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.

1 comment:

Nialli said...

Virgin are making up the difference for early TiVo purchasers: "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!"

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