Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Virgin Media CEO: TiVo impact will equal DOCSIS 3.0; October software update? Multi-room streaming?

Here's some TiVo related comments from Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett, taken from the transcript for Virgin's Q2 2011 Earnings Call Transcript:
I think TiVo will do to our video business what DOCSIS 3.0 to our broadband business. I think it will significantly change our brand, our perception and our ongoing delivery...

....Application is different. Application starts to create the glue beyond the raw horsepower of connectivity. Applications is nothing without connectivity, and connectivity is nothing without application, and TiVo is the best connected TV certainly in the U.K., and I would argue in the world because it's produced by connected TV experts. It's all they do. That's why we partnered with them. That's why it's actually launched on time, because a lot of our peers decided that they would build their own. It has a net promoter score, major of advocacy (over detraction) of plus 30%. If I had a customer base that had a level of advocacy of plus 30%, I wouldn’t be standing here today talking to you, I would have retired.

It is a massive, massive driver of advocacy. Our customers absolutely love us. Every single review of TiVo puts it as the best way to watch TV bam bam and I’m obviously deliberately using that phrase and I may not use that but that’s what they are saying and that’s what you’re seeing on the billboards at the moment.

It is an amazing product and it allows us to create the glue between the social strength, the TV, the personal screen your PC or laptop and the remote screen, your smartphone and tablet somewhere in between, because you will be able to access.

Neil Berkett also appears to imply that the next software update for TiVo will be in October, and will feature multi-room streaming from other TiVos in your home:

Just think about October, the second drop. The access your hard drive from another device. Your connected TV would by then know you. It will be recording things the things you've forgot to record.

He then mentions other, existing features of the box:
It will allow you to go backwards and see that somebody has deleted something that you didn't want deleted and you can undelete it; just lucky can on a PC. It will have applications like the Harry Potter app where we created an application around the launch of the first series where we had little clips and customers can go into Harry Potter and in they can go in and view and purchase Harry Potter. They can look at that video on demand library. It's got the intelligence to look at how (linear open garden), a linear walled-garden in video-on-demand are now selected over the top. It will do for us in the TV space what DOCSIS 3.0 has done for us in connectivity

Virgin Media TiVo App News: Spotify to be bundled with broadband for "significantly less" then Spotify Premium Service; No progress on TiVo-Lovefilm App talks

PaidContent:UK has quotes from Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett, who plans to bundle Spotify with Virgin's broadband service for a:
Very, very low monthly subscription...We’ll bundle it in to our broadband for significantly less than [Spotify's Premium Service for £9.99
Hopefully that will be the case when using Spotify with the forthcoming TiVo app.

As for Lovefilm:
Virgin-Lovefilm discussions for carriage on Virgin’s TiVo have so far come to nought.

Virgin Media's 2nd Quarter results for 2011: 50,000 customers get TiVoed

From Virgin's Press Release:
We have now started to sell and market our new TiVo service to new customers. This is the UK s first next generation TV service, seamlessly bringing together the best of TV, on demand and the web through an intuitive graphical interface. This enables us to launch exciting new entertainment experiences, such as we developed with Warner Bros Pictures to complement the launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 . We introduced a dedicated TV app that brought together live film premiere coverage with extra online content. We have also introduced a mobile app allowing customers to set their TiVo service to record shows remotely. The strong early demand for this service has matched our high expectations and, as of 26th July, we had approximately 50,000 installed TiVo customers.

We have also announced an exclusive agreement with digital music service Spotify, which makes Virgin Media the only entertainment provider able to integrate the Spotify streaming music service into its consumer offerings. As well as online and on mobile, we are also working to build an exclusive TV app which will make a catalogue of over 13 million music tracks available to listen to through home cinema systems.

We currently have around 3.8m TV customers, of which 1.7m or 45% are able to experience HD after having a further 131,000 customers take an HD set-top box in the quarter.
The results come after Virgin announced 50,000 pre-registrations for TiVo back in February. The vast majority of TiVo customers would have acquired their PVR before Virgin reduced the price of the 1TB version while standardising the monthly fee and ramping up the marketing advertising for TiVo.

