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Virgin squeezes TiVo based service out the door in time for Christmas

Virgin Media in the UK has finally launched its TiVo based service in the UK promised for exactly one year

By PETER WHITE

Published: 2 December, 2010

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Virgin Media in the UK has finally launched its TiVo based service in the UK promised for exactly one year. It is an ambitious pay TV hybrid which features all the search and recommendation features of TiVo, currently only available to Virgin Media households, with programming delivered over the internet, and also delivered over a dedicated 10 Mbps DOCSIS broadband channel, using the 1 TB Premiere TiVo DVR with its own broadband modem installed. This channel is a different one from the DOCSIS channel used for delivering broadband to the home and it is also used to deliver a dedicated TV App store.

This system is on sale from the middle of December, so that Virgin can get a little Christmas fillip into its last quarter revenues. As we understand it from earlier briefings with Virgin the entire thing can be built around a single 10 Mbps broadband line of any type, and later Virgin Media will launch this on appropriate BT DSL lines as an entirely Over The Top offering, but is limiting it to its own broadband lines for now. At the launch Virgin never said anything about moving off its own broadband lines but has said this in the past. It has an exclusive with TiVo in the UK and other companies are partnering TiVo in the same way across Europe, so we expect major European traction from TiVo over the coming year.

The key thing is that UK residents have almost never had any experience of a TiVo interface and mostly the only DVR they have seen is from BSkyB, designed by NDS, but based around the original TiVo designs which were launched in the UK in 2002. These days TiVo uses servers in the cloud to do a number of clever things, and in the Premiere system this has merged broadcast QoS controlled content with internet content and in-house VoD sent over the internet.

Search facilities can find content on the DVR, VoD, catch-up TV played during the past week, as well as on web sites of partner content providers and show all these results side by side, and play any of them. The personalization features can remember to record anything that the recommendation system thinks you will like and a thumbs up and thumbs down response to this on the remote further educates the system. You can even preset a fondness for a particular actor, genre or director and the system will automatically record it. Virgin Media billed this as the UK’s first next-generation entertainment platform.

It is driven by a well-researched user interface and Virgin has acquired a huge library of on-demand programming as well as popular web-based applications. Programming can be watched in SD, HD or 3D, Virgin said, and it looks to us that each of the three tuners has access to its own DOCSIS channel.

Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media, said: “This is a landmark moment in the UK’s digital revolution and vividly illustrates why Virgin Media is the only company who can provide the ultimate digital lifestyle. For the first time, viewers will have a truly personalized viewing experience so they can get the most out of the wonderful worlds of the internet and TV all in one place. We’re really excited to bring our customers what is just the first of successive generations of transformational services based on this unique TiVo-powered platform.”

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