Saturday, 17 November 2012

Multiroom streaming for Virgin Media's TiVo: Missing channels, Missing TiVos

What!??! I can't stream Eastenders to my other TiVo?!?
Why not!?!?
Multiroom streaming (I'll be calling it MRS from here on) has technically been available on Virgin Media's TiVo since the 15.2 software update. However, its only recently become available for use and at the moment, the number of channels available to stream are limited to the point that none of the terrestrial channels can be streamed at present. You can thank the relevant content owners for that. Add on yet another incoming price increase (you can thank Virgin for that) and the appeal of MRS is diminished somewhat, considering the additional cost of having an extra TiVo.

Once you have your TiVos connected to your home network (either via Ethernet or Powerline adapters) you should be able to see the other TiVo at the bottom of your My Shows screen. In my cases (and others, here, here and well, me here), that really is 'should' because the appearance of the other TiVo is erratic, at best, and that's after rebooting the router, upgrading the router to the latest firmware, rebooting both TiVos, re-requesting the IP address and using Static IP addresses for both TiVos (as opposed to the reserved dyamic ones I use with the 20+ devices on my network). Even legacy TiVos owners have had this issue.

Just to add to my confusion, I could always see the other TiVo on the network via Home > Help & Settings > System Info > Multi-Room Streaming. However, it turns out that this screen merely shows the TiVos you are billed for, not the ones currently on your home network.

Want more confusion? That same screen always lists each billed TiVo has having its Video Sharing Disabled, even now MRS has been enabled on all TiVos. This is a mistake due to be fixed in a future firmware update.

This is my home network:
Both network switches have various devices connected to them. The only devices which can't see
each other then I expect them to are the 2 TiVos. Why?

I even tried swapping my 500Mb homeplugs with the older 200Mb ones I had. I had limited success, in which both TiVos could see each other and stream from each other without disappearing from the other TiVo's My Shows screen. Ah-ha I thought, was the 500Mb homeplugs at fault?

I then swapped the plugs back to the 500Mb versions and to my surprise, both TiVos could still see each other. So, not the 500Mb homeplugs then.

I eventually realised that when when I removed and then reinserted the homeplug connected to the router in the bedroom, that, somehow, enabled the TiVos to see each other. For about a hour or so. After which they disappeared from each other's My Shows screen.

The method which TiVos use to discover each other on a home network is reported to be based on the UDP network protocol, this operates on a 'best-effort, performance based, no guarantee of delivery' basis (streaming itself is based on UDP since streaming video is a time sensitive operation).

I'm guessing that when I disconnected and then reconnected the homeplug connected to the router, my router dispatched a flurry of UDP data packages which enabled the TiVos to see each other - briefly. By the next day, the TiVo were MIA again from the other TiVo's My Shows screen. I wonder if this discovery process used by one TiVo to locate another is robust enough. None of the 20+ devices on my home network have trouble seeing each other when I expect them to.

I can only stream you!
For now, I've come to a halt to get MRS working. Due to the limited channels available to stream, the only stream-able content I have are episodes of Covert Affairs. Virgin are working on adding more channels for MRS, but given the forthcoming price increase I might be dumping one of the TiVos anyway. Plus I've wasted enough time attempting to get MRS working.

At least I have Last Resort to watch......what do you mean its been cancelled???!?

UPDATE: Virgin are now saying that not all Homeplugs are compatible with MRS, and are recommending that Netgear products be used to stream content between TiVos. I'm currently using the 500Mb homeplugs from TP-LINK and they work fine with the various game consoles, media streamers, Blu-Ray players and NAS Drives on my network. They work fine with all those devices apart from the TiVos.

I'm sure the Netgear 500Mb products are fine products. They should be, they're almost double the cost.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Planned Recordings for Virgin Media's TiVo may fail this weekend

A fault with the metadata supplied to Virgin's TiVo boxes means that TiVo customers should check their planned recordings this weekend:
Your "New Only" Series Link and WishList recordings may fail this weekend. If you have changed the default setting for any Series Links or WishLists to record "New Only", we recommend that you change it back to "New & Reruns" to avoid missing new recordings over the weekend.

If you have missed anything on channels from BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, you may be able to find your show on Catch Up.

We're working on this under the fault reference F002224369 and we'll update this announcement as soon as we have more news on this.

UPDATED: This issue was fixed by Virgin on Sunday morning:
Hi we resolved this issue this morning and as soon as your TiVo box updates it's EPG your Series Links and Wishlinks will start working as normal. So you'll be able to restore them to "New Only" status.

If it hasn't updated the EPG yet you can force it to by selecting the following option Home > Help & Settings > Settings > Network > Connect to the Virgin Media Service now.

Remember if you've missed any recordings on BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 you can still see them using Catch Up.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

News on Virgin Media's content delivery plans; TiVo; Apps; TV Anywhere

Feed me with content!
VideoNet has an video interview online with Ian Mecklenburgh, Virgin Media's Director of Consumer Platforms (Digital Entertainment) regarding some of Virgin current and future plans to deliver content to your TiVo, PC and Tablet, including deeper integration of TiVo apps into the user interface where relevant for the channel, having to implant Content Delivery Networks deeper into Virgin's network to meet the increasing customer demand to deliver VOD and Over-the-Top content, differences between VOD delivered by the legacy service and the 10Mb dedicated broadband connection, the development of Virgin TV Anywhere and a lot more.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Fall Update for TiVo Premiere unleashed; Coming soon for Virgin Media's TiVo?

Over in the States, TiVo have released 20.2.2 of the firmware for the TiVo Premiere, Premiere XL, Premiere 4, and Premiere XL4/Elite. As previously reported, the latest firmware finally sees the conversion of several standard definition screens within the user interface to HD.

It also sees the arrival of several other improvements, including better reporting of recording conflicts and background re-indexing of planned recordings when the priority of Series Links and recordable Wishlists are changed.

There's no word of when this version of the firmware will show up on Virgin Media's TiVo, and what changes will be made in the process (besides repainting the colours in Virgin Red), but I'd say its pretty likely that the new firmware will show up for Virgin Media's TiVo at some point, since the code base for Virgin's TiVo and the TiVo Premiere is shared.

Read all about it at the TiVo Blog, and view some early feedback on the latest firmware release at the TiVo Community Forums.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

HD user-interface to be completed for TiVo Premiere; Virgin Media's TiVo to follow?

One of the weak points about Virgin's TiVo (and indeed, the original TiVo Premiere which Virgin's TiVo is based on), is that several of the user interface screens are displayed in a much lower resolution, which for 2012, doesn't look great:


As I said in my review:
While they're good enough to be functional, they don't look great compared to the lovely HD screens such as the Home and My Shows screens. A pity, because some of those low-res screens would be more usable if they could contain more information.
Much better! This will be the TiVo Premiere's version of what's known as the
'Manage My Series Links' screen on Virgin TiVo.

