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.

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