January 30, 2015

Virgin Media attempts to pause Premier League rights process

From MediaGuardian:
Virgin Media has asked the regulator Ofcom to take the unprecedented step of pausing the auction of Premier League television rights. Virgin has filed an ”application for interim measures” with Ofcom to use its powers to temporarily halt the decision process for which broadcasters get the rights to air live top-flight UK football matches.
Last autumn Virgin asked Ofcom to look into the the increasig cost of Premier League football rights, warning of “significant consumer harm” if the current process continued unchecked. It claimed fans were being asked to pay over the odds to watch live football. Ofcom’s decision is due in March but Virgin has now filed an application for the auction to be halted . Virgin said: “If the auction continues unchecked, Ofcom’s ability to act will be prejudiced and it will likely be 2019 until the next opportunity to reign-in the rampant inflation in prices for viewers.”

January 26, 2015

Netflix UK customers have a miserable January again

If you're a subscriber to Netflix, you've lost more than you've gained in January 2015. According to the excellent website New to Netflix there were 96 titles added to Netflix this month but a massive 284 removed. That sounds bad, but actually January 2014 was even worse, with 164 additions and a stunning 517 removals.
Over the rest of the year additions outpace removals most months, but the overall catalogue feels like on in decline.
The chart here is from Maft's nifty stats page where you can find other evidence that the service appears to be investing less in its catalogue now that it has a decent user base in the UK. And if you really want an eye opener, click on Maft's US Netflix stats - just under 7,500 titles available every month, albeit with some rotation compared with the UK's 2,700. As anyone with a VPN account will tell you, in the US (where the service is cheaper per month) it's a whole new ball game with loads of new films and series that we don't get a sniff of here.
I wonder where the service in the UK is heading now that Netflix has to compete with Amazon Instant Video and Now TV for film and series rights. Now TV is still overpriced and quality can be poor with live streaming, but Amazon's catalogue is increasingly impressive, and good value if you're a regular shopper on Amazon. So where's the Amazon app for TiVo? It was much talked about but never materialised. I can access it via my Sony TV but playback quality is patchy - even the SD buffers and stutters - but Sony assure me that will be fixed.

January 13, 2015

And after 3D, expect 4k to be the next big non-event

Interesting CES covering from The Register this year, who as always show a cynical disregard for technologies that nobody has actually asked for: It's 4K-ing big right now, but it's NOT going to save TV.
Virgin Media still only broadcasts all its HD in 720p and, as far as I'm aware, has no plans to increase this to 1080p. Sure, your TV may present it as 1080i, but the next step for VM and Sky would be 1080p, and even the most-lauded Netflix 4K content is actually currently upscaled. My Sony TV's Freeview channels occasionally are received in 1080p (notably some BBC content).
I'd expect Sky to launch and shout a 4K offering at some point, they've already done some trials, but I can't honestly see an appetite from the consumer yet except those hapless few who have to have the latest-if-not-greatest to impress the neighbours.

January 01, 2015

Happy new year from Virgin Media with two new HD channels

Finally, we have Sky Sports News in HD on 511 (identified as SkySpNHQHD in the EPG!) and Sky News in HD on 603. Enjoy!

December 29, 2014

Netflix ins and outs this January - UPDATED

Out go Roger Rabbit and the Blues Brothers and over two hundred others, many of which I had in My List, and  in come just a handful of new series and new(ish) films.
Info on what's departing can be found at http://netflix.maft.uk/lastchance
Details of what's arriving at http://vodzilla.co/blog/coming-soon-to-netflix/top-26-new-releases-coming-soon-to-netflix-uk-in-january-2015/
Hopefully there's plenty more additions on the way - to my eyes, the selection looks seriously depleted from what we enjoyed in 2014.

December 23, 2014

Buying an HD TV

Humour Hive posted the following (far too good to just appear as a Comment on a short Post). I hope newbies find it useful:

A couple of tips for those purchasing a TV and unsure what resolution they are buying. 
Most TV's have a sticker on the TV or box that states it is in High Definition (HD). 
If it says HD READY, this means it is 720 pixels. 
If it says FULL HD, this means it is 1080 (either 1080i or 1080p). 

