Tuesday, February 22, 2011

UK Thomson TiVo on its last legs

Back to the theme of the downside of technology refresh. This time it's TiVo.

UK Series 1 TiVo set top box manufactured by Thomson

Years before Sky+ and PVRs built into Freeview boxes, TiVo introduced the quantum leap beyond programming a VHS video recorder with Videoplus codes.

A silver box with an analogue tuner inside, a 40Gb hard drive that could store up to 40 hours of basic quality video, and a phone connect that allowed it to dial a freephone number in the middle of the night to update its electronic programme guide. The big benefit was that you could set it to record all the episodes of a particular series rather than having to remember to programme the video each week. And there was a handy button on the remote that jumped 30 seconds forward: six clicks would bypass a normal ITV three minute ad break. Ground-breaking in its day.

In the UK, the Thomson manufactured units were marketed to Sky customers starting in Autumn 2000 before Sky fell out of bed with TiVo and launched their own (rival) Sky+ box. Shortly after, online electrical retailers picked up and sold off the surplus stock. Confession: I bought two, kept one for myself, and sold the other after six months (by which time they were a bit rarer and attracted a keener price) and used the money to fund a lifetime subscription to the dial-up EPG updates.

UK TiVo displaying the long-feared message announcing that service would stop on 1 June

Over the last two months, various informational messages have been popping up to explain that TiVo would soon be integrated into Virgin cable boxes. And finally last week the dreaded message arrived explaining that the "lifetime subscription" service would be finishing on 1 June.

Without the updated EPG, the boxes are pretty useless. Manually setting record times would be a backwards step! Along with other bloggers, I'm surprised that TiVo and Sky have kept the EPG information available for so long.

The closure of analogue terrestrial transmission in Northern Ireland towards the end of 2012 as part of the UK's digital switchover programme was always going to lead to the obsolescence of the TiVo. But Virgin's deal has hastened its demise. And with the delay in the launch of Canvas YouView - internet enabled Freeview TVs and set top boxes allowing you to roll the EPG backwards and stream old programmes on-demand - until early 2012, TiVo's withdrawal is is at least six months too soon.

So after 9 years, the silver box with its original hard drive that has been spinning nearly continuously, hardly ever missing a recording. Bet its replacement consumes less power but doesn't live to its 9th birthday!

TiVo's website explains:

Beginning in 2011, customers of Virgin Media will be able to purchase Virgin Media TV, powered by TiVo. For further product information, please see www.virginmedia.com/tivo.

TiVo Series1 DVRs were manufactured for sale in the UK from 2000 to 2002 and were available exclusively to customers of BSkyB. This box has not been actively sold since this time and new accounts are not being activated. If UK Series1 customers have product or technical questions, they can receive support via email to bskyb-support@tivo.com.

After over 10 years of operation, the UK Series1 TiVo service will be discontinued as of June 1, 2011. Since November 2010, monthly Series1 customers have not been billed and will continue to receive free service until June 1, 2011.

Without the program guide data provided by the TiVo service, Series1 boxes will have limited - if any - functionality. They can still be used to view previously recorded programs and, under certain circumstances, may be used to record programs manually.

The newest generation of TiVo PVR and service is now available from Virgin Media. Virgin Media is extending a special offer to current TiVo Series1 customers within a Virgin Media cabled area so that they can take advantage of the Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo.


WaywardEffort said...

I remember being amazed when I saw the adverts for Tivo saying you could pause live TV.

The writing was on the wall when people started referring to Sky+ as a verb, like "I Skyplussed the show".

"beyond programming a VHS video recorder with Videoplus codes" - Unbelievably I remember looking at the Argos book and imagining the possibilities a Videoplus recorder would open up. Feeling old now!

Anonymous said...

Please lend your support to this petition:


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TivoCentral UK said...

UK TiVo owners will be able to use an unofficial (free) community-led service after June 1st

Read more here:
tivo s1 unofficial guide

Even unsubscribed boxes !