Monday, 29 August 2011

More EPG metadata woe for Virgin Media's TiVo

The curse of incorrect EPG metadata supplied to Virgin Media's TiVo continues, with series link issues for Doctor Who (BBC 1), Lost Girl (Syfy), Football First (Sky Sports) and Strike Back (Sky 1) being reported on Virgin's Help and Support Forums.

I had a little rant (OK, big rant) about this a while ago and things don't seem to be improving, with the current Doctor Who issue being a repeat of a eariler reported issue (next week's episode on BBC 1 isn't scheduled to record for series-links because TiVo has that episode marked as one from an older series).

Some of Virgin's TiVo customers are fast running out of patience with Tribune's inability to supply correct data to their next-generation PVRs, and are awaiting an official response from Virgin. Meanwhile, it may not be a bad idea to check your planned recordings page just to see if TiVo is actually going to record the programmes you've asked it to.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Is Virgin Media's TiVo smart? Yes. Could it be smarter? Yes

Thursday nights between 9pm - 10pm have becoming known as Triple-Tuner Thursday for my TiVo, with the following programmes set to record in Primetime:
  • Warehouse 13 (Syfy HD, Wishlist)
  • Torchwood: Miracle Day (BBC One HD, Series Link)
  • The Killing (C4 HD, Series Link)
Now, I was watching Rangers struggling in their Europa League football clash against the mighty NK Maribor, on ESPN HD.  In order to continue watching the football, one of those three scheduled recordings had to be cancelled in order to free up one of TiVo's three tuners.

Captain Jack Harkness examines TiVo's series-link code for
possible improvements
Ideally, TiVo should have sacrificed either Warehouse 13 or Torchwood: Miracle Day - both of tonight's episodes for those shows have repeats coming up later this week - but The Killing doesn't. In the end, TiVo offered Torchwood, and I accepted the offer to cancel the recording in order to continue watching the football.

Now, TiVo is smart enough to seek out and record alternative recordings - for Wishlists, it will search all channels, and for series-links, it will search the same channel.

Trouble is, the repeated episode of Torchwood isn't on BBC One HD - its on BBC HD and several variations of BBC One - but not on BBC One HD, hence no repeat was scheduled to record. Luckily I noticed this (via the Upcoming Episodes list) and was able to manually set the repeat (on Tuesday) to record.

To be fair, Torchwood will be on BBC iPlayer/Catch-Up TV for the next week, but if it wasn't on one of the terrestrial channels offering catch-up content, I would have missed the repeated thrilling (hopefully!) episode. In short - it would be a nice tweak if TiVo searched all channels for alternative recordings for series links.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Time for a rant: EPG Metadata Rage for Virgin Media's TiVo

Virgin? Tribune? I find the quality of EPG
metadata for my TiVo disturbing.
TiVo is a great PVR, but a PVR is only as good as the EPG data it receives. Sadly, the data (provided by Tribune) simply isn't accurate enough:

So far, these are just some of the issues I've encountered recently:
  • I've had 2 episodes of The Dead Zone from The Horror Channel not recorded. 
  • Episodes 6 & 7 of The Kennedys from BBC HD not recorded. 
  • Duplicates galore of a Falling Skies episode from FX HD recorded.
  • An alternative broadcast recording of Knight Rider from 5*? Wrong episode. 
  • A suggested episode of Smallville from Syfy? It was part of a film instead. 
  • Suggested episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Syfy? Wrong episodes.
  • Suggested episodes of Angel on Syfy? Wrong episodes.
  • The 'record New episodes only' Wishlist for Warehouse 13 on Syfy? It recorded 3 'new' episodes before the new season started last week.
That's not including TiVo 's online TV guide insisting that this week's England vs. Holland football match wasn't called off, 48 hours after the FA called the game off. Or the series link for Doctor Who which for a while, was configured to record episodes from the old series. And that's before the corrupted EPG download which disabled series link recording for the best part of a weekend.