After a long, 2 year wait, it looks like TiVo are close to converting those screens (Planned Recordings and Series Links) into the HD we know and love. This thread at the TiVo Community Forums reveals that the fall software update for the TiVO Premiere is due to be released soon in the States, and TiVo's Margret Schmidt (Vice President of Design & Engineering at TiVo) has uploaded screenshots of the new HD screens:

This looks better too - and it looks like you can view recording conflicts for each show
in what us Brits call the 'Planned Recordings' screen.

Of course, you can expect these screens to be altered for Virgin's TiVo, and recoloured to the Virgin Red we all know and love for a future software update. When that will happen is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Virgin Media Q3 2012 Results; 30% of customer base TiVoed; TiVo moving into the Cloud?; Sky Basics on TV Anywhere

The TiVo invasion of Virgin's TV Customer base continues
Virgin Media's Q3 earning results for 2012 revealed that 1.1 million TiVos are now sitting pretty within the Digital Cable Network. 202,000 TiVos were unleashed in Q3, meaning that 30% of Virgin's TV customer base has now been TiVoed.

As for the forthcoming (and much delayed but coming soon in a matter of weeks honest really) iPad app TV Anywhere, Virgin CEO Neil Berkett confirmed (during the conference call - full transcript at Seeking Alpha) that Sky Basic channels will be available for streaming to your PC/Mac, with the possibility of Sky Premium channels to follow:
It will launch with all of our – we have the PC and Mac rights for broadly all of our content. We don’t have quite that number of rights for the tablet. So, there will be some restricted rights. But it will include all of Sky basics initially. And we’re in conversation with Sky in respect to premiums and we’ll continue those conversations over the next six months as we look to renew our premium contract with them.
As for the future development roadmap for Virgin TiVo, its looks like its heading in the Cloud:
We have a roadmap and are in conjunction with TiVo. We represent a significant proportion of TiVo gross adds, well over half, and as such, we’re in constant conversation with them in respect to what the roadmap looks like. The roadmap does look like moving initially the UI to the cloud. The user interface to the cloud and then as we move into the world of DOCSIS 3.1 and further on, we’ll see – we’ll be moving the whole set-top box to the cloud in respect to storage and that will evolve, I’m quite comfortable that the pace in which we’re looking at that is consistent with our peers, if not ahead. Again, it’s why we chose the partner we chose.
The future home for your TiVo recordings?
This would be a huge upgrade for Virgin and TiVo. For instance, the age-old Virgin TV issue of an non-Dynamic EPG would be solved with a cloud-based EPG, which could be updated near-instantly when required remotely. User interface updates (and who knows, maybe even a complete HD interface!) would be far easier to implement.

Hopefully, Virgin and TiVo are thinking beyond a Cloud-based EPG - for instance, your Series Links and Wishlists could be saved into the Cloud, ready to reinstall on a replacement TiVo in case the old one develops a fault.

As for storage, that hints of a Cloud/Networked based PVR system, where every programme on every channel (or the vast majority of them) would be recorded at the national/local headend, ready for you to playback. If we briefly walk around the potential minefield called 'content rights', then one possible advantage of such a system would be infinite recording capacity, which would either replace or supplement the hard drive capacity within your existing TiVo.

Other advantages could include the ability to stream your recordings to any compatible device (without additional transcoding hardware such as the TiVo Stream), and other fancy tricks like the 'live restart' feature currently in use on BBC iPlayer. There's been talk of Apple jumping onto the Cloud-PVR bandwagon and several European Pay-TV platforms have already made that jump. Looks like Virgin Media are looking to join them with TiVo's help.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

First video plus more reviews for Virgin Media's TV Anywhere App for TiVo

DaBoz over at Cable Forums was one of the beta testers for the forthcoming (and much delayed) iPad TiVo App, which has been shaped into the Virgin TV Anywhere service. DaBoz has uploaded a video of the app in use at YouTube.

Elsewhere, Gadget Helpline have reviewed the service and the app:

TiVo users will benefit from being able to manage their set top box from the site, adding recordings and managing existing recordings with a few clicks. We can see this being very useful indeed, and can see ourselves logging on quickly while at work to tee up a few recordings for the evening! On demand content can be accessed with ease, with links to the likes of iPlayer coming from the guide.
Virgin TV Anywhere launches later this year for iOS, PC and Mac, with the service being free to all Virgin TV subscribers. An Android version of the app will also be coming along next year, and when we pushed about other platforms we were told that other platforms were being considered for the future.

And so have BoxOfficeBuz.Com:
The best thing about the switch from the TiVo menu to the app is the fact that the menu’s are practically the same, if I were to be picky I’d say that the app menu looked a whole lot better than the actual TiVo menu which didn’t appear to hold as much information or perhaps there was more dead space due to the screen size.

Monday, 8 October 2012 reviews Virgin Media's TV Anywhere/TiVo App has a comprehensive look at Virgin Media's TV Anywhere service:
Once you are tapped into the TiVo box through the application you can manage recordings, wishlists, series links and browse the EPG to world’s end. You can browse latest entertainment news, watch thousands of hours of ‘on demand’ and obviously the huge amounts of live television.

Overall this service is a must-have and will make fighting over the remote control at home a thing of the past. (This is because you will now fight over the iPad!)
The full article also includes a lengthy FAQ list with Virgin Media. Along the nuggets of info revealed is that streaming for all content will be available over both WiFi and mobile broadband.

Check out the full article at

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Thanks for the reminders, Virgin Media - but why the record for TiVo?

Well, the 15.3 software update has been out for a while now. Among the improvements are the arrival of reminders for fans of Live TV events. Or rather, 'Record & Remind' as its known on TiVo. Some of you may be wondering why TiVo can't remind you without recording. Well, its partly to do with the way TiVo's tuners work.

On the legacy V+ HD, there were 3 tuners available. But only 2 of them could be used for recordings. The remaining free tuner was always dedicated to showing whatever live TV or VOD content you were currently watching. Hence, when a reminder was activated, it could use always use the 'live tuner' in order to switch over to the programme you wanted to be reminded about. As such, reminders would never conflict with scheduled recordings.

Compare that to TiVo. Like the V+ HD, TiVo has 3 tuners. Unlike V+ HD, all 3 tuners are available for recordings. While this offers more recording flexibility, it also means that in order for a TiVo reminder to work, it effectively has to grab a tuner for the entire duration of the 'reminded' programme, in order to prevent it from being grabbed by a scheduled or suggested recording.

Now, you could ask "why not reserve a tuner for the reminded programme without actually recording that content?" My response would be a question: "yeah....why not?", followed by a questioning look at TiVo.

I'm guessing that the resulting rewrite and re-testing of TiVo's recording logic wouldn't be worth the hassle (or the resulting wait for the result to be deployed to Virgin's TiVo  customers), especially compared to the minor inconvenience of having the reminded programme appearing in the My Shows list. Bear in mind that this 'reminded' programme would be deleted anyway if and when lack of recording capacity became an issue.

