Robert Freeman's whole Media, Business and Technology thing. Sorted.

Posts Tagged ‘high definition

Farewell the original UK Tivo

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One bit of kit I probably won’t be able to keep going much longer

In the midst of my zeal to get more value out of some of my older electronics I’ve just had a setback.

This morning I turned on my Tivo and got this screen:

Tivo UK Series 1 - end of life

No more predictions for me

To be honest, I’ve been expecting this news. There were always going to be two options. Either the hardware was going to expire (something I’d tried to mitigate already 3 years ago by upgrading the hard disc, the only mechanical component), or Tivo itself would turn the system off.

Option two happened first. Yes, I am an early adopter. Tivo launched in Britain in October 2000. But in having my Tivo for something like 8 years, I’m surprised that they waited quite this long.

The thing about Tivo which makes it different from other hard disc recorders is that it depends on a regular download of TV and radio programme data provided by Tivo itself. No EPG data, and the box becomes a dumb VHS device you have to laboriously set for each recording.

Tivo was something that Sky brought in to help navigate their hundreds of satellite channels. But a year later Sky realised it was something they could do themselves and launched the Sky+ box in 2001.

Tivo lingered for a little while but decided to stop selling their device at the start of 2003.

All that time it was actually Sky which maintained the Tivo platform. You never needed a Sky subscription however, Tivo worked perfectly well with Freeview, which is what I used it with. If you had a problem with your subscription it’s  Sky’s call centre you get put through to.

I actually bought a Topfield Freeview Plus recorder a year ago and I have been running the two side by side. I’d been trying to wean myself off Tivo because I knew my hardware didn’t have a future although I still use it on a daily basis. The reason why is significant and it’s something that today’s manufacturers still need to pay attention to.

1) Tivo is really simple to use.

2) The box predicts what I want to watch and if I forget to record something, it normally does it anyway.

And that’s it. That’s what’s kept me using it for 8 years. Many’s the time I’ve been on the train in the morning and while flicking through the free paper realised there was something on TV that night I wanted to watch. Dammit, I’d think. I wish I’d set the recorder.

Imagine my delight when I got home and discovered that this gorgeous box had done it for me! There was always something on TV I wanted to watch. I stopped watching linear TV (and advertisements) the same week, and I’ve never gone back. That knack of prediction is something Freeview and Sky never managed to replicate.

Compared with the Topfield device I have now, even 8 years on, the original Tivo interface is a *lot* easier to use.

I shall miss it.

But Tivo is about to  re-launch on a new platform and want rid of legacies like my old box. Although I imagine that with Tivo now being associated with Virgin Media , Sky don’t want to keep it going any longer. Maybe there are contractual issues. Who knows.

It would be interesting to know how many of the original Thomson Scenium devices are still out there, and what proportion of them are still paying £10 a month for the EPG download (there was also an option to buy a ‘lifetime’ EPG subscription for £300).

I will now have to try and make the best of the last few months of my Tivo’s life. It’s an analogue device so keeping it going beyond digital switchover was another issue on my mind. Getting out of the habit of tagging programmes I like or dislike will be a struggle.

But viewing has moved on. My next TV will be HD, as will the recording box I buy with it. It will have at least 5x the recording space, although the number of TV channels coming into it will stay about the same (I intend staying on Freeview)

My entertainment choice will still change though. My next TV will be able to download directly from the web and playback media from any device within a WiFi radius.

What won’t change is the amount of time I have to be able to watch the damn thing!


Written by Robert

15 February, 2011 at 11:22 pm

OFCOM’s 9 day consultation period??

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Get in quick or lose HD on Freeview

OFCOM are currently requesting comment from stakeholders in the UK’s digital terrestrial TV network.  As tax and licence-fee payers, that’s most of us.

They are being asked by the BBC to authorise a change in the way the new high definition multiplexes are operated to allow for the use of encryption.

I’m not a fan of this plan, many others aren’t either, including Tom Watson MP and other vocal bloggers.

Encrypting HD-DTT risks stunting the growth of high-definition in this country and threatens to criminalise anyone who’s using any sort of non-standard cheap-and-cheerful reception equipment (which by law you are required to have a TV licence for).  If you’re using open source receiver software, you can kiss that goodbye should this change go through.

What amazes me is that OFCOM published their letter on the 3rd of September and want  comments back by the 16th. Err, that’s today!

That’s 9 working days to get comments in on a proposal that has far-reaching ramifications on the way the system of TV distribution works in Britain. Does this indicate that OFCOM doesn’t grasp the serious implications of this change, that it just writes to the ‘industry’ and allows such a short time for responses?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a good background to why this request is being made.

And if you’re still reading this today, get some comments off to

Written by Robert

16 September, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Posted in legal, Software, Technology, tv

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Mobile TV: we just won’t pay

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Make it free, or no one will watch

A survey featured in Business Week says what I’ve not so secretly been expecting for some time. Mobile TV users are a stingy lot.

Much-hyped operational trials (such as the DVB-H trial in Oxford a couple of years ago) have always ended with the operator judging that users will happily pay for the service.

Business Week is highlighting a report which says that users don’t want to pay anything like what the operators think they will, and to spur takeup, the services should be ad-supported and either much cheaper, or free.

I hope they’re not actually thinking they can begin to charge later on! Once a service goes free, it stays free. Look at web subscription models for general news and information. Oh you can’t, because there aren’t any anymore.

Here’s a RedHerring piece from the days of the Oxford mobile TV trial. Look toward the end and you’ll see that O2 were expecting consumers to pay £8-£10 a month for tv on the go.

I bet they’re rethinking that investment case now. It may not be worth bidding for the new spectrum, in which case OFCOM may as well let Big TV have some extra space so it can run a decent 21st century public television service on Freeview.

Otherwise Britain’s DTT ambitions might end up going the way of DAB.

Written by Robert

6 March, 2008 at 12:32 am

Posted in Business, Media, Mobile, Technology, tv

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Europe’s leader in free broadcast high def TV is France

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Britain’s communications regulator OFCOM needs to get on the train and head to Paris.

The current dithering over broadcast TV’s future in this country is not about what kind of future it has, but whether it has one at all!

(This mimics the country’s approach to railway planning too, and look where that got us – gridlocked roads and a clapped-out rail network.)

The french government is actively investing in a high-definition broadcast TV future – regional TV network France 3 will begin HD transmissions in September (France has been piloting HD broadcasts since mid-2006)

A month ago, France passed legislation which means all new TVs sold from the end of 2008 must be able to display MPEG-4 HD broadcasts.

And let’s not forget that in countries like Australia and the United States, the switch to HD is part of the switch to digital, not something to think about afterwards.

OFCOM, you’re way behind – the massive disruption to Britain’s railways in the last decade was caused by catastrophic planning by a government which assumed that trains had gone into terminal decline – don’t make the same mistake about TV.

Written by Robert

20 March, 2007 at 11:57 pm

Posted in Media

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