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Virgin Media powered by TiVo: Smarter than the average PVR

What is Virgin Media powered by TiVo?

Latest news for Virgin Media powered by TiVoVirgin Media proudly claims that its digital TV recorder can do everything Sky+HD can do, and it’s ‘smart’ to boot – but what does that mean?

Fans of Friends, The Simpsons and other American TV shows might already be familiar with TiVo’s thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons, or its equally iconic beeps. Across the Atlantic, where TiVo has been on sale since 1999, “to TiVo” has become shorthand for recording a TV show, just as “to Sky-Plus” is now a common saying over here.

Many of TiVo’s distinctive stylings have been copied by Virgin, with a makeover into Virgin’s red, white and black palette, but it’s certainly going to be an uphill challenge to get TiVo into the language over here.

Virgin Media powered by TiVo

The specs

Putting its unwieldy name aside, Virgin’s TiVo looks pretty good on paper: a 500GB or 1TB hard disc drive – enough either 50 hours of HD TV (more than 100 hours with the 1TB model). There are three TV tuners, so you can record two channels while watching one live, or recording three while you watch a recording. There’s also a dedicated 10Mbit cable modem for connecting to sites like YouTube – this is in addition to any broadband connection you might also have with Virgin.

The first difference you’ll notice with other digital TV recorders is that the programme guide goes backwards as well as forwards (and it’s got 14 days of advance listings instead of the usual seven). TiVo has catch-up TV for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, so you can watch many shows from the past seven days. It also has a dedicated BBC iPlayer app if you prefer to use the BBC’s interface.

When you try to make a recording, TiVo will offer a Season Pass to record any other appearances of the same show, and you can customise this to record every episode, or just new episodes. It will also recommend similar shows that you might like.

TiVo programme guideSmart recording

The real ‘smart’ in TiVo is when you let it pick its own recordings. By analysing your recordings, will start to pick films and shows you might also like, and you can choose to check these recommendations yourself or to let them record automatically. TiVo will never overwrite your recordings with its recommendations, so there’s nothing to lose.

The recommendations will get better over time, but there are things you can do to help. The first is to use those thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons on the unusual (and very comfortable) remote control. Any programme can have up to three votes for and against, and using them on your recordings or anything else you see in the programme guide will help to sharpen TiVo’s choices dramatically.

Virgin Media Tivo RemoteThere’s also a Wishlist: type in any actor, director, writer, film or TV show and TiVo will not only look up a biography, you can set it to automatically record their work. It will also recommend other people, films or shows you might want to look at. It’s quite easy to lose an hour drilling your way through the Wishlist set up, but you’ll be glad when there’s nothing on TV but your TiVo is packed with goodies.

The only drawback is that currently, TiVo only has one user profile, so it could end up recording for a confused personality if your entire family have set up their preferences.

Apps and on-demand

BBC iPlayer on Virgin TiVo

Virgin cable’s other strength is its on-demand video library, and TiVo has full access to thousands of hours of TV shows, film and music. Thankfully, Virgin has pay-per-view access to new Hollywood movies almost as good as Sky’s, including HD and 3D films, and most films return at a lower price when they’re released on DVD or Blu-ray. We particularly like the music playlists, which come in a variety that will suit most tastes.

TiVo also has a number of apps. We’ve mentioned BBC iPlayer and YouTube, but there’s also a Spotify app that lets you stream music, and will connect to any other Spotify accounts you have on PCs or phones. Virgin is also working on dedicated BBC Sports app and various interactive TV apps.

The downside of TiVo is that it will be too clever for some people – it’s high performance TV, and like owning a high performance car it takes some time to get the most out of it – but people we know who’ve got TiVo have developed a fierce loyalty. If you can believe it, they’re even more whingey than a Sky+ owner away from home.

In our view, the full potential of Virgin Media’s TiVo is still far from being fully exploited. We’ve been told to look out for remote control apps on phones and tablets, media streaming to and from other devices – at home and on the move – and sharing between TiVo boxes as Virgin pushes to make the 500GB TiVo its standard digital TV product.