Virgin would say that having the reminded programme recorded for you is convenient in case you're unexpectedly away from home when the live, super-duper TV Event blockbuster you wanted to be reminded about is on. Readers of this blog know that I don't always agree with Virgin (the recording defaults feature in 15.3 comes to mind), but in this case, its hard to argue with their logic.

Early reviews for Virgin Media's TV Anywhere service and TiVo app

The first reviews for Virgin's TV Anywhere service are starting to appear online, after a selected number of customers were invited to view the beta version of the service.

From Binary Moon:
When you're at home you will also be able to use the iPhone/ iPad apps as remote controls (no more losing the remote down the sofa!). The iPad remote in particular has been redesigned so that it's a lot nicer to use (including gestures and scrubber bars for adjusting your playback position). Due to the size of the iPhone screen the iPhone remote is essentially a photo of the Virgin Tivo peanut remote so not so nice - but still good as a spare.

From TQS Magazine:
Stream available channels (about 30 remotely, and 60 in the home on launch) wherever you are. Kind of like TV Catch Up, but better. If you’re in the house, your streaming won’t affect what’s on the TV either. You can stream a film in your room while your family/flatmates watch X Factor in the living room. Lovely....Ok, it’s really good. As well as turning your iPad into the world’s most expensive (and coolest) remote, Virgin TV Anywhere let’s you manage, explore and discover TV the way it should be – easily.

From BitchBuzz:
My only complaint about Virgin TV Anywhere is that you can’t watch shows or films you’ve recorded to your TiVo box, which seems like an obvious want from most customers. I’m told this will eventually be something Virgin will look at introducing – but in the meantime, just being able to hack into your box from, well, anywhere is pretty exciting.

From James Anderson (via Jameseh at Cable Forum):
In my opinion, the best feature by far of the Virgin TV Anywhere iPad app is the ability to switch between watching something on your iPad and watching it on your television. If you are browsing the guide on your iPad and see a programme that you wish to watch on your widescreen television, you can just do a flick gesture and in less than a second your television programme will start playing on the TV rather than your iPad. If that's not awesome, I don't know what is!

There's still no release date for Virgin TV Anywhere, with TQS Magazine mentioning that it could be available within the next 3 to 6 weeks. The iPad version of the app will be released first, with an Android version to follow next year.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Virgin Media giveth and taketh away multi-room streaming for TiVo

Hopes were raised - briefly - when TiVo customers discovered that the long-awaited multi-room streaming feature was working for some content from Channel 5. Virgin has since confirmed that they are testing this feature for future deployment:
The blockade continues for streaming between TiVos.
We've been testing the Multi Room Streaming feature on TiVo, to do this we had to switch a few channels on for a short period of time. These channels have now been switched off so you will no longer be able to use the feature. Once we're happy it's working the way it should we'll be able to confirm a launch date. More news as and when we have it.
There's no word yet regarding if multi-room streaming on Virgin's TiVo will use the customer's own home network, or if streaming will involve Virgin's own network (via sending the stream to the nearest headend and back again). Virgin were previously investigating a method of enabling streaming within the home while excluding the use of the customer's home network.

This (and the complex nature of UK content rights) had contributed to the delay of multi-room streaming, along with the iPad app. Since Virgin are a Pay-TV operator, they have to take into consideration the content rights owned by the channels broadcasting on Virgin's network. TiVo sold in the States have no worries since their sold at retail.

A breakthrough of sorts was made with the announcement of Virgin TV Anywhere, but for now the waiting for streaming between multiple TiVos continues.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Virgin Media's TV Anywhere Service: 30 channels to stream & enhanced for TiVo

More details have been revealed from Virgin Media and various media sources regarding the forthcoming TV Anywhere service, which will allow customers to stream around 30 live TV channels and over 2000 hours of On Demand content directly to their PC or Tablet device.

Virgin TV Anywhere will use adaptive bitrate streaming technology (currently used by the likes of Netflix and Lovefilm), so the more bandwidth available on your connection, the better the stream quality. For reference, 720p HD streams via Netflix only requires 3.5Mb.

According to CNET, streaming will only be available via WiFi. Recorded content won't be available to stream, but Virgin are apparently looking into offering that option in the future.

There's no word yet on what the available channels will be, but I wouldn't expect to see any Sky channels on the service since its likely that the likes of Sky One will be exclusive to stream on Sky Go.

Customers without TiVo (and Virgin are trying their best to convert you) will also be able to use Virgin TV Anywhere's web access on their PCs to enable limited TV Recommendations.

Customers with Tivo will also have access to a Tablet app which will allow you to remote control your TiVo and change channels, fast-forward and rewind live TV via buttons or gesture control, search and discover content, manage content and set recordings.

There is no extra charge for the service and all content will be available to stream regardless of what TV package you're subscribed to.

Virgin TV Anywhere is scheduled to launch this Autumn. The app will be available for Fruit owners from the iTunes store around the same time. Owners of Android devices will have to wait until 2013. If they can't wait until then, they should check out the excellent TV Catchup app from Google Play.

There's no connection details yet for the service, but I'm betting (hoping?) that CAT-5/6 cable is involved if the remote control functionality is to be responsive enough to use. The Virgin version of the TiVo iPad app had been previously delayed due to Virgin's desire to eliminate the need for extra cables within their customer's home networks (we can handle the extra cables, Virgin, really!).

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Revealed: Virgin Media's plans to export TV Anywhere, via TiVo

Virgin's main rival for Pay-TV services - Sky - have offered their customers the ability to stream content from Sky boxes to mobile devices for a while now. Now, it looks like Virgin have plans to offer the same service to their customers, as confirmed on the Help and Support Forums and as printed in What Hi-Fi Magazine (via Cable Forum, thanks to Chad):
Virgin is taking the battle to SKY and looking to free further your TV from your living room with the launch of its TV Anywhere service. The new service will deliver live TV and video-on-demand content, and it will give you the ability to manage your set-top box in the form of a new look website and a brand-new app.

The app aims to bring the Virgin TiVo experience to your smartphone or tablet, allowing you to browse the EPG, manage your recordings and change channels without affecting the image on your TV screen. And if you can't agree on what to watch, you can stream content straight to your portable device for a multiscreen experience.

Due to launch in Autumn 2012, Virgin TV Anywhere is free and, theoretically, available to all Virgin customers. While any Virgin customer can access the new look website, the live TV and on-demand content that you can access will depend on your choice of Virgin TV package. The added extras via the website, such as setting your box to record, managing your recordings, and social aspects such as liking certain content will also be exclusive to Virgin TiVo customers.

The New Virgin TV Anywhere app will also be for Virgin TiVo customers only, bringing the sort of functionality familiar to SKY customers with the SKY Go app to Virgin TiVo users. The TV Anywhere app will launch on iPod touch, iPhone and iPad in Autumn 2012, though an Android app is in the pipeline for 2013. You'll need a wi-fi connection to watch content, though a 3G offering is on the wish list.