Suffice to say that the cable company will be looking to increase the number of TiVo customers during the next quarter, in fact, Trusted Reviews report that another 25,000 customers are awaiting a TiVo installation. Virgin (and their customers no doubt) will also be hoping for more content (like Sky Anytime+ VOD, coming soon) and more HD channels. Me? I'd settle for some action from CBS right now.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Update for PVR Comparison Document: Virgin Media's TiVo vs V+ HD vs Sky +HD 1TB vs BT Vision+

BT Vision+ joins the PVR Comparison Document
The PVR Comparison Document has been updated. Several sections have been added (the main one being Access to Premium Content), some have been edited, and others have been split for clarification.

Among the biggest changes is that the document is no longer a PDF document - any old links for the PDF document will still work, but don't expect the document to look great due to the page breaks. I highly recommend that you view the content as a web page.

Another big change is the addition of the BT Vision+ PVR, that goes into battle against TiVo and V+ HD from Virgin Media, and Sky +HD 1TB from erm, Sky.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Virgin Media issue apology for TiVo Series Link issues

After an 'interesting' weekend for Virgin's Media TiVo customers (details here, here, and here), the cable company today issued an apology on their Help and Support Forums:

Good Afternoon,

We’d like to sincerely apologise for any issues you may have encountered over the last few days with your Series Links failings on our TiVo service.

The issue was caused by a bug in a scheduled update to our TiVo service overnight on Friday, which became apparent to customers during Saturday. We worked across the weekend to resolve the issue and deployed a remedy on Sunday evening. Customers with TiVo should have already started to see their boxes automatically update and we expect all boxes to have the fix in place by Tuesday morning.

In the meantime, customers can force a manual update before then by forcing a service connection. To do this press Home > Help & Settings > Settings > Network > Connect to the Virgin Media TV Service now. It can take up to a couple of hours for the box to complete indexing the new database and for Series Links to re-schedule.

Once remedied, your TiVo box will try and find an alternate showing of the episode you have missed and set it to record.  To check this is the case:
  1. Go to Home > My Shows & Recordings > Manage my Series Links.
  2. Then select any series where you think you missed an episode over the weekend.  
  3. For that series choose “View upcoming episodes”. 
  4. Make sure that the alternative showing of the episode you missed is set to record.
  5. If it is not set to record automatically then select “Record this episode also”.
Alternatively, if the programme was on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 or Channel 5, you may find the programme already within Catch Up TV service. Find the programme by scrolling back in the TV Guide, via Search, or within the Catch Up & On Demand menus.

Right now, we’re in the process of ensuring that we’ve completely resolved the issue and that we learn the right lessons to ensure this doesn’t happen again. We'll also make sure in future we do a better job of keeping our teams and customers updated on issue status.

Once again, many apologies.

Stephen Featham
Director of TV Technical Operations, Digital Entertainment, Virgin Media.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Series Link recording issues fixed for Virgin Media's TiVo

Virgin have unleashed an EPG update which can be manually downloaded to your TiVo (via Home, Settings, Network, Connect to Virgin Tv Service now), and customers on Virgin's Help & Support forums are reporting that this update has fixed the series link recording issue.

You should wait around an hour or two after downloading the update in order to give your box time to index the data to be used for series link recordings. The fix will also be applied when TiVo next does an automatic download of the EPG.

My own TiVo is now scheduling series link recordings correctly after a manual download of the EPG.

Update on data issue with recent EPG download for Virgin Media's TiVo; No series link recordings currently scheduled

Virgin have been working on a fix for this issue, so far without success. Customers who have manually forced a EPG download this morning (and then waited a hour for the data to be indexed for use by the box) are still reporting no scheduled recordings for series links.

