Monday, 31 October 2011

News snippets for Virgin Media's TiVo: 15.2 software rollout; Spotify; Sky; EPG

Some TiVo related snippets:
  • The 15.2 software deployment dates for each regional headend (there's 50+ of them) will be announced later this week by Virgin Media, who will be eager to complete the task well before Xmas.
  • The Spotify app is due to be released within the next month, following Virgin's announcement of their Spotify plans for TV, Broadband and Mobile customers.
  • Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch, referring to competition from Virgin's TiVo, believes that "It’s always a trap to assume that customers think through the extreme of some technical gizmo, they think across the whole experience, simplicity, ease of use, and the importance of the user interface, which remains fundamental. Not to say that some gadget magazine might give you an easy quote."
  • Speaking of Sky, they've come up with a PVR comparsion chart which, among other features,  highlights the lack of reminders and red button services on TiVo. I'm sure it won't be long until Sky have to update the red button section, along with the 'remote record from tablet' section.
  • Speaking of red button - its available (and has been for a while now) on ITV, pressing the magic button on that channel just takes you to ITV Net Player content. Baby Steps, people.
  • In my review, I mentioned that that "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, I could have sworn it would be fixed for TiVo."
    This issue has now been fixed - for instance, selecting the Movies Category will show both the SD and HD versions of the Sky Movies Channels. Likewise for Sky Sports.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Video of 15.2 software update for Virgin Media's TiVo

A very nice video which shows of the snapper peformance of the 15.2 software update has been created and put online by Cable Forum poster MarkyUK:

The video also features a look at a couple of multi-room streaming configuration screens. At present, Virgin haven't mentioned that this feature would be enabled in the 15.2 update, nor (to my knowledge) has any customer with the update successfully streamed content from one TiVo to another. If future multi-room streaming is something you'd be interested in, then I advise you to order a 2nd TiVo, quickly.

The software, which was piloted to 3500 TiVo customers in Crawley and Cambridge, is now rolling out region by region. A quick check to see if you have it is to goto any Sky channel and then press the Home Button - if you can continue to watch the channel within the Mini-TV window, then congratulations - you've been been updated to 15.2.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Virgin Media CEO on TiVo; Open Platform; IPTV

Comments from Neil A. Berkett (Virgin Media CEO) on the 2011 3rd Quarter results, and TiVo:

The main news on TV is strong uptake of TiVo. We have 128,000 net adds in the quarter, taking us up to 163,000 at quarter end. We've seen strong demand from both new and existing Virgin Media customers, with around 1/3 of TiVo subscribers to date being new to Virgin Media. In fact, in Q3, nearly 40% of TiVo net adds were new to Virgin Media.

Sales continued strongly since the quarter end, and as of yesterday, we have 222,000 Virgin Media TiVo customers. That is around 5% penetration of our total TV base after just one quarter of above-the-line marketing. I'm delighted in success we've had this quarter and with the positive reaction from customers. TiVo will eventually be rolled out to our entire TV base. The only question is how quickly, so we're evaluating the opportunity to accelerate this.

So why is TiVo doing so well and how is it changing customer behavior? Well, firstly, it's a superior product and our customers are loving the features. It is either a 500-gig or 1-terabyte hard drive, which can record hundreds of hours of programming. Unlike Sky Plus, it has 3 tuners so you can actually record 3 different programs at the same time as watching one you recorded earlier. TiVo really brings to life our massive, unrivaled video-on-demand library.

For example, our EPG allows customers to go backwards in time and catch up on shows they've missed. We have great search features that allow customer to discover content more easily. They can search by title, by actor, director or topic. TiVo gives intuitive programming recommendations based on the customers of viewing patterns, again, helping our customers to discover great programming on both linear and in VOD. Customers can give a thumbs up or thumbs down to individual programs to further enhance the recommendation effectiveness. In fact, the TiVo box will even record program suggestions based on viewing patterns. So even if like me, you're away and forgot to record the Mighty New Zealand winning the World Cup, if you're a rugby fan, the box will probably record it for you anyway.