Also on the to-do list is the ability to watch your own personal recordings stored on your TiVo box on your tablet or smartphone. Clever.

It's a big push for Virgin in to the mobile TV domain, and the company is bullish about the advantages of its own service when compared with SKY's. Virgin has been doubling its customers' broadband speeds. Fibre optic network speeds of up to 100Mb help ensure stable streaming to other devices in your home, while the TiVo box has its own dedicated 10Mb connection for streaming content, ensuring it won't throttle speeds elsewhere. Exciting times for TV, then - and wherever you want to watch.

Sounds good, if a bit late - to say that the iPad app has been delayed is an understatement, in part due to Virgin believing that their customers don't want another cable (CAT-5) near the TV, or TiVo for that matter. There's also no mention of the long-awaited multiroom streaming facility between TiVos.

I suspect that Virgin Media's TV Anywhere (can we call it VMTA for short?) may require a Virgin version of the TiVo Stream Transcoder, first shown at the CES show. TiVo Stream converts live, recorded or On-Demand video (all in MPEG 2 currently for Virgin) into video formats suitable for mobile devices (MPEG 4 and potentially Flash, before that's killed off by HTML 5)

There's also the matter of streaming rights - will for example, Sky's TV channels be available to stream on VMTA? Or will streaming for channels like Sky One be exclusive for Sky Go customers?

Friday, 10 August 2012

Full rollout for Software Release 15.3 coming soon for Virgin Media's TiVo

Well worth the delay for 15.3
With the end of the Olympics (and Team GB's superb performance in London 2012) coming to an end, its almost time for Virgin to unleash the latest software update (Version 15.3) for TiVo:

We’re updating your TiVo box to enable some great new features

Your update will happen in the early hours one morning between 13th and 24th August. That’s the time we know you're least likely to be watching TV or recording shows, so we hope it won’t interrupt anything. We’ll let you know back here on 27th August to confirm we’ve updated your TiVo box.
Make sure your TiVo box is either turned on or in standby mode overnight during this time, since the update won't start until your box is next switched on. Instead of switching your TiVo box off at the mains every night, it’s best to just put it in standby. That way, any updates (including smaller ones we might not write to you about) can happen while you’re doing other things.

Most importantly, the update will take on average 30 minutes and you won’t be able to watch TV or use the box at all during this time.

If the update is interrupted by someone switching the TiVo box off, there is a small risk you could lose all your saved settings and recorded shows. So, it’s really, really important that you leave your box on and make sure everyone at home knows not to use it during that time.

Also, if you have any recordings planned for that particular time they won’t record.
But what extra features are in the update? Well:
  • Record and Reminders - Reminders, where even if you do miss the reminder pop-up, you still won't miss your show as TiVo will still record it for you. 
  • General stability updates for TiVo and interactive services
  • HDMI connection reliability improvements – Some of you who've seen this issue should see a reduction in the number of invalid HDMI error messages.
  • Global settings – You can now set default recording options for new single recordings, Series Links, and WishLists
  • Streamlined Video On Demand Search – You can now find and play your favourite video on demand shows in a flash
15.3 has been piloted in several areas for a while now, with the full rollout delayed until after London 2012.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

25% of Virgin Media's TV customers have TiVo; iPad app coming in late 2012?

Virgin Media's 2nd quarter results for 2012 are in, and the TiVo invasion of the Digital Cable TV network continues with 938,800 customers getting TiVoed - that figure is due to reach 1 million this week. 25% of Virgin's TV customer base now has Virgin's next-gen PVR. Despite the fact that the monthly TiVo fee (now included in the Collections packages) increased from £3 to £5 per month, the take-up for TiVo increased compared to the previous quarter.

But what about the impending threat from YouView? Virgin Media CEO Neil A. Berkett doesn't seem to concerned about that:

TiVo is a significantly superior product to the impending YouView. It has far greater intelligence search, recommendation, and discovery tools, which means that our customers wherein combined with a far greater array of content whether that be free, over the top, or pay will have a significantly superior product and well-priced and well positioned as part of our essentials 25 pound bundle.

TiVo braces over the top applications and clearly these are distributed by a dedicated IP pipe. Separate from the dedicated IP pipe or spectrum such as video on demand, separate from the broadcast taking advantage of our connectivity advantage.

And the iPad app? Where the heck is it?
We have an exciting product roadmap ahead of us with the next step being the launch of iPad companion app with live streaming in the fourth quarter....that will ultimately move to a full application across multiple devices.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Pilot software Version 15.3 rollouts for Virgin Media's TiVo: Reminders & Global Padding coming soon

All settled down after all the excitement of 15.2? Well, the pilot software release for 15.3 (or 15.3.RC4-VMC-2-C00 to be precise) has started according to a post at Virgin's Help and Support Forums:
We've just started piloting the next update to the TiVo software to selected users in the Preston, Ashford, Andover, Stoke, Colchester and Crawley areas. You don't need to do anything to receive the new software, it should download automatically overnight over the next two days if you're part of the pilot. We're hoping to push it out to everyone after the Olympics if the pilot is successful, we'll make an announcement when we've got more news on that.

What's changed in the new software:

Record and Reminders - Reminders, where even if you do miss the reminder pop-up, you still won't miss your show as TiVo will still record it for you.

General stability updates for TiVo and interactive services

HDMI connection reliability improvements – Some of you who've seen this issue should see a reduction in the number of invalid HDMI error messages.

You can check if you're on the pilot by going to Help & Settings > System Info > System Info, the software version will read 15.3 if you're on the pilot.

That's right - reminders, an often requested feature - are indeed coming to Virgin's TiVo. Here's a screenshot (thanks to nicko at Cable Forums):

At first, I thought it odd that a TiVo Reminder would remind you and record - that potentially creates a little extra work since you'll have to remove the 'reminded' programme from your My Shows list. However, this approach does have the advantage of recording the programme for you if indeed you're unexpectedly out when the reminded big game or (shudder) X-Factor Final is on. In effect, a TiVo reminder is an Announced Recording.

15.3 will also bring another requested feature - user-defined global padding for all recordings, as well as reducing the army of screens one must fight through to play VOD content.

The pilot is expected to last 5 weeks, with a full rollout not expected until after London 2012 in order to minimise disruption to the TV services during the Games.

Friday, 8 June 2012

App arrivals & updates for Sports & Music on Virgin Media's TiVo

Among the latest app arrivals for TiVo is a new Music Search app which will - not surprisingly - let you search for music from Virgin's vast VOD Music library. Its available from Red Button on Channel 300, or via drilling into the Apps and Games menu. It will also be available from the Catch-Up/On Demand Music menu from 12th June.

In an ideal world, this search would be available from the main TiVo search, but, this app will do nicely.