This issue also affects remote recording requests for series links, my test request to create a series link for Cougar Town (sent from my laptop) eventually resulted in a message on my TiVo informing me that there are no episodes of that programme in the EPG - despite 2 episodes of that programme appearing tonight from 8pm on Sky Living Loves.

Mark Brooks of Virgin's Help & Support Forum Team posted this status update eariler today:
Hi all, I have just had an update, the fix has not gone through yet, we need to get access to some servers to do this, we are trying our best to do this today, but as it is Sunday this may not be possible, therefore it may be tomorrow morning before this is fixed.

It has been escalated up the chain and we are working on getting access, therefore there is nothing further we can do at present, as soon as I have more information I will update on here.
On my box, planned Wishlist recordings (or at least, some of them) appear to be unaffected:

But planned series link recordings are, as are the planned Wishlist recordings for Haven (New episodes only) and Shark, but I'm not sure if those shows are on within the next 2 weeks anyway, pretty sure Shark isn't.

More on this issue to follow, along with a fix we hope.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Serious data issue with recent EPG download for Virgin Media's TiVo; No series link recordings currently scheduled

Have you gone on strike then!?!?
According to threads on Virgin's Help and Support Forum (here and here), there's currently a serious issue with a recent EPG data download for the TiVo boxes which has resulted in all series link recordings in the My Planned Recordings screen showing up as 'None Scheduled'.

Meanwhile, the Recording Hiccups screen shows that series link recordings won't currently be recorded because the programme to be recorded is 'no longer in the programme guide'.

Manually forcing a EPG download currently has no effect, at least, not on my box. Not surprisingly, Virgin has raised this with the TiVo team as a DEFCON 1 high priority fault which is being investigated. More on this story to follow.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Refunds now being dispatched for pre-registered customers of Virgin Media's 1TB TiVo

Coming soon to your account (if it hasn't already)
if you brought a 1TB TiVo for £149.99
Remember that £50 refund I mentioned a while ago, the one which would be given to buyers of the 1TB TiVo at £149.99? Well, those refunds are now being applied to customer's accounts. Including mine, just in time for the weekend.

The refund was announced after Virgin Media dropped the price of the 1TB version from £149.99 to £99.99.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

TiVo vs V+: The Final Battle

There's a great article over at the Virgin Media High Definition & TiVo Services Blog, comparing Virgin Media's two PVRs.

TiVo won the epic battle by 15 points to 2. Virgin's legacy V+ HD scored a couple of good punches thanks Speed and Reliability, but TiVo scored on several other aspects including Search and Suggestions.

More on BBC iPlayer Catch-Up on Virgin Media's TiVo

It looks like the newly established links from the Catch-Up EPG to BBC iPlayer content actually link to the legacy VOD MPEG 2 stream instead of the streamed content in the iPlayer App.

When playing back streaming content from the App, TiVo allows you record 3 programmes simultaneously. However, when playing back iPlayer content from the Catch-Up EPG while recording 3 programmes, TiVo will ask you if its OK to stop recording on a tuner, in order to use it to play back the legacy VOD stream.

Virgin Media Staff employee BenMcr posted on Virgin's Help and Support Forums that:
The iPlayer app is staying on the Red Button, because it has more content than VoD does. However if you don't want to use it, you can find the iPlayer VoD content via: Catch Up On Demand, Backwards EPG (and) Search and Browse so there are more ways of finding the content than there was with the V boxes

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

BBC iPlayer content available to Search, Browse and access from Catch-Up EPG on Virgin Media's TiVo

One of the best features about Virgin Media's TiVo is the 7 day Catch EPG, allowing easy access to VOD content previously shown on four of the five terrestrial channels. However, the EPG didn't allow you to access content from the most popular UK VOD service of all - BBC iPlayer. Until now.

As revealed early this morning by Virgin Media Staff employee and Cable Forum poster BenMcr, the Catch-Up EPG will soon link directly to related content on BBC iPlayer.