It’s not an expensive upgrade, and if you’re in cabled area or already have Virgin for TV, then seek out a TiVo-owning friend or neighbour who can give you an audition.

Virgin TV Anywhere: Watch and control on your iPad/iPhone or web browser

Virgin Media TV Anywhere is a mix of live TV channels and on-demand films and TV, available free to all Virgin susbcribers via web browsers, or apps on smartphones and tablets.

TiVo owners can also use the exclusive iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch app to turn their device into a remote-remote control, with the complete TiVo interface available for browsing the programme guide, using the TiVo ‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down’ buttons to mark programme preferences, and managing and setting up recordings while you’re roaming. An Android app is due in 2013.

Here’s a full guide to Virgin Media TV Anywhere with the latest news and a video walkthrough.

Latest news for Virgin Media powered by TiVo

On-demand movies rebranded on a Dark Knight 

Virgin Media’s TV and online on-demand movie rental service from FilmFlex has been relaunched as Virgin Movies.

The on-demand library has more than 500 titles, and is available through all of Virgin’s set-top boxes, or online for all Virgin Media TV subscribers.

New releases are priced at £3.99 in standard definition, or £4.99 in high definition, for a 24-hour rental.

The new look was unveiled for a dozen lucky competition winners with a chilly rooftop screening of The Dark Knight Rises on a Gotham-style helipad in East London.

The original Dark Knight, Bane and Catwoman costumes will be on display in the Virgin Media store in Westfield, Stratford from December 8-9.

December 6, 2012 

Virgin Media rebrands on-demand movies as Virgin Movies with Dark Knight Rises screening

Advanced BBC Red Button update rolling out now

The BBC is rolling out an update to Red Button on Virgin Media TiVo now that’ll let you access a greater range of content from a single button press.

Now pressing the Red Button will now bring up a list of shortcuts to other BBC channels, catch-up on-demand content powered by BBC iPlayer as well as news and local weather reports.

Called the new ‘Connected Red Button’ by the BBC, the new service comes to Virgin Media TiVo customers before it’s available anywhere else. It’s rolling out now as a live update now and should be available when you next check your TiVo box.

Read our in-depth feature on the news here and check back soon for a hands-on video.

December 4, 2012

Cloud storage and recording in the pipeline

Virgin Media appears to be preparing a cloud storage service for use with its TiVo-powered set-top box.

The Virgin Media TiVo box, which already comes with a roomy 1TB hard drive, will be augmented with additional cloud storage for recorded programmes and app data, according to an interview with chief executive Neil Berkett in Broadband TV News.Virgin Media TV Anywhere iPad TiVo remote control

“It looks like moving the user interface to the cloud and then as we move in to the world of DOCSIS 3.1 [next generation cable] and further on we’ll be moving the whole set-top box to the cloud in terms of storage and that will evolve,” said Berkett.

As more and more mobile services like Google Drive, Sky Drive and iCloud allow users to store and access files in the cloud, reliance on hard internal storage becomes less of a selling point as it would have been in the past.

So we could see future TiVo boxes with smaller hard drives if we had the ability to store our recordings in a cloud locker.

A move towards the cloud ties in with Virgin Media’s plans for the TV Anytime iPad app, which will let you access programmes on the go. Later on, iPhone and Android apps will let you steam your recordings remotely from phones too.

October 26, 2012

TV Anywhere catch-up app incoming

Virgin Media is poised to launch its long-awaited iPad catch-up and remote control app for TiVo, entitled TV Anywhere.

The highlights are a mix of live streaming TV channels and on-demand films from your Virgin Media subscription through your phone, tablet or PC, with TiVo-style features and full TiVo remote control when you’re at home.

There’s so much to tell that we’ve opened a dedicated story of its own for Virgin Media TV Anywhere, where you can find pictures, details of when it will be released, and updates as they emerge.

September 7, 2012

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