The other great thing about TiVo is that it's dedicated over-the-top connection, allowing our customers to access the content and application outside our TV. Unlike in a DSL home, the bandwidth disconnection users will not impede the bandwidth of other devices they're using at the same time.

We have an open platform. We have no fear of adding to over-the-top provider as an application on TiVo because although TV is the key to the wallet for us, it is not the wallet. We make most of our margins in connectivity. We will continue to add innovative applications, like Spotify, where we're exclusively the only TV and broadband platform in the U.K. able to offer access to this music streaming service in a bundled way. We will also soon be launching our companion iPad app. Through TiVo with the first major operator to launch a TV service that will ultimately reside on everyone of our customer TVs, PCs, tablets and mobile devices. It will be the glue that brings together the TV, the PC and the mobile with a better tablet or a smartphone. It is a truly converged platform.

Others have talked about launching IPTV. We've done it. We've done it on time, on budget and it's actually the best product in the market by a long way. It's a superior service and should continue to see us acquire digitally savvy customers. Perhaps our competitors' subscribers who are attracted by the combination of the best broadband connectivity and the best TV application. It's an ARPU driver because we're charging for quality with a GBP 3 premium per month. It should also drive improved loyalty, and therefore, improve churn as we roll it out to the existing base. And that is a vastly superior service to our existing TV platform. We will also continue to add increased functionality as the year progresses. In fact, as flash-based software, it is the service that will continue to improve and evolve.

Our product today is just at the first round of a very long ladder. So how are our customers finding it? Well, firstly, they love it. Our net promoter score or customer satisfaction is much higher for TiVo than our legacy TV product. In fact, TiVo customers are twice as likely to recommend Virgin Media to their friends, by telling their friend and their family about the game-changing technology, about the content discovery and about their control. TiVo is facilitating the personalization that customers want. It's liberating them and putting them in control of their own viewing.

80% say that TiVo gives them more freedom to watch TV when they want it, 50% are watching more catch-up TV. Customers are finding the search and browse functions really, really valuable and engaging with their TV more. Half say they're watching more good quality TV, i.e. content that is more relevant to them. TiVo users love the meg of hard drive. 3/4 of our customers say they no longer have to worry about disk space. In fact, the average customers whose had the box for 3 months still hasn't filled it up. I think consumers will continue to get more and more demanding over time, that's what we're witnessing in this segment that we're targeting. With TiVo, we have a platform that we'll be able to meet, and in fact, exceed those demand.

Virgin Media release Q3 2011 results: 222,000 TiVo customers

Their numbers are growing
The 3rd Quarter results are in for Virgin Media, and the TiVo invasion of the Digital Cable network is very much underway! The 2nd Quarter results revealed that 50,000 customers had gone for the next-gen PVR.

Today's results reveal that Virgin have quadrupled their TiVo stronghold in the last 3 months, with 222,000 TV customers now in possession of the box as of yesterday (probably helped by a TV advertising campaign, the reduced activation fee and the retirement of V+ HD). According to Pocket-Lint, that works out to 1 TiVo install per minute.

The presentation also reveals some feedback from customers:
  • 80% say TiVo gives more freedom
  • 50% watching more catch-up
  • Content discovery through search / browse
  • 50% watching more good quality TV
  • 75% no longer worry about disk space

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Why Netflix could become the killer app for Virgin Media's TiVo

Coming soon to Virgin Media's TiVo?
Yesterday's announcement of Netflix's expansion into the UK leads to the question: Will there be a Netflix app for Virgin Media's TiVo?

Ignoring the fact that Netflix's hopefully cheap, stream-all-you-want business model could become a serious competitor for Pay TV services in the UK (as it has done in the US), there's no reason why - technically - should an app wouldn't be possible. In fact, the TiVo Premiere (which Virgin's TiVo is based on) already has a Netflix app.

The potential ace up Virgin's sleeve is the 10Mb dedicated broadband connection for TiVo. There's no caps or STMing for this connection, so users of a Virgin TiVo Netflix app wouldn't have to worry about blasting through their broadband caps while streaming a blockbuster movie in HD - unlike users of any other playback device using a normal broadband connection. Nor would Virgin TiVo customers have to worry about playback being affected by other networked devices sharing that broadband connection.