Virgin have since been dispatching messages to TiVo boxes informing customers of this, and the fact that BBC iPlayer content will also appear in the On-Demand menus as well as in TiVo's search results. Links and messages have also appeared in TiVo's Discovery Bar.

At the moment, the links to BBC iPlayer from the Catch-Up aren't visible (not for me anyway, they should be available pretty soon now), but I can locate iPlayer content on the On-Demand menu:

The impending arrival of iPlayer content on Virgin's TiVo follows the BBC's earlier decision to enforce their syndication policy which prevents platforms from creating their own versions of the BBC iPlayer. This meant that for TiVo, Virgin had to use the BBC-endorsed Flash-based App and all access to iPlayer content had to be via that App. However, Virgin had hoped to restore direct access from the Catch-Up EPG to iPlayer content and it appears they've now got their wish.

Breaking news! Catch up EPG now links to BBC iPlayer content from today for Virgin Media's TiVo

As reported at Cable Forum. More details to follow

Friday, 15 July 2011

Virgin Media launches iPhone TV Guide App; Includes remote record for TiVo

Virgin keep pumping out the TiVo-related Apps - we've had the TiVo TV Guide App for Android, a Harry Potter App, and now they've released the iPhone version of the TiVo TV Guide App (Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Feedback Tool now online for Virgin Media TiVo Customers

Nick Ontiveros, Virgin Media's TV Strategy/Digital Entertainment expert, posted this message at Virgin's Help and Support Forums for TiVo:

Hi all,

This forum has been one of the most active and vibrant in the Virgin Media Community, and I appreciate the enthusiam that all of you have had for posting and discussing TiVo here.

I've seen that a lot of you have posted feedback that you'd like us in the TiVo team to see, as well as many of you who have come across smaller issues with our service, such as programme guide data errors that we should be aware of.

With all of the congestion on our board, it's difficult to keep track of it all, so we have designed a new feedback tool to ensure that your voice is heard.

I'm happy to launch the 1st version of the TiVo Feedback Tool, which is a survey that can be found at:

Please use this tool to make suggestions for the TiVo service, complain about one of our features, report a programme guide error or any other issue that you've been experiencing. Keep in mind that in most cases, we take no personal information from this survey, so your response will be anonymous and you will not receive a reply.

Please send me a Private Message if you have any suggestions for future versions of this tool. I hope you continue to enjoy using your TiVo service and discussing TiVo in this forum.

Nick Ontiveros
TV Strategy, Digital Entertainment

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Harry Potter App goes live on Virgin Media's TiVo

Harry Potter fan? And Virgin Media customer? With TiVo? Then you're in luck, because there's a Harry Potter App available now on the next-generation PVR which includes several video feeds of trailers, interviews and cast talk from the UK premiere of the last Harry Potter movie.

The App also includes a twitter feed and several photo gallerys. For visuals and user interface, its probably one of the better apps on TiVo so far. More please, Virgin.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Virgin Media seal the deal with Spotify; TiVo App coming soon

Remember that potential deal between Virgin Media and Spotify? Well, today, the deal got real:

Virgin Media (NASDAQ: VMED) (LSE: VMED) today announced an exclusive agreement with digital music service Spotify that will make Virgin Media the only digital entertainment provider in the UK to offer the music platform across multiple services*. Making listening to and finding new music fantastically easy, worry-free and more affordable for Virgin Media customers, the pioneering partnership will see Spotify’s massive catalogue of over 13 million tracks available to customers however they choose, be it online, on the move through their mobiles, or in the living room through their TVs.

Virgin Media’s groundbreaking agreement with Spotify will mean over 4 million fibre optic broadband customers will have the option to access music online in a safe, legal way for the whole family whenever they want. Virgin Media will also be the only digital entertainment provider in the UK to integrate Spotify into its TV offering through its cutting-edge ‘connected’ TV service powered by TiVo, as well as being able to provide a bundled solution for customers with Virgin Mobiles.

