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?