If Netflix will be able to get enough content in place, and if Virgin can indeed do a deal with Netflix - remains to be seen. We're still waiting on the much-wished-for Lovefilm app.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Gadget Show PVR Showdown: Virgin Media's TiVo vs Sky +HD

In brief: Sky +HD has the better, faster user interface, with TiVo's described as clunky, slow and at times, irritating. Sky also won the remote battle.

TiVo won on the features, especially with recording and VOD.

Both PVRs were awarded with four stars out of five.

View the video review here.

Friday, 21 October 2011

My 1TB Virgin Media TiVo is about to get a Baby Brother

I will not get another TiVo.
I will not get another TiVo.
I will not get another TiVo.

Oh bugger it.

500Gb TiVo ordered to replace the 6 year old TV Drive/V+ HD box.

When I ordered the 1TB version, Virgin offered to move the V+ HD box to another room and waived the multi-room fee. I was assured that would still be the case after swapping the V+ HD for the 500Gb TiVo.

£49.95 fee paid for installation, which won't be until November 5th. Interestingly, Customer Services hadn't been informed about the reported change for the monthly fee.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

More details on the 15.2 software update for Virgin Media's TiVo; Streaming; YouTube; Express; Padding

  • Multi Room streaming support is in there, or at least a sub-screen within the System Info page is in there, which reports that streaming isn't possible on a home network which contains only 1 TiVo. Hmm. Might be time to swap out my Silver TV Drive/V HD+ box for another TiVo (and by the looks of it, I better do it before November)
  • The YouTube application (supplied by Google for Smart TVs and Smart PVRs) doesn't let you log in to your account. Well, I guess that's one way to solve the 'can't view favourites when logged in' issue. Also, according to various reports, it automatically plays random videos when opened, which appears to be selected from the Teenagers Behaving Badly collection. You sense that's a Daily Mail headline just waiting to happen.
  • The Express series link option uses the series link defaults. Nothing wrong with that....unless you want to keep more than 10 episodes.
  • TiVo still uses 2 tuners to record back-to-back programmes on the same channel. But, padding is now clipped when there's a clash.

Monthly charge changing for Virgin Media's TiVo: £3 per TiVo from November?

Want to stream content for TiVos ordered
from November? It will this extra, per month
According to comments on Virgin Media's Facebook page, the monthly charge for TiVo will be changing from November, and not for the better.

All TiVos ordered before November are charged at £3 per month per account, so for example, 2 TiVos on one account would cost £3 per month.

According to the Facebook comments by a Virgin Media Staff Member, TiVos ordered from 1st November will be charged at £3 per TiVo. For the above example, that will be £6 per month.

This would be a disappointing move, especially if multi-room streaming is enabled in the 15.2 software update. Virgin, this would a great way to kill off enthusiasm for those considering buying a 2nd TiVo for multi-room streaming!

Those considering streaming content from TiVo to TiVo may want to reconsider, or order a 2nd TiVo within the next week or so and avoid paying £36 extra per year for their 2nd TiVo.

More confirmation from Virgin Media to follow if and when its received.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Virgin Media's Cindy Rose on TiVo 3rd Party Micropayments; Core features; Adoption Curve

An interview with Cindy Rose (Virgin Media's Executive Director of Digital Entertainment) is online at New Media Age. Below are a few TiVo-related snippets:
We are researching the possibility of introducing micropayments on the TiVo platform [from third parties like ITV for their Catch-Up content] and I can imagine there being a place for it in the world of gaming, and other areas like fantasy football where you would want a micropayment mechanism of some sort. We’re working a lot with Facebook, which is doing some great things in this space.

With TiVo, we decided not to market the most advanced and sophisticated features that would be exciting to the techophiles, but to hone in on the core features...we marketed all the things that have solved problems that were annoying people, instead of the most advanced things – we will get to that later.

We’re seeing a more accelerated adoption curve than I expected. I’m big on the customer journey – taking people along with you as you move toward the end game when the TV resembles more of a web experience. I expected people to use the EPG and try the odd search or browse the odd collection, dabble in the odd app. But we are finding the adoption effect is faster than expected. The discovery tools are working so people are not only watching what they know and love already, but are discovering new stuff.
 Read the full interview at New Media Age.

