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Virgin Media: Multi-TB drives are not the future, it’s all about the cloud

Virgin Media is unlikely to upgrade its 1TB TiVo box with a bigger drive, in favour of increasing online catch-up services in the cloud.

With Seagate announcing its spacious 4TB drive, we asked Virgin Media whether or not it would be considering upgrading to a bigger disk with future iterations of the Virgin Media TiVo set-top box.

Ian Mecklenburgh, director for consumer platforms and devices for Virgin Media, told us that storage is spreading out from the drive in the home and that he expects catch-up services to eventually replace recording for most people.

Read Recombu Digital’s guide to Virgin Media TiVoHe likened recording TV in the front room to taping shows on VHS or Betamax – in the three to five years, the idea of recording programmes on a box will seem archaic, reserved only for occasions where you’ll want to keep programmes recorded for posterity.

While Mecklenburgh didn’t rule out the possibility of a future TiVo device featuring a 2TB or even a 4TB drive, he said that he ‘didn’t see the need to change from 1TB yet.’

Virgin Media has roughly 700-800 PBs (Petabytes) worth of capacity on its network, which TV subscribers will be able to make use of to access catch-up services. For context, one PB is equivalent to 1 million GB (Gigabytes) or 1,000 TB (Terabytes) or 100,000 HD movies (based on 10GB as a ballpark figure based on an MKV rip of a 1080p Full HD film).

Catch-up or recording in the cloud?

Mecklenburgh said that while a virtual PVR or a cloud-based locker, where you’d save recordings to the cloud, is technically feasible, rights remain a hurdle.

Even popular services like iPlayer and 4oD, while great, don’t provide us with a complete catch-up mirror of what’s broadcast on their respective channels. Family Guy is a good example. It’s broadcast regularly on BBC Three, but due to content rights is nowhere to be found on iPlayer.

Until these issues are ironed out we can’t see catch-up totally replacing big drives in people’s living rooms.

As for 4K Ultra HD transmissions, Mecklenburgh remained confident that advances in compression technology like HEVC will mean that 1TB drives will be able to provide ample storage space for most viewers. 

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