Due to launch in the coming months, Virgin Media will be making Spotify available to both new and existing customers through a range of special offers. This will include both Spotify Unlimited, which will give customers unlimited access to Spotify’s full library of music, ad-free, on their computers, and Spotify Premium, which adds the ability to enjoy the complete Spotify library on the move through mobile devices. Customers choosing Spotify through Virgin Media will also benefit from exclusive features and content, as well as be eligible for special promotions.
So, what the hell does any of this have to do with TiVo? Well:
Retaining the flexibility and freedom of Spotify’s existing online and mobile services, Virgin Media customers will be able to seamlessly create playlists from millions of tracks, share songs or playlists with friends instantly through social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as explore new music whenever they choose to. Virgin Media customers enjoying Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo®, the UK’s first next-generation ‘connected’ TV service, will be able to enjoy their Spotify service through a jointly developed app for subscribers.

Existing Virgin Media customers will get the first opportunity to take advantage of this exciting partnership with special offers and an exclusive sign-up window. Existing Spotify users that are currently, or become, Virgin Media broadband customers will be able to keep their existing accounts and still take advantage of bundled offers.
This deal will, in time for Spotify, open the door for up to 3.7 million TiVo customers on Virgin Media's network, once of course, all of those TV customers have been assimilated into the TiVo Collective. In the meantime, Spotify will have potential access to Virgin's broadband and mobile phone customers.

As for Virgin, the forthcoming Spotify app will only strengthen the appeal of TiVo. Its doubtful that streaming music to TiVo should be an issue for the 10Mb of dedicated bandwidth, and if the pricing for access to the Spotify App is right, then Virgin could be onto a winner here.

Virgin Media launches Android TV Guide App; Includes remote record for TiVo

Virgin have released an App, but its not for TiVo, its for Android phones and tablets (Version 2.1 and above) and its available to download from Android Market:
See what’s on telly when and set recordings with Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo

Lets you know what’s on when. It’s even easier to find what you want to watch faster, too. Just choose your Virgin TV region and package (M, L or XL) and see what’s on the channels you have.
However, if you have a TiVo you may find the app useful because:
You can set your box to record a show whether you’re at home or on the move. Remote Record lets you set up recordings online or through your mobile.

It’s simple – just log in, pick a show and press record. You can record a single episode or save the whole series.
The app doesn't appear to add that much functionality over the existing mobile site for Virgin's TV Guide (not during my quick 2 minute play with it) but nevertheless, its there and its worth a look for customers with an Android device.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Virgin Media to issue £50 refund for early buyers of 1TB TiVo

Coming soon to early buyers of 1TB TiVo
The news of the new pricing structure for Virgin Media's TiVo didn't go down well with existing customers, many of which (me included) paid £149.95 for the 1TB version of the PVR. Today, just under 3 months after pre-registered customers received the initial emailed offer, the same box can be obtained from Virgin for £99.99.

With anger mounting on various forums (including Virgin's own TiVo forum) about the fast reduction in price, the cable company today announced that early buyers of the 1TB version will be getting a £50 refund:

As many of you will have seen, we have just launched the marketing campaign for Virgin Media TiVo.  As part of this campaign we've decided to lower the price for the 1TB box to £99.95.   We're conscious that the earliest buyers of this great product paid £149.95, which was an offer only available to existing Virgin Media XL TV customers at the time.

We want to ensure that those who bought TiVo early are not missing out on the more competitive price now available.  We're therefore pleased to say that we'll be crediting all those customers who bought the 1TB box at £149.95 with the £50 difference.  This will appear on your bill in the next two months.  We'll be emailing all these customers shortly, to confirm this.

We hope that you'll continue to enjoy your TiVo experience, which we think is the best way to watch TV, ever!

Thanks for your support


Alex Green
Executive Director, Commercial, TV & Online
Virgin Media

Sunday, 3 July 2011

What does the updated pricing for Virgin Media's TiVo mean for V+ HD?