More details for Virgin Media's Winter 2011 software update for TiVo

Scarlett Johansson wasn't happy to discover that access to
Red Button content wasn't included in the Winter software update
Some follow-up details regarding the pilot for the Winter 2011 software update for Virgin's TiVo:
  • The pilot was only rolled out to 3500 TiVo customers in Crawley and Cambridge. The new software version is 15.2
  • Early feedback suggests that the pilot includes performance improvements. This would be in sync with the software for the Premiere Elite which, despite having the same memory and CPU as the Premiere, boasts performance improvements.  That software is expected to be rolled out for the Premiere (which Virgin's TiVo is based on).
  • Posts at Cable Forum (here and here) suggest that support for multi-room streaming is included. This, again, would also be in sync with the software released for the Elite. Streaming was enabled a while ago for the Premiere but someone at TiVo later flicked the 'off' switch for that (I'm guessing that was a pilot in itself). 
  • Just to clarify, the pilot software does not and will not instantly provide access to Red Button content to BBC, Sky Sports etc. when its downloaded to your TiVo. The pilot software provides support for developers to create Red Button apps at a later date.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Limited pilot for Winter 2011 software update unleased for Virgin Media's TiVo; Includes Spotify Support

Whoa, no PIN nagging and Stop means Stop!?! Rejoice!
From Virgin's Help and Support Forum:

This week we have begun a limited pilot of our next TiVo software release. This new software includes many new improvements as well as key developments that will enable the launch of future products. We’ll be rolling it out to everyone well before Christmas. Here’s a sneak peek of what you can expect:

  • Spotify Support: We’ll support Spotify’s high quality streaming format, which will enable the Spotify Premium App on the TiVo platform.
  • Red Button: This update adds extra functionality necessary to support Red Button services developed by our channel partners, such as BBC, ITV, and Sky Sports
  • TiVo App support: We've enabled the connection of your TiVo box to iOS devices through your wireless router to use our fantastic TiVo app, which allows you to control the TiVo box, browse, search and manage recordings all from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.
  • A new look for YouTube: We’ll support Google’s completely revamped YouTube app, which allows for a more relaxed viewing and browsing experience, and supports HD video!
  • Full BBC iPlayer integration: We’ve changed the way Catch-up TV through BBC iPlayer works. Every BBC iPlayer programme will now be available through Search & Browse, including much more HD content, and you’ll never use up a tuner for BBC iPlayer viewing.
  • Express Series Links: Create a Series Link with default settings at the click of a button.
  • Multi-tap text entry: Use the number keys on your remote like a mobile phone for text entry for typing into search.
  • Automatic Padding: We’ve had tremendous feedback from customers about clipped recordings, so we’ve installed a default level of padding for all recordings.
  • Improved Parental Controls: We’ve made some changes with PIN entry requirements to suit every household. In the new update, PIN challenges on pre-watershed playback of programmes in My Shows become optional. We’ve also added the ability to require PIN to access any application.
  • Skippable Music Playlists: Playlists on Music on Demand will be skippable by track
  • Live Pay-per-view Events: Live pay-per-view events become bookable with your remote control.
  • HD Upscaling: As promised on this forum, we’ve addressed the issue with our picture quality and this new update features better standard definition picture quality with improved upscaling.
  • Connection reliability: HDMI and SCART compatibility improved.
  • Info and Stop button functionality improved: You’ll be able to use the ‘info’ button in the TV programme guide and the mini guide, while the Stop button now works as you would expect.
  • Video Preview for every channel: Every channel will keep playing in the TV Guide window, including all the Sky channels.

There are plenty more updates already in the pipeline and, as ever, we will use your feedback to continue to improve our TiVo service.

We’ll be keeping you up to date on this forum.


Simon Hunt
Product Director (TV)
Virgin Media

There's plenty to like there. Finally, pressing stop will stop the recording and pressing info will give info! The days of  PIN nagging are coming to an end, and it will also be nice to watch the likes of Sky Sports News and not have the preview picture and sound go when accessing a TiVo Menu. SD picture quality will be improved and as for Red Button - this update appears to be the dependency which will allows red button support in the future.