Already available (and very recently rolled out for Virgin's TiVo) is an update for the BBC Sports app, with new options for Euro 2012 and (soon) Wimbledon, HD video when available, autoplay of videos and more live and on-demand coverage. Unfortunately, the app also had some issues with video playback for the opening game of Euro 2012 which both Virgin and the BBC are looking into.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Virgin Media 2012 1st Quarter Results: 677,000 TiVo subscriptions, 18% of Virgin's TV Customer base

The 1st quarter results of 2012 are in for Virgin Media, and the TiVoizlation of the Digital Cable Network continues, with 677,000 subscriptions to TiVo, up by 242,000 from the previous quarter. 18% of Virgin's TV customer base now has TiVo, and that number will only increase thanks to  the new Collections packs which all feature TiVo.

Not surprisingly, Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett was pleased with the results, and the impact TiVo has had on them:
Virgin Media TiVo is driving more consumption of PayTV programming. TiVo customers are 23% more likely to watch a PayTV suggestion than a free TV suggestion. Suggesting that TiVo is unlocking content discovery.

The other great thing about Virgin Media TiVo is it’s dedicated, over-the-top connection, allowing our customers access to content and applications outside of our TV world garden. Unlike in a DSL garden, the bandwidth this connection uses will not impede the bandwidth other devices are using at the same time.

Virgin Media TiVo is a superior differentiated product and our customers are loving the features. The key customer satisfaction ratings, which we measure through promoter score, or MPS, are 24% higher than the non-TiVo customers. That’s our critical mass. This is why we’re offering TiVo as standard in our new collections. It’s the future of TV being delivered now and we will continue to improve and enhance service.

....TiVo continues to sell very strongly. We had 242,000 net adds in the quarter. This is despite a price increase from £3 to £5 at the end of February. Remember, we’ve only been advertising this service for three quarters now and we have already penetrated 18% of our entire TV base. Over 40% of TiVo gross adds in the quarter were new to Virgin Media TV.

New YouTube app is all about you on Virgin Media's TiVo

There's been a lot of new apps appearing on the Virgin Media TiVo platform recently. Most of these have been promotional apps for mobile phones and certain TV channels/content (sorry, no Lovefilm or Netflix yet). But one of the new apps (or rather, an update of an existing one) has been for YouTube.

The new app is much improved over the old versions and finally allows you to login to your YouTube account (which is far easier than you'll expect) and view your subscriptions and playlists, subject of course, to content restrictions.

There's room for improvement here. For instance, you can't watch content which you'll flagged as 'watch later', and the subscriptions content is all in one list, and isn't divided into a folder per channel. Still, this is a massive improvement on previous versions of the app, and from my (very limited) testing, the video quality is at least on a par with the Xbox 360 version of the app.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

BBC Red Button finally arrives on Virgin Media's TiVo

From the Help and Support Forums:

We're very happy to announce that BBC Red Button is now available to Virgin Media TiVo customers. The features available include video news, full length text articles from the BBC News website and coverage of F1 season that is always up to date and available whenever you want to watch. Later this year the BBC Sport Red button services will be extended to cover other major events e.g. Euro 2012, Wimbledon and Olympics.

If you’re watching any BBC channel, just press the red button on your TiVo remote. Then arrow up or down to choose iPlayer or the News or Sports app, then select OK. Or you can select the BBC News or Sports app from the ‘Apps & Games’ section of your TiVo menu.

The new service is being rolled out to everyone over the next 24 hours, so don't worry if you can't see it yet.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Revealed: Virgin Media's Collections (with TiVo)

As previously posted, the Virgin Media website was reported to be updated with information about the Collections -  well, looks like they've jumped the gun, because the site has been updated with that information already.

Virgin Media make TiVo the heart of their Collection bundles

Virgin's relentless push to invade the UK with TiVos (the parts populated by the cable network at least) continues with the arrival of The Collections - the revamping of Virgin's triple-play bundles which feature TiVo as standard. The bundles section of Virgin's website is due to be updated tomorrow, but for now, the media centre site has more details.

Note that all prices:
  • Don't include the cost of a Virgin Phone line, currently £13.90 per month 
  • Assume that you're going to pay by Direct Direct and receive bills by ebilling
The Collection bundles are available for both new and existing customers.

Essential Collection:
  • 500Gb TiVo
  • M+ TV Pack (75 channels including 6 HD Channels)
  • 30Mb broadband
  • Talk Weekend Phone service
  • £25 per month

Premiere Collection:
  • 500Gb TiVo
  • V HD box
  • XL TV Pack (175 channels including 23 HD channels)
  • 60Mb broadband
  • Talk Weekend Phone service
  • Spotify for 3 months
  • Access to ESPN/ESPN HD
  • £45 per month

VIP Collection:
  • 1TB TiVo 
  • V HD box
  • XL TV Pack (175 channels including 23 HD channels)
  • 100Mb broadband (later increased to 120Mb)
  • Talk Unlimited Phone service
  • Talk Mobile
  • Talk International
  • Talk 08
  • Plus Sky Sports and Sky Movies channels
  • Plus Sky Premium HD channels
  • £90 per month

Monday, 12 March 2012

Virgin looking to embrace Over-The-Top services like Lovefilm & Netflix for TiVo

Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett talks to Digital TV Europe via a video about Virgin's plans for the future, which includes embracing Over-The-Top (OTT) services like Lovefilm and Netflix onto TiVo.

iPad App delay for Virgin Media's TiVo down to network connectivity conundrum?

The plot thickens regarding the much delayed iPad app for Virgin Media's TiVo. PaidContent:UK now reports that the app is ready and has been submitted and approved by Apple.

So....where the frack heck is it then?

Well, TiVo doesn't have Wi-Fi built-in, and Virgin aren't a fan of customers having to wire-up their home network to TiVo, and as such are looking for a better way of connecting mobile control device (like the iPad and other tablets) to TiVo, instead of customers downloading the app and then realising that their router is nowhere near their TiVo:
And that poses a big challenge to operators - how can Virgin Media launch its fancy new app experience when it knows it will instantly disappoint thousands of consumers who can’t use it? And how does the company manage requests from customers who want its engineers to relocate their WiFi router or run extra cabling?
Virgin's Nick Ontiveros (TV Strategy, Digital Entertainment) recently explained on the Help and Support Forums that Virgin are looking for a better way to connect TiVos to other devices while talking about the delayed arrival of multi-room streaming (here and here):
....people hate wires, we've found, and not a lot of people have their TiVo right next door to their router. It's not going to help our customers win any interior design awards if we've got CAT 5 running through the home. We're testing through a better way to do it, so when we bring it to market it will be a finished product that everyone can use if they want it.
....With regards to wiring in the home, a lot of people just expect it to work over wi-fi, like AirPlay, or any other type of streaming video. I personally think that wiring people's homes is a really bad idea. It's not forward thinking at all, and the amount it will cost us in expensive CAT 5 will be for a solution that has a 2 year shelf life. The next standard of wi-fi (802.11ac) supports speeds of 500Mbps - it's just the way the market is moving.

