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Virgin Medai TiVo Box Uncovered

David Gilbert


Virgin Media TiVo Box Uncovered

If you go to the Virgin Media homepage, you will a red silk sheet seductively caressing.......the new TiVo box which is set to roll out to 'selected' customers for the festive season.

The 1TB box, enough for about 500 hours of recorded programming, has not yet been officially launched by Virgin Media and it has also not commented on the price for the box itself or the installation cost. It is believed that some selected customers will receive the box before the television-fest that is the Christmas period. Who these select customers are, we’re not sure but we know a lot of people out there will be looking forward to getting to grips with TiVo.

While the television watching public in the States has had TiVo for quite some time now, we here on this side of the pond have had to look on enviously. The move to bring TiVo was first mooted almost one year ago when TiVo announced a partnership with Virgin Media. With the way we watch TV programmes continually changing, this is one more option for people to consider.

What makes TiVo so much more special than, say Sky Plus HD? Well, it is a far more sophisticated way of recording programmes. It will actually record the programmes for you, based on what it knows about your watching habits and TiVo will, over time, learn what it should and shouldn’t record. You can also rate the recommendations it makes to further teach its programme-selecting brain.

This of course could lead to embarrassing moments when your mates call round and they see dozens of episodes of The Hills recorded on your TiVo player – though you can always claim it was the box that did it. The box will be able to stream HD and 3D movies over the internet via its inbuilt modem - claiming that streaming of HD movies won't affect your broadband speed. The company announced recently that it would be rolling out a 100Mbs broadband service in December and allied with the TiVo service could realistically see 3D movies being streamed direct to your TV.

The TiVo-powered Virgin TV service will launch before the end of 2010 but will be more widely available in early 2011 – unless of course you are on of their 'selected' list.

Tim Sutton

November 18, 2010, 10:22 pm

"claiming that streaming of HD movies won't affect your broadband speed."

Really? Even YouTubes (low bitrate) 720p is around 2 mbps. Double that for vaguely acceptable movie quality, chuck in another mbps for 5.1 sound.. I'd be surprised if I didn't notice a speed hit.

And by surprised I mean I'd fall over in astonishment. While soiling myself.

Unless its only for their lucky lucky 50+ Mbps cable subscribers.


November 18, 2010, 10:24 pm

Been with them since they were Telewest, Here's hoping I'm on their list.


November 18, 2010, 11:18 pm

My old Series 1 TiVo still boasts many features that my Sky HD box lacks. If my TiVo could handle HD I'd still be using it today, nearly 10 years after I bought it.

I'm hoping the re-introduction of TiVo to the UK will prompt Sky to give their PVRs the overhaul they so badly need. Somehow I doubt it.

The HD Man

November 18, 2010, 11:33 pm

The Tivo has a 10mb modem and the broadband for it is a dedicated connection, solely used by the Tivo and completely separate from your existing broadband connection.

And no, its not subject to Virgin's dreaded STM.


November 19, 2010, 12:34 am

Virgin Medai ?


November 19, 2010, 12:45 am

@Tim: the TiVo box comes with its own 10Mbit broadband direct to the box so that is why it wont effect your own broadband at all


November 19, 2010, 1:02 am

I doubt the network capacity will be affected, or indeed the end user bandwidth.

Fibre ( cable) already muxes many SKY, BBC, ITV CH4 and Five HD channels now. - So another stream is hardly going to affect capacity.


November 19, 2010, 2:40 am

@Chocoa - yes, but those are multicast streams - the backhaul network only needs to carry each channel once, no matter how many users are watching it. If 10,000 users suddenly start streaming on demand HD content, the network capacity use will increase significantly. I assume however that Virgin will be caching content (at least popular content) at local level so it isn't served over the backhaul network every time.


November 19, 2010, 7:17 am

@Tim Sutton

There is one other issue on horizon:

"ISPs should be free to abandon net neutrality, says Ed Vaizey"

"Minister says internet should be lightly regulated, with network operators allowed to favour one content provider over another"

More @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/t...


