Popular DVR maker TiVo and ISP Virgin Media have announced a partnership this week, one that will see TiVo develop Virgin’s upcoming HD set-top boxes.
TiVo will create a custom interface and in exchange Virgin “will be the exclusive distributor of TiVo service and hardware in the UK,” says Electronista. Virgin has been losing market share to rival BSkyB in the UK and the company hopes the new generation of HD boxes will help them compete.
The boxes, besides playing back SD and HD streams from Virgin, will include online services such as the BBC iPlayer and itv.com.
The set-tops should go on sale in 2010.
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There have been some calls lately for fees to be introduced for viewing TV shows episodes and other content on the BBC’s popular iPlayer. Lorraine Heggessey, chief executive of TV production company Talkback Thames, said that users of the site should be charged “micro payments” to use the online catch up service.
Tony Cohen, chief executive of Talkback’s parent company Fremantle Media, is also conducting a feasibility study of the concept. The increasing support in the industry to introduce fees for the service come as advertising revenue in the commercial TV sector falls.
However, while research conducted by Fremantle allegedly suggests that consumers would be willing to pay up to £2 for some shows, the BBC says that it has no plans to introduce fees to use the service, on the grounds that viewers already pay for it. “The cost of the BBC iPlayer is covered by the licence fee, so UK users have already paid for this service,” said a spokesperson.
The service was launched on Christmas day in 2007 after £6 million was spent developing it. Now, during peak hours, it pumps out approximately 12GB of data per second to UK viewers. Media industry expert Steve Hewlett says that the idea of paying to watch TV programmes online makes sense, in theory.
“The BBC never thought it was appropriate to give away DVDs, so why should catch-up be free?” he said. “Traditionally, licence fee payers have paid for access on a TV set - and only for the first transmission.” He believes that a payment model similar to what is being offered by Amazon or iTunes might be an appropriate solution.
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After Sony recently integrated the BBC iPlayer into the version 3.0 PlayStation 3 firmware update, it has now become the second most popular viewing platform, behind the PC.
The BBC says 10 percent of all iPlayer traffic comes from PS3 accounts, surpassing the Mac, which holds 8.5 percent of all traffic.
“User response to our new iPlayer for PS3 has been amazing,” adds Anthony Rose, controller of the BBC’s online media group and vision.
“Although it’s less than a week since we launched, iPlayer on PS3 now accounts for a massive 10 per cent of all iPlayer viewing, overtaking Mac to be our second most popular platform for IP-delivered content.
“We’ll have to wait and see whether this holds up in the coming weeks, but this enthusiastic reception makes it clear that users do want iPlayer on their TV - something that bodes well for Canvas and other IPTV propositions.”
PS3 users can playback iPlayer content full screen, at 25fps, due to an upgrade in the PS3’s Flash playback abilities.