The V+ HD PVR was originally launched as the TV Drive in UK cable franchise areas formerly served by Telewest, and was the first PVR released for Digital Cable in the UK.  At the time, NTL, the other major cable franchise, were still working on their own MPEG 4 PVR. Development work on that stopped when NTL merged with Telewest, with NTL embracing the existing TV Drive.

When NTL-Telewest re-branded to Virgin Media, the TV Drive was renamed to the V+ HD. Despite its many quirks (included the midnight slow-down), its continued to be a popular option for Virgin customers signing up to Digital Cable TV packs.

Until now.

This weekend's price restructuring for Virgin Media's TiVo puts the V+ HD in the odd position of being more expensive over time then the 500Gb version of TiVo for the 2 lowest-tier TV packs. Both boxes cost £49.95, both can be installed for free, but on the M+ and L packs, V+ HD costs an additional £5 per month, compared to the £3 extra per month with TiVo. On the top-tier XL pack, there is no additional monthly charge for V+ HD, compared to £3 per month with TiVo.

That before factoring in other TiVo advantages, like 500Gb of recording capacity compared to 160Gb on the V+ HD, along with advanced search options, Series links, Wishlists, Suggestions etc.

However, the trusty V+ HD still have a few aces up its sleeve, due to (for now) glaring gaps in TiVo's functionality compared to V+ HD. I've already mentioned the lack of reminders. Then there's the lack of Red Button Services, which have been much missed during Wimbledon. Lack of access to PPV events is another, with Virgin having to work quickly on an online booking option so customers could pay £14.95 to watch David Haye getting his arse kicked for 12 rounds. Still, an software update (or two) should fix those issues, and with Virgin advertising TiVo on TV, you suspect the V+ HD is entering its twilight era.

Its forthcoming retirement would push Virgin one step closer to switching all of its HD content (linear and VOD) from the MPEG 2 video codec to the more bandwidth efficient MPEG 4, which is used by every other Digital TV platform in the UK for delivering HD content. The TiVo boxes, along with the Samsung V+ HD and the V box, can handle MPEG 4, but the older Scientific Atlanta V+ HD/TV Drive boxes can't. When Virgin get all of their 3.7 million customers into MPEG 4 capable hardware (which won't be a quick process), they could switch to MPEG 4 for HD and potentially use the freed-up bandwidth for more channels.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Virgin Media TiVo launches channel page on YouTube

As part of Virgin Media's efforts to spread the word about a certain PVR, the cable company have their own TiVo channel page on YouTube where you can watch the TiVo help videos, like this one:

And of course, the adverts which are (or may have already) be coming to a TV near you, like this one:

The videos can also be located at Virgin Media's TiVo website.

Virgin Media slash installation fee and standardise service fee for TiVo; 1TB version now £99.95; 500Gb version now £49.95

One of these now gets you TiVoed
As Virgin Media begin their TV advertising campaign  for TiVo, they have boosted their efforts to obtain more TiVo customers by standardising the TiVo service fee across their TV packs, dropping the installation fee, and reducing the price of the 1TB version of TiVo.

Previously, customers on the M+ and L TV packs would pay an additional £8 per month for TiVo. From now, they only pay £3 per month - the same as XL customers. So, regardless of what TV pack a customer chooses, you pay an extra £3 per month for TiVo.

Also, the £40 installation fee (a topic of great debate on this and other blogs and forums), has been dropped. That means that new and existing customers can get a 500Gb TiVo for just £49.95, with free installation.

Meanwhile, the 1TB version of the next-generation PVR has been reduced. It was £150 for existing customers and £199 for new customers. Now, its just £99.95 for both existing and new customers. The requirement to have the TV XL pack in order to have the 1TB version of TiVo has also been removed - so 1TB of recording capacity is now also available to customers on M+ and L packs, as well as XL.

For more details, check out Virgin's re-designed TiVo website, which now includes help videos for different aspects of TiVo functionality. This blog's PVR comparison document will be updated shortly to reflect today's news.

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