November 19, 2010, 1:03 pm

@John McLean

Thanks for the explanation John. As you surmise it does suggest that Virgin have thought through this exercise and beleive there is sufficient capacity - precisely my point!


November 19, 2010, 1:42 pm

I don't really get what the big deal is here to be honest. I can imagine my other half would find it fantastic not having to remember recording mince like Peter Andre latest ITV gush fest or I'm a Celebrity but for my viewing habbits I don't think it would improve them and would just be something else to clutter up the mass of tech under the TV.


November 19, 2010, 2:11 pm

I've not personally owned a Tivo box - but a friend of mine had one - and I remember being oh so disappointed when I got a Sky+ box that it didn't do the one thing I wanted ... namely for it to learn my viewing habits, and then record programs that I might like

I'll definitely be giving them the money for one of these - the days of live tv watching are definitely coming to an end

I wonder if they have the guts to implement the feature that lets the Tivo skip recording advert breaks ... if I remember correctly they had to back down in the US and turn that off due to content provider push back ...

I do remember having a VHS recorder that let you fast forward in 30 second increments ... I wish someone would implement even something that simple to help jump over the ads


November 19, 2010, 2:27 pm

@Castalan: my old humax freeview PVR can do the '30-sec jump forward' (or whatever iteration of 15 seconds you want) - it's the single thing I miss since moving to a virgin media box (well, I lie - smaller HD in the VM box, even though HD recordings take 4-6x the space, sudden slow-downs for no reason in the VM box...). I don't know - it feels like VM *want* you to see the adverts, even at 32x...


November 19, 2010, 2:28 pm

@Castalan; You say you want a simple way of skipping the ads? You have Sky+? You do know that with Sky+ and V+ (as well as a number of freeview recorders) that you can fast forward adverts? It's still a pain that they are recorded in the first place, but at least you can just skip them very quickly. It's great.

Looking forward to Tivo though, if it's as good as people have been saying and if I get the chance, I'll be signing up!


November 19, 2010, 2:58 pm

This box and the possibility of 100Mbs will likely be the reason I move from Sky. I really want a good integrated VOD provider and Virgin is the only one offering that. Anytime plus is such a disappointment, but the clunky Virgin software has always stopped me before now. Eagerly waiting for a review.


November 19, 2010, 3:25 pm

Must admit I'll be very tempted by this just to get away from the horrible V+ box. The Premiere (which I assume this is based on) has seen a fair few updates since launch which seem to have helped the performance issues and while the interface is still a wee bit janky under the top level it's a HUGE jump from the existing V+ one. 1TB of storage would be nice too and the 'learn what you like' feature is kinda important in this day and age of multiple channels and repeats. If the video on demand stuff works as intended that'd be a big bonus too, the existing system on virgin does sorta kinda work but it's a pain trying to find anything owing to both the layout and speed of the interface.

Fingers crossed that it's a straightforward V+ replacement for notalot (or, better yet, free).


November 19, 2010, 6:37 pm

@BOFH UK - Sounds like you're using one of the Scientific Atlanta V+ boxes. Fortunately, my SA V+ was replaced with a Samsung one, when it developed a fault. The Samsung V+ is much more responsive.

On this new TiVo box, I hope it's £100 or less to upgrade. Anything higher then that, and I'll probably stick with my current box. Also, I hope it takes more after the Samsung V+ in looks rather then the SA (not too big and blocky).


November 20, 2010, 1:12 am

@chris2510 - i didn't know the humax did that :) nice feature .. and I know what you mean about feeling like it wants to show the adverts your doing your best to miss ;)

@jacko - yes I understand I can fast forward - which is what i do - but in the US there was a digital marker broadcast at the beginning and end of the ads - which the tivo knew to look for - i'd pay virgin a quid more a month for that ;)

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