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.

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