I agree that wiring will provide the best experience today, and certainly our solution will be adaptive to respect the customer's wants and take advantage of existing infrastructure, but we want to release a solution that is clean, customer friendly, and flexible. We also have to look beyond box-to-BOX streaming, and onto box-to-device streaming as well. We won't be able to do that with an all wired solution.
So, what options are open to Virgin? Well, there's Homeplugs which I'm a big fan of, and which the likes of BT Vision use in order to allow their customers to watch VOD content when necessary. Then there are Wi-Fi adapters which are available for the stateside TiVo Premiere. In theory, a Wireless N adapter should have enough bandwidth to stream MPEG 2 HD, let alone allow an iPad and a TiVo to chat to each other.

As Nick Ontiveros states, there's 802.11ac, but as a wireless standard its not expected to become standardized until later this year and would require new routers for Virgin's customers.

Meanwhile, the waiting continues. Personally I'd just allow Homeplug owners the option to use them, and the app, while developing an alternative solution. But then I don't run Virgin Media and that's probably a good thing.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

iPad app for Virgin Media's TiVo now due in....September??!!?

September. This year. Hopefully.
Another day. Another statement from Virgin regarding the mythical port of the existing iPad app for TiVo. This app was first mentioned way back in December 2010. PaidContent:UK has a pretty good analysis of the timeline for this app's continuing 'development', suffice to say that the new date for deployment is September. That's this year. Hopefully.

Virgin, what is taking so long to deliver apps for your TiVo? Come to think of it, where's the Android app?

PaidContent:UK sums it up nicely:
The Zeebox startup managed to build an iPad TV EPG with built-in social features, contextual show pages and click-to-buy in a matter of months, earning it a partnership that effectively makes it the supplier for such technology to Virgin rival BSkyB.

One more feature Zeebox users enjoy - an integrated TV controller that works with… you guessed it… Virgin Media’s TiVo….

In other words, Sky has beaten Virgin to releasing an iPad app for Virgin.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Red Button fun for Virgin Media's TiVo; Sky Sports; Football First; F1; BBC

From Virgin's Help and Support Forums:

Great news! The wait is nearly over for our TiVo customers who’ve been waiting for Premier League Red Button coverage.
What are we launching?
Starting with Background Events so that our Sky Sports customers on TiVo can follow over-running, clashing and extra live Sports that won’t fit on Sky Sports 1-4. And then shortly followed by Football First for extended highlights of every Premier League match played on the day.
When are we launching?
MBE (Multiple Background Events) will launch on March 2nd and Football First on March 3rd. After that we’ll be launching Formula 1, Tennis will be coming later in the summer and both Champions League and Heineken Cup will be there for the start of the next season.

Please note: events are subject to change without notice
What channels will Sky Sports interactive be available on?
The interactive Red Button application will be available, for TiVo customers on the following Sky Sports Channels.              
Sky Sports 1  511 & Sky Sports 1HD 517                                              
Sky Sports 2  512 & Sky Sports 2 HD 518               
Sky Sports 3  513              
Sky Sports 4  514             
Sky Sports F1 (when it launches)

I don’t subscribe to Sky Sports, how can I do this to take advantage of the Red Button services that will be available on selected events?
All you need to do is arrange an upgrade to Sky Sports, the Red Button service (available on selected events only) will be available at no extra charge.

When will BBC red button interactive services launch?
More good news! We’ve been working with the BBC to launch Red Button services on TiVo and we’re hoping to start the roll out in April. This service will launch a menu over BBC channels.

We’ll be communicating further interactive service launches as and when they happen - so watch this space!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The (potential) road ahead for Virgin Media's TiVo?

There's a great article over at Gizmo Lovers, looking at the Road ahead for TiVo. This includes:
  • The release of the streaming transcoder box, which was previously a prototype. Given the current lack of multi-room streaming action for Virgin's TiVo, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for this to become available from Virgin, but we can dream, right?
  • The release of a IP-only streaming box, capable of receiving streamed content from other TiVo boxes as well as Over-The-Top content from the likes of Netflix and Amazon.
  • A complete rewrite for the Netflix app, which uses the Adobe Air-based SDK
  • The introduction of YouTube's leanlack UI for TiVo.

Now on Virgin Media's TiVo: Sky Anytime HD content & Sky Sports Red Buttton

Reminders, Sky Sports Anytime HD & Sky Sports Red Button!
After the announcement of price rises for both the XL TV pack and the TiVo Monthly fee (for new customers only from April), we're due some good news from Virgin. First we had the confirmation that reminders are on the way, and now:
  • HD content for Sky Anytime has arrived on the Virgin platform for TiVo - and TiVo only. That's because the Sky Anytime HD content is encoded in MPEG 4, the audio-visual codec which is used by every other UK Digital TV platform for HD content. MPEG 4 can deliver comparable if not superior HD picture quality compared to MPEG 2, while using less bandwidth.

    All TiVo boxes can play back content MPEG 4 content, but not all V+ HD boxes can (the Samsung boxes can, the Scientific Atlanta boxes can't). Eventually, as previously posted, Virgin will switch all of the HD content for the linear TV channels from MPEG 2 to MPEG 4, freeing up precious bandwidth for more channels and perhaps even faster broadband. Don't expect this to happen until the vast majority of Virgin's 3.7 million TV customers have MPEG 4 capable boxes in their homes.
  • The red button service for Sky Sports appears to be live for TiVo. Along with the lack of reminders, the lack of red button for Sky Sports was viewed as a glaring omission in TiVo's feature set, especially when compared to the legacy V+ HD boxes, so its arrival on TiVo is welcome news for Sports fans.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Confirmed! Reminders are coming to Virgin Media's TiVo!

72% of you wanted them.

Now, they really are coming soon - from the Help and Support Forums:
Hi, we will be introducing reminders functionality to TiVo in our next phase code release. Will be able to provide more detail soon

....Will say more when I can, but thought that as it's now "confirmed", I would share the news on reminders as I'm sure many will be pleased.

Nick Ontiveros
TV Strategy, Digital Entertainment 

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Lockdown for Virgin Media's TiVo; Multiscreen rights; CAT 5-less streaming?

The streaming blockade continues for Virgin's Media's
implementation of TiVo
Compared to the TiVo Premiere, Virgin Media's implementation of TiVo is, shall we say, locked-down by comparison.

Premiere owners can remove channels from the EPG (and filter Wishlists in the process), enjoy multi-room streaming, transfer recorded content to their personal computers and have a wide selection of Over-The-Top content to watch from the likes of Amazon and Netflix. Virgin TiVo owners.....can't do any of that, but we do have The Walking Dead app so that's OK then.

