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TiVo Launching In UK to Tackle Sky

Gordon Kelly


Tivo to Launch In UK & Tackle Sky

Could Virgin Media now have the muscle to seriously worry Sky?

In its third quarter fiscal results US digibox powerhouse Tivo has announced a partnership with Branson's boys that will see it enter the UK market. Little was split about the deal with Tivo simply stating:

"Today, we announced a long-term, strategic partnership with Virgin Media, one of the largest international cable operators and the UK's single largest cable system, to offer Virgin Media's nearly four million UK customers TiVo's advanced television software and user interface on both its traditional and DVR set-top boxes, including TiVo's broadband to the television capabilities."

Neil Berkett, CEO of Virgin Media, added: "Our fibre-optic network combined with Tivo's capabilities will allow us to offer consumers the most significantly advanced and compelling TV service available in the UK."

Looking for more I spoke the Virgin Media directly, though they were only able to confirm: "We're working with TiVo to develop middleware and user interface software to power our next-generation set top boxes. There will be some co-branding within the final product - details TBC - but this deal doesn't involve specific channels and is not a merger."

It may not be a merger, but it certainly is strengthening. We'll need to know more before drawing any strong conclusions, but it seems like Sky could face some serious competition in 2010.

In related news Freesat has announced beta trials of BBC iPlayer will go live on the service from 7 December. The on-demand service will work on all existing Freesat HD equipment and comes completely free. ITV Player is also in the works for a Freesat launch in the first half of 2010.

Your move Sky...

Update: Could this be a motivation for the Tivo deal: Collapsing US sales?


Tivo Q3 Press Release



November 25, 2009, 10:26 pm

This has potential...but until Murdoch relinquishes his stranglehold on decent HD content, Sky will continue to dominate. Only if this deal were to attract more customers to Virgin Media would Sky ever contemplate sharing some of its HD programming. And unfortunately it's the HD content which drives people towards Sky. All a bit chicken and egg really. I'm impressed with Virgin's attempts of late to redress the HD balance but Sky is still (by far) the best option for anyone with a high def TV - and the cash to afford their full package!


November 25, 2009, 10:41 pm

I hate VM with a passion. I sincerely hope they have something disastrous happen to them which would see a brand new management and administrative as well as service structure.

News like this only makes me more irritated to hear they're doing all the wrong things to care for their current customers.

A few brief points as to why the are so bad:

1) First subscribed with Telewest Broadband in 2004: installation went on from 6pm until midnight for broadband+telephone line and resulted in a leaking battery and damaged wiring inside a flat

2)Cancelled telephone and just stuck with broadband. VM take over and introduce poor customer service, traffic management

3) Broadband unacceptable most of the time, if it ever went down Customer Service never phones back, never solves the problem

3) Recent installation of 10Mbit broadband: two weeks passed and still not activated, customer service/tech support plays music indefinitely.

TiVO and VM? I've not tried TiVo but from what I've heard it should be quite interesting. I would do anything to get rid of the unusable and sluggish V+ HD box, but I suppose that is too much to ask.


November 25, 2009, 11:33 pm

I used to run a British PVR10UK Tivo for years, even upgrading its hard disk, adding a Tv-Link interface, a RAM cache card and an ethernet interface. It wasn't until Sky went HD that I had no option but to use Sky+HD instead - and boy was that a step down. The Tivo is so much more responsive, easier to use and more capable to boot. Only Sky's graphical EPG and dual tuners were an improvement, every other aspect of the system is inferior, and against comparisons with a 9-year-old Tivo that's inexcusable. The new EPG is an improvement, but the basic failings are still there.

I really hope this prompts Sky to get their backsides in gear and design a much better PVR. Somehow I doubt it.


November 25, 2009, 11:36 pm

This is what the competition comission killed the project kangaroo for?! Another win for the UK consumer...


November 26, 2009, 12:32 am

I think it's a bit too late. In the US, Tivo is synonomous with HD DVRs, in the UK Sky+ is. That is why V+ is called V+ and the same with Freeview+. It's "I'm Sky+ for a different service"

Sky's implementation was fantastic, even terms like "Series Link" are now part of everday jargon. I don't like NewsCorp globally much, but in the UK they have provided some fantastic innovations with Sky.


November 26, 2009, 12:57 am

Anything that gets rid of the appalling hardware and software Virgin use is a good thing.

But it will need to be cheap, unlike the rather lackluster HD effort.


November 26, 2009, 1:05 am

broadband to tv would only work if virgin media ditched their overboard internet speed throttling. hair raising speeds when i'm not at home, tortoise slow when i am. fat load of good that is...


November 26, 2009, 1:41 am

re. sluggish V+ box. Try asking VM for an upgrade. I did and received a new Samsung model. Looks sweet and responds almost as well as Sky's box. At the very least, it's miles better than than the Scientific Atlantic effort. Check out the following thread - http://www.digitalspy.co.uk...


November 26, 2009, 1:50 am

I, on the other hand, love VM.

V+ rocks, 10Mb great, customer service in India not too bad, especially if you get to speak to Fred, Jack, John, Mary or Susan, but not Linda - thick as mince she is.

BTW Saltank, which is it that really grinds your gears ?

3)Unacceptable Broadband


3)Your recent installation of 10Mbit

Ben Randall

November 26, 2009, 2:18 am

All this 'deal' says to me is Virgin might finally get a decent PVR box. Will it help them compete with Sky? - I don't think so.

