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.

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