The big addition to the previously leaked list of features is support for Spotify. There's still no official word from Virgin regarding pricing.

The only disappointment is the automatic padding - it defaults to 1 minute before and 4 after. However, there appears to be no way to alter these defaults, so customers who don't want padding will have to reset the defaults when creating Series Links and recordable Wishlists. Also, where's the reminders?

Still, the update is very welcome, hopefully it will include some performance improvements as well.

Sky Anytime comes to Virgin Media, and TiVo

Virgin Media are in the process of adding truckloads of addition VOD content from Sky Anytime. At present, none of that content is showing up via TiVo's search functionality but that will hopefully be fixed in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

TiVo Premiere Elite: Why it could be good for your Virgin Media TiVo

The TiVo Premiere Elite has launched in the States. The newest TiVo box contains four tuners, 2TB of recording capacity and by the sounds of it, updated software which finally activates the 2nd CPU core which, among other things, appears to have halfed the boot-up time. The software also appears to support multi-room streaming between Premieres.

There's a great thread at the TiVo Community Forum which details performance improvements over the Premiere. Another thread contains first impressions about the new box.

What the frack does any of this have to do with Virgin Media you ask? Well, a modified version of this software will hopefully be released for the Premiere and eventually (please?) Virgin Media's TiVo box which is based on the Premiere. With any luck the 2nd core, along with other performance improvements, will help speed up the user interface.

And before anyone asks, no - the updated software for the Elite doesn't feature a completed HD user interface, or reminders.

As for the Elite itself - is there a UK market for a box which can record 4 programmes while allowing you to watch a 5th? (Or record 3 programmes while watching live TV?) I'm thinking 'yes' myself but that's just me

Either way, it would reduce the chances of recording clashes. If Virgin decide to offer the Elite as an option to their customers (and at what price) remains to be seen.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Why you should consider turning off Overlap Protection for Virgin Media's TiVo

When TiVo encounters a recording clash, it will (by default) clip the lowest priority recording by up to 5 minutes, instead of cancelling that recording.

That sounds nice, but, why have your recordings clipped? Why not have the whole recording plus your padding too? There is indeed a way to have all of your cake and eat it too. How? Simple:

Turn off Overlap Protection.

What I hear you cry? Didn't your father teach you to always use protection?!!? Bear with me.

TiVo is smart, in that when a clash occurs, it will attempt to locate a repeat of the cancelled recording and it will record that instead. For Series Link recordings, it will search for a repeat on the same channel. For Wishlists, TiVo will search all channels.

Turning off Overlap Protection tells TiVo not to clip any recording when there's a clash and to always hunt for a repeat to record. The trick is, to reorder your recording priorities so that the programmes which aren't repeated have higher priority compared to the shows which are repeated. As I've previously stated, you can have a quick look at the upcoming episodes list to see if episodes of a programme are repeated throughout the week.

For instance, I've noticed that programmes broadcasted on BBC 1 HD (including the likes of Doctor Who, Merlin and Waterloo Road) don't seem to be repeated on that channel, but they are repeated on the BBC HD channel (while we still have it that is). If you have a Series Link for a BBC 1 HD programme, give that high priority.

If in doubt, give your Series Links higher priority compared to Wishlists. A Series Link for Castle on Alibi for instance, will hunt for repeats on Alibi, whereas a Wishlist for the same programme will find repeats on Alibi, Alibi +1, Alibi HD (when that launches next year) and any other channel Castle is on.

Overlap Protection is switched on by default. Since turning it off 3 weeks ago, I've not missed any recordings, and that's with padding set to 1 minute before and 5 minutes after for all recordings. There's some vigilance required on your part as far as checking for repeats is concerned, but in return you can use padding without worrying about programmes not being recorded as a result of a clash.

Still not convinced? Well, bear in mind that when Overlap Protection is on, and a recording will be clipped by more then 5 minutes, TiVo will cancel the recording and go hunting for repeats anyway.

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