Thursday, 18 November 2010

Virgin: TiVo, Sky Atlantic & CBS Drama

Thursday, 18 November 2010

There are unconfirmed reports of winter treats for Virgin Media subscribers in 2011, revealed by an insider posting on the Cable Forum. They are: "red button" interactivity with the Sky Sports channels; the addition of HD versions of ITV2, 3 and 4; the arrival of the CBS Drama channel; and the likely debut of Sky Atlantic.

Yes, despite strong rumours that Sky Atlantic (the new channel Sky are creating to showcase their HBO/AMC imports) would be a Sky exclusive, designed to kill the buzz that Virgin now have access to Sky1 HD, it looks increasingly likely that Atlantic will be available to Sky's rivals.

I'm very pleased to hear that, and hope Virgin Media add Sky Atlantic to their XL package for free. All of those developments are due in the first quarter of 2011, according to the forum's source. In my experience, these sources tend to be quite reliable.

Additionally, we already know that Virgin Media's long-awaited TiVo-powered V+HD boxes are rolling out soon (perhaps as early as next month in limited batches). These new DVR's will have 1TB storage space (500 hours of HD recording), an internal modem (meaning no existing internet lag when streaming online content), 3D-capability, and industry best software from US company TiVo.

There's still no word on price for these Virgin TiVo's, sadly. As someone who already owns a V+HD box (which is only 15 months old and cost me a total of £200 to have installed), I'm praying Virgin will have some kind of cost-cutting option for their existing, loyal customers!

Cindy Rose, Executive Director of Digital Entertainment at Virgin Media:

"Virgin Media’s next generation connected TV service -- powered by TiVo -- and combined with our superior broadband will blow other ‘connected TV’ products out of the water. We’re really proud of our new next-generation TV service which will appeal to anyone and everyone looking for the best of live broadcast TV, catch up, on demand and internet apps and services."
Seeing as Virgin subscribers don't technically own their boxes (you're renting their equipment), it could be a deal-breaker if Virgin want everyone to pay a hefty "connection charge" again. If you already have HD TV with Virgin, what exactly justifies another massive charge for an engineer taking 20-30 minutes to connect a different box and reboot?

I'm sure these TiVo's are magnificent gizmos (if they're anything like their American equivalents, we're in for a treat), but only the promise of 1TB storage space is something I truly NEED as a consumer. And even so, I'm good as organizing recordings, so it's rarely an insurmountable problem for me, unless I'm on holiday for a week or so.

What do you make of Virgin's plans with TiVo, and the unconfirmed news that Sky Atlantic may be more widely available?