Virgin already have a better platform (ie no loss of service in bad weather), better on-demand service and better broadband but manage to fail miserably on all accounts due to crap hardware, abysmal customer service, lack of content and ridiculous traffic managment. And instead of spending their money fixing these issues they spend it on sending me junk mail nearly every week when I'm not even in a cable area.

While Virgin has all the problems above and Sky have the strangle hold on content (Sport, Movies, Big US shows, HD etc etc etc) nothing major is going to change in the premuin TV market in this country.


November 26, 2009, 2:33 am


That was supposed to be 3 and 4 :)

Since I am trying to set up 10Mbit for a friend (but I'm the one responsible for the account!) it's annoying as hell to waste so much time when all they have to do is press a few buttons on their keyboard. The modem has a signal (very good one i might add) but their network isn't giving the modem an IP address.

That really grinds the gears!


November 26, 2009, 2:35 am

Am I missing something do Tivo actually commission programming I know Virgin have started to on my freeview, those channels are inferior to Sky though and that is coming from someone who thinks the current TV times across the board bar one or two programs a year are unwatchable.

I am lacking the article surmise for Sky & Mr Murdoch, why should they be worried? I would like to see actual programming hours for Sky in my experience in a 1/2 hour slot its 18mins program and 12mins Advertising and people still subscribe.


November 26, 2009, 3:27 am

along with G I also really like VM their broadband is great it's never throtled for me and I'm a pretty heavy user, V+ is also great sky only has a real strangle hold on the HD content you can get movies and sports on VM easily and the big US shows are just on channels so I dont know how sky has any hold over them.

also what on earth are you ringing VM up for enough to complain about their coustomer service I've only rung them a couple of times and I got through straight away and the people I spoke to sorted everything out quickly and competently, (infact all the 'worst' companies I have had to ring I've got along fine with them, orange, elec, ect.) you just have to be calm and concise when you talk to them it's not their fault your service is broken but they are the ones who can help you if your all worked up when you call then it's not going to get you anywhere, I'm not saying you guys are doing this but it's the main reasons people get nowhere when they call a call center,


November 26, 2009, 4:33 am

Sky are worried because:

1. Ofcom will force sky to sell their channels for a fair price to any company(within reason)

2. Other companies are starting to play hardball in negotiations as their power dwindles

3. They paid for rights not based on what they where worth as content, but on the fact that monopolising the content would force people to their platform. They can't tell ofcom that though.

4. The Virgin-Tivo alliance will be using Cisco IPTV. Virgin has a network of their own to deliver this and possibly BT/LLU to hit every home in the UK. IPTV is the future and Sky will never be able to control it.

I would also point out that Sky has not once in their whole history innovated in any way shape or form, it's all been done elsewhere and better. I would suggest the exact opposite, their domination and power has strangled innovation and only when they are forced to have they started to at least try.

Tony Walker

November 26, 2009, 7:07 am

And if you love Tivo but aren't in an area where the roads have been ruined, you're up the proverbial.

If anyone wants to send me their Series 1 UK Tivo so I have a spare then please do.

Mark Southee

November 26, 2009, 11:49 am

Who is this Murdock chap? wasn't he in the A Team? :-)


November 26, 2009, 2:54 pm

@ Alan Clinch

1. Ofcom will force sky to sell their channels for a fair price to any company(within reason)

Well they might, but since we may well end up having a Tory Gov next year and they are in the pockets of News Corp/Sky and have made noises about killing or neutering OfCom i wouldn't hold your breathe.


November 26, 2009, 4:08 pm


One of the first things I tell them (If I get through, that is), is that I don't need to be told that my computer or my router is the problem, nor that I need to power cycle it. I tell them "I can connect to the modem through my browser and it reads me all the statistics, it implies that my own connection is fine".

It must be pure luck that you're the only person, out of the rest of the people who subscribe to VM who have nothing negative to say about it.

Sure, it's 'good' when it works, but to get it to work requires those imbeciles to actually use their heads and connect A to B. I had a problem with half my channels not working on TV, I figured the signal was bad due to bad wiring, only after the third visit(and third time of having the same damn old Scientific Atlanta box replaced) did a proper engineer, who was kind enough to actually put in some effort, checked the wiring from the street cabinet all the way inside, and solved the problem.

I don't see why anyone has to suffer so much to get the same level of service out of them in the first instance.


November 26, 2009, 7:33 pm

I have Tivo and I have SKY+HD - its old now but the TIVO implementation is much better than Sky - the series link on Sky is almost amateurish compared to Tivo


November 26, 2009, 8:26 pm

virgin has as much a problem with the countless chipped cable boxes that are still selling like hotcakes in pubs and carparks across the country

ofcom are a joke and will be an even a bigger one once that passport-tourist tax haven-savings-invested israel-first rodent rupert murdochs newest lacky "dave" cameron comes into office and castrates them even further


November 26, 2009, 8:34 pm

@ frankmccaffery

Indeed, grim times ahead for the British media (especially the BBC which will feel the full brunt of Murdoch's hatred of them).


November 26, 2009, 10:58 pm

@salimnathoo: Yeah, no series link priority list - my biggest gripe, but one among many.

No automatic rescheduling and conflict resolution, no wishlists, no clever auto recording based on personal preferences... I could go on.

I think Sky are so unwilling to add any functionality to Sky+ lest they introduce any complexity and upset the technophobes. I hope Virgin shows everyone what a decent PVR can do.

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