One of the main reasons (if not THE main reason) for the lockdown of Virgin's TiVo is due to Virgin being a carrier of content - as such, they require content carriage rights and good relationships with content providers like Sky. TiVo don't have to worry about these issues for the Premiere which is sold at retail in the States, as Virgin's Nick Ontiveros (TV Strategy, Digital Entertainment) explained on the Help & Support Forums regarding the lack of multi-room streaming functionality:
It's not a question of the functionality on the software, it's the product solution and the rights - which isn't a license disagreement, it's a negotiation full stop.

For some CPs, these rights haven't existed before, and for others, they've learned their lessons after what happened with Cablevision and Comcast in the US last year. TiVo in the US gets to completely skirt the whole rights issue altogether because they are an add-on product and have no relationship with the content and carriage.

Multiscreen and particularly "multiroom" rights are evolving, and for a lot of our content providers this is new territory. We are hard at work to make big strides in the Entertainment Anywhere space, so it all falls under the same negotiating umbrella.
Also, Virgin hate the idea of their customers have to use network cables hooked up to their TiVo for multi-room streaming, and they're testing a better way to achieve that goal:
And the product - people hate wires, we've found, and not a lot of people have their TiVo right next door to their router. It's not going to help our customers win any interior design awards if we've got CAT 5 running through the home. We're testing through a better way to do it, so when we bring it to market it will be a finished product that everyone can use if they want it.
Personally I think Homeplugs are a great alternative to running CAT 5 cables through the home, but Virgin appear to have other ideas and it will be interesting to see what (if anything) they come up with.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

City analysts quiz Virgin Media over lack of apps and iPad app for TiVo

Where is it then?!?!
Regular readers of this blog will know I've been disappointed with the glacier-paced rollout of decent apps for TiVo, which is looking increasing weak in this area compared to other home entertainment devices like Game Consoles, Smart TVs and Media Players - a point raised by City analysts during a meeting with Virgin following the release of the Q4 2011 results. Broadband TV News & PaidContent:UK reports that Virgin's COO, Andrew Barron, said that:
It’s the easiest thing in the world, because it runs in Flash to publish all sorts of stuff to it, but that’s not consistent with the TiVo environment, we want the Twitters and the Facebooks and the iPlayers
Okkkayyyy, I hate to nitpick, but a Facebook app was described as 'Coming Soon' within Virgin's own YouTube video (uploaded in June last year) to promote forthcoming TiVo apps:

But what about the delays for the iPad app? The one which was part of the reported features of the 15.2 software update? The one which some cunning customers have had kinda working now for quite a while?
We’ve got it, it works. Ninety-nine percent of companies would have rolled it by now - it’s stable, impressive - but we haven’t…We wanted to make sure early adopter enthusiasts will love it - but that, when it hits, it goes. mass-market quite quickly and is not viewed as some flaky application for enthusiasts but is polished and doesn’t generate calls to support. It shows you our philosophy - we’re a mass-market company.
There is a fundamental difference between what we’re trying to do with TiVo and what a lot of other people around the industry are doing. We are an open platform, we carry Spotify, we were iPlayer’s founder and largest distributor, we’re Sky’s largest distributor for premium content
Looking ahead, CEO Neil Berkett aims to have Virgin's entire TV Customer base (currently 3.8 million) on TiVo, "In five years time we’ll retire Liberate, in five years time our customers will be exclusively on TiVo, and I’m sure we’ll then be considering the son of TiVo”.

Virgin Media deny TiVo Service fee increase after TV contract expires for existing customers

Earlier today, I was reading through the transcript of the conference call which followed the release of the latest financial results for Virgin Media, and I came across this quote from Virgin's Chief Executive, Neil Berkett:
You'll have seen that we've increased prices to existing customers by 5% in April. We've also made the move to increase the price of TiVo for all new TiVo subscribers from GBP 3 to GBP 5, which takes place immediately. And in 12 months time, as current TiVo customers roll off their first 12-month contract, they will migrate from GBP 3 to GBP 5
I can't say I was chuffed to read that, along with other customers. All of a sudden, YouView was looking more tempting as an alternative.

Virgin have now clarified this information on their Help and Support Forums:
Hi I've spoken to the TiVo team about this and they've asked me to pass on the following about this.

Whilst we reserve the right to review and change our prices to ensure we are able to continue to deliver leading products and services, we can confirm that customers that already have TiVo, or take TiVo before 28th February, will stay at £3 per month per box, and will not see an increase at the end of their 12m contract; only customers adding a new TiVo box from 28th February will pay £5 per month per box.We're sorry for any confusion.
Customers like myself you got TiVoed for £3 per month per customer account should also not see any increase in the TiVo Service fee when their contracts expire (thanks to Digital Fanatic at Cable Forum).

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Virgin Media's TiVo: Hunting (again) for video-streaming apps; Lovefilm; Netflix

Screenshot of old Netflix app for stateside TiVo Premiere

A whiff of hope for Virgin Media customers hoping for a TiVo Netflix app was offered today, with Chief Executive Officer Neil Berkett stating that he wishes to add video streaming apps/services to Virgin's PVR such as Lovefilm and Netflix. However, its “early days” for any talks and Bloomberg reports that no announcements are imminent.

Berkett said that Virgin "want TiVo to be completely open, we’re talking to everyone." It should be noted that Virgin Media’s director of digital entertainment Cindy Rose said the same thing back in December 2010 when discussing content providers being apped-up for TiVo:
We’re talking to everybody...We’re very open to all of them. It’s just a question of doing the right deal, making sure our customers actually want it - power to the people; we’re a Virgin company ...If Lovefilm came along and said ‘we’ve got something that adds to this’, we’d be the first ones to embrace them - we’re not precious about that.
It also should be noted that Light Reading Cable doesn't fancy Virgin's chances of ever getting the likes of Netflix onto TiVo:
When it comes to combining TiVo and Netflix, it may be a case of wishful thinking for Virgin. In the U.S., Netflix's contracts with content providers prevent TiVo from adding the streaming service on boxes distributed by cable MSOs such as RCN Corp. , Suddenlink Communications and Charter Communications Inc.
So, while video streaming apps for Virgin Media's TiVo would be most welcome, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for them to appear. Besides, breathing is good for you.

Virgin Media's 4th Quarter Results for 2011: 435,000 TiVo Customers

The invasion continues
Virgin Media's 4th Quarter Results for 2011 are in, and they are decent results too, with the cable company finally making a profit. As for TiVo, another 273,000 customers added the PVR to their package, which means that in total, 435,000 customers (12% of Virgin's TV Customer base) have obtained TiVo (not that they've had any choice since late September's 'retirement' of the legacy V+ HD PVR).