Virgin opened up a feedback page where TiVo customers could report EPG Metadata errors. I've reported a few, but no longer. Why? Why should I? Or why should you for that matter? Why should customers who are already paying an additional £3 per month have to correct EPG metadata errors? Shouldn't that data be reasonably accurate to start with? Wouldn't - shouldn't - TiVo customers be enjoying the content recorded by TiVo, instead of having to report EPG metadata issues with it?

I don't know why the metadata is so inaccurate. I suspect part of the problem is due to TiVo's lack of a dynamic EPG, meaning that late changes to programme schedules aren't picked up as quickly as other platforms like Digital Terrestrial (Freeview) and Digital Satellite (Sky, Freesat).

But that leaves the remaining metadata for the programme schedule which hasn't been effected by late changes. What's going wrong with that metadata? How is it checked before its sent out to the 50,000+ TiVo's in Virgin Media land? Why is it so inaccurate? Why are we being asked to help check it? Is this just a Virgin Media issue or do other Tribune clients such as Microsoft, Google, Comcast and IMDb have the same issue with the metadata they receive?

Frankly, after sitting down to watch Episode 6 of The Kennedys, only to realise that I was actually watching Episode 8 because TiVo didn't record Episodes 6 and 7 of a show I'd series-linked, I'm past caring whose at fault, or why this issue is happening so often - I just want it fixed, and a quick look at Virgin's Help and Support Forums (here, here and here) reveals that I'm not alone.

Granted, the V+ HD isn't in the same league as TiVo, but as far as series links are concerned, I can't remember encountering so many EPG errors on that PVR which resulted in unrecorded content.

If Virgin are remotely serious about introducing TiVo as the future of watching TV, and bringing all of their 3.7 million TV customers onto the TiVo platform, then I urge them (and Tribune) to do whatever it takes to get this metadata issue fixed. Quickly. Recording content correctly is among the core functionality of any PVR, let alone TiVo, and Virgin's next-gen PVR simply isn't doing this often enough at the moment for Series Links  - let alone for TiVo extras such as Wishlists and Suggestions.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

EPG? What EPG? 25% of Virgin Media TiVo customers find linear content through other means

From Virgin Media Entertainment Index Issue 2:
Early adopters appear to have embraced alternative methods of finding their favourite shows, with 25% of linear TV programmes being reached through a means other than the EPG. The search tool is proving popular; and the top ten search list provides interesting insight into the kind of programming viewers want. While half are nationally top rated shows such as The Apprentice and EastEnders, the other half did not feature in the top 50 BARB programmes of that week, demonstrating that these shows are more popular than scheduling allows for.

Furthermore, the top ten search list includes programmes from channels further down the EPG, such as Sky1 and FX, suggesting an appetite for a broad array of content and hinting at the opportunity for commercial broadcasters to reach greater audiences. And with intelligent search bringing up results as the customer types, with only three characters the average needed to get to the content they want, there is little to deter people from exploring the vast array of content Virgin Media puts at their fingertips.

The early research also implies the growing selection of apps is adding to the TV experience, as 79% of customers using them during the sample seven days – when they averaged 4.5 app launches per set-top box. While early adopters may have a prevalence to use innovative new services, it hints at an appetite to ‘do more’ through the TV and it will be interesting to watch this change as the Virgin Media TiVo audience grows.

Monday, 1 August 2011

CNET UK reviews Virgin Media's TiVo

CNET UK's long awaited and in-depth review is online, and reviewer Charles Kloet awarded the box 3 and a half stars out of five:
There's much to like about Virgin Media TiVo. For existing Virgin Media customers, it's miles better than the old, slow box underneath your TV and definitely a worthwhile upgrade.

For everyone else, it's not such a must-have. TiVo has the potential to be the perfect PVR, but we can't help feeling that what's needed is the perfect on-demand box. There are too many niggles, inconsistencies and annoyances at the moment, although things may get better in time as the software is improved.

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