The reason you may want to know the resolution is mainly based on the size of TV you are getting. 720 can be just as good an image as 1080 as long as you get the right screen size. 720 is best for smaller screens up to 32/36 inch TV's, whereas 42 inch and bigger would benefit with a 1080. 
If you try and get a cheap TV that is 720 on a 52 inch you will lose picture quality. Whereas paying out a lot of money for 1080 when the screen size is 22 inches is also a waste of money as the screen is too small to really appreciate the extra pixels, so the noticeable quality is hard to distinguish. 

Finally it is also worth noting that the bigger the screen size, the further away you should sit from the screen. A 32 inch screen you can sit much closer to, to get the best viewing of the image, while a 60 inch screen is better suited to large houses as you would really need to sit a good 10 - 15 feet away from the TV before you are getting the best image quality they want you to view the TV at. 

For the average UK living room a 32-42 inch TV is perfect for the distance the sofa is likely to be from the TV set. And the bigger you go, the more you want to avoid HD READY and go with FULL HD, especially over 40 inches. 

Don't worry too much about 4K TV's because they are expensive, not very many manufacturers and virtually nobody is even broadcasting in 4K yet except the occasional show on Netflix, etc. But even those shows in 4K will require you to have a beefy internet connection to stream them before you even buy the TV. 
And you could buy 4K to future proof yourself, but to be honest only the world cup final and a couple of Wimbledon matches have been shown in 4K to test the technology and is still a good 2 or 3 years before it will start to be broadcast in any regularity on a channel. It could be at least 5-7 years before it is as popular as HD channels are now, and by that time the price of 4K TV's will have dropped to a similar price as a HDTV is now, and you might be ready to upgrade again in 7 years time anyway. 
Its also worth noting that although 4K is very futuristic to the consumer, its already been outperformed by an even bigger HD technology that is starting to appear at tech shows and that broadcasters may see the investment in 4K a little pointless if the new technology is as cheap and far more advantageous for them to broadcast, it may be that 4K may end up like 3D and be a short-lived fad that is soon forgotten about. 
My advice, get a good quality FULL HD TV that suits the size of your living room. Invest in a Blu-Ray player that are really cheap now that makes full use of your new tv. Get a Netflix subscription and enjoy the next 3 or 4 years of entertainment to be had by that while 4K sorts itself out on whether it wants to be a dominant force or fades out into oblivion. 

Christmas reading: HD resolutions explained

It's a confusing world, this HD lark. Someone just commented on a post from last month that the 720p picture quality on Now TV was inferior to the "1080' on Sky via satellite. That may be true for some content, but there are two "1080" definitions at it's debatable whether 1080i (which is what Sky is broadcast in) is better than 720p.
So for those not clear on exactly what's what in high definition, here's a link to Expert Reviews' neat summary of who's who with the ol' PQ:


How TV services from Virgin Media work

I've no idea how this great article passed me by, but here's a really interesting piece from The Register (in two parts) on how Virgin Media delivers TV to its customers. It gets a wee bit techie/geeky in places, but is fascinating nevertheless.

December 16, 2014

Liverpool FC TV returns to Virgin Media

For those feeling desperately underserved by Virgin's sports offering, an early Christmas present: Liverpool FC TV is back on channel 544. But it's now subscription only, and £7 a month. And only in SD (talks regarding HD carriage have stalled indefinitely apparently).

December 13, 2014

What would you like from Virgin Media next?

It's not been a bad year for the average Virgin Media customer, but if you check over at the various forums you'd think there were huge gaps still in the service. One chap has just posted that he'd like to see 22 missing channels, including Universal Channel hd; Life time +1 and hd; Pop Girl; Horse and Country; Nat Geo Wild hd; 5* + 1; Sony movies; +1; More movies ; + 1; True movies 2 and a host of other EPG fillers. Is it me or is that scraping a pretty shallow barrel now? Of these, only Universal HD would be added to my own list of Sky Atlantic, ITV Encore and History HD of stuff we're missing.
So I've put a quick poll together as I struggle to think of holes in the VM offering these days - what would you most like to get from Virgin Media in 2015? Let me know.