The PDF document is an interesting read, revealing that:
  • There's been a 19% increase in proportion of Sky customers taking Virgin TV
  • 40% of those said they wanted TiVo
  • Over half of TiVo customers recommend to friends/family
  • TiVo customers rate product 19% higher than comparable TV customers (NPS survey)
  • Attracting Sky switchers – 55% of TiVo new adds were from Sky
  • Search function valued – 1m searches in November
  • 2.4m app sessions in November, at 21 minutes a time
  • Longer term users prefer “My Shows” to the TV guide
  • Unlocks and enables a strong desire to personalise the TV experience
  • 8m “Thumbs Up/Down” rating content in November 
  • A TiVo box costs Virgin Media around £100. 
  • 66% of TiVo customers are on Virgin's XL TV package.
Meanwhile, TiVo also played a key role in pushing Virgin over the 1 billion mark for VOD Views in 2011. 

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Monthly fee increase for Virgin Media TiVos ordered from end of February

Virgin Media Customer? Still haven't got TiVoed? Then you better get a move on because the prices for many of Virgin's services will increase from the start of April.

According to Virgin's web site, the M pack is going up to £7. The L pack increases to £19.50, while the XL pack increases to £26.50.

But what about the monthly TiVo charge? Well, for TiVos already ordered that will remain at an additional £3 per month. But from the end of February, any TiVo boxes ordered by new or existing customers will cost an additional £5 per month.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

More on the latest software update for Virgin Media's TiVo

Scarlett Johansson was not happy to learn that the latest software
update to TiVo disables network access for 3rd Party-Apps
Deployment of the latest software update for Virgin Media's TiVo is underway, both my 1TB and 500Gb boxes were updated overnight to Version 15.2.01-2-C00. Virgin have revealed some more details about the update on their Help & Support Forums, which is host to plenty of unhappy feedback regarding the removal of network access for 3rd-Party Apps:

As a number of you have noticed, we’re currently piloting our final bug fixing patch to our 15.2 software.

This software includes a number of changes, including improvements to YouTube performance, gearing up for the launch of new red button services and stability improvements.

One change that has raised some questions from some of our pilot users is a change to the way in which TiVo communicates with companion applications.

We built the TiVo service with two sets of APIs for integrating with other devices, one for our use and one for use by third party applications.
Without being able to go into extensive detail, due to the unique way we have integrated TiVo, there are capabilities of the VM API that could, if misused, affect the stability and security of our TiVo service. In order to keep our system secure, we have disabled the use of some of the APIs to eliminate this risk.

We realise this means that anyone using certain non-Virgin Media companion apps will no longer be able do so, however as you will be aware we are working on our own official companion apps for TiVo. We’re spending a lot of time right now making sure these will give customers a fantastic experience and hope to have more news about them soon.

We appreciate that this might not be what some of you wanted to hear but we’d rather be upfront about the need to disable this feature for the time being.
The waiting continues for Virgin to release those official apps, for both fans of Apple and Android mobile tablets.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Small software update on the way for Virgin Media's TiVo

Remember that pilot software update I was on about? Well, it won't be a pilot for much longer, software update messages are now appearing in a TiVo Discovery Bar near you, informing you of a "small software update" which will be deployed at 3am between 31st January and 9th February for TiVo(s) left on overnight.

As previously reported (and much to the annoyance of several customers) this update was reported to disable third-party apps from communicating with your TiVo over the home network. It now appears that only apps which don't provide valid authentication to TiVo (which, sadly, includes TiVo Commander) won't work after the update.

As for the rest of the update, BenMcr at the Help & Support Forums reports that it will also resolve issues with the YouTube app (does this mean we can login to our YouTube account?), along with a fix for the 'Channel Not Authorised' issue when changing channels and/or recording.

Monday, 23 January 2012

A review of the apps on Virgin Media's TiVo

A while ago I bemoaned about the lack of movie streaming apps on Virgin Media's TiVo. Perhaps I should have covered the rest of the available apps in that previous post.

When I reviewed TiVo, I said:
Its this combo of Apps plus dedicated broadband connection which makes this PVR ooze with potential. Virgin are already talking to potential suppliers of video content, indeed, Virgin have declared that they have no fear bringing Apps for the likes of Lovefilm (who aren't shy about getting their content on as many devices as possible), Blockbuster and Spotify to TiVo. Virgin intend to have hundreds of TiVo Apps available within the next 12 months, so, watch this space and dream of the possibilities.
Indeed, Cindy Rose, Virgin Media’s director of digital entertainment, explained while talking to PaidContent:UK in December 2010 that:
We’re launching with a handful (of apps); within 12 months, we’ll have hundreds. We needed to start with the household names.

It’s just a question of doing the right deal, making sure our customers actually want it - power to the people; we’re a Virgin company. We’ve got an online forum we’re moderating to ask what they want.”

It would have to be the right deal commercially and add value. If Lovefilm came along and said ‘we’ve got something that adds to this’, we’d be the first ones to embrace them - we’re not precious about that.
I wouldn't imagine for an instant that TiVo would or should have hundreds of apps by now, 13 months later. But a quick look at the apps page for TiVo reveals just 13 apps in total. To be fair, 2 apps have been recently removed, these were promotional movie apps for Harry Potter and Twlight.

As for the rest of the apps:
  • YouTube
    The new version of this app fixed the issue of playlists and subscriptions not being recognised when you logged in. How? By removing that feature altogether, much to the disappointment of customers.
  • eBay
    I mentioned in my review that you couldn't login to your eBay account to place bids. The situation hasn't changed since then which continues to make this app next to useless.
  • BBC iPlayer
    Probably the best app on the platform at the moment, but its had its network issues. Plus, I have to say that the quality of streaming on the TiVo iPlayer app is inferior to the quality provided by the same app built into my Samsung TV.
  • VM Shorts
    One of many promotional apps seen on the platform. Speaking of which...
  • Sky Movies
  • Sky Sports
    Same again.
  • CNBC
    Great. If you have stocks and shares.
  • Twitter
    Would be so much better if it could be used with live TV, so that you could truly interact with live TV events such as sending feedback on the latest candidate who has just been fired on The Apprentice.
  • Weather, Celebrity and Photo Gallery apps.
    Unchanged, to be fair they did the job already.
  • Spotify
    New to the TiVO platform, can't really say much about this because it requires a subscription.
  • Millionaire
    Addictive to play. Which probably explains why you now need to pay to play it.
Lets hope that the number of apps increases and soon, because TiVo is in serious danger of being left behind in this area when compared to other devices - my Samsung TV has 19 apps just for watching VOD content, while games consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3 allow you to watch streamed movies from Lovefilm and Netflix, which isn't an option Virgin's TiVo provides.

Sure, Virgin have a deal with Flimflex (who are the primary providers of VoD Movie content for Virgin), but if Virgin are so worried about stepping on Flimflex's toes, then why encourage talks with the likes of Lovefilm to get Apped-Up on TiVo?

Still, the apps should continue to come, and hopefully they won't all be promotional apps. easeltv's core framework application has already been used for apps on TiVo and that framework will also be used in future apps. Also, we have a BBC Sports app on the way.

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