre-registered your interest in Tivo online, we will shortly be emailing you to let you know that our pre-sale window for the 1Tb box is open, during which you can order Tivo in advance of it going on sale to new customers. At that time, we will also be communicating some special offers available only to our existing customers, including our VIP customers.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Dynamic views enabled for Virgin Media TiVo Blog

Virgin Media's TiVo may be lacking a dynamic EPG (for the moment anyway), but those wonderful people at Blogger.Com have enabled dynamic views for all their blogs, including of course, this one.

You can access the views here, or via the link to the right of all blog pages.

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