New-Look Virgin Media TiVo Will Use HTML5 Apps and Point You to Trending Shows

By Gerald Lynch on at

Virgin Media has picked up 2.3 million customers for its TiVo service since it launched four years ago in the UK, and it hasn't changed much in all that time. Though TV hoarders on these shores won't be getting the ridiculous 24TB TiVo Mega box, next month will see the service get its first major revamp since its release.

Do you like "plum" shades? You'd better -- the most obvious change of all, gone is the red colour scheme of old, replaced with purple hues that Prince would be proud of. But crisper fonts and menu framings are just decorations for what's changing under the hood.

The biggest update of all is that Virgin Media's TiVo is moving over its apps offering to the HTML5 standard. Currently, its apps are built with Flash, which is becoming increasingly outdated, and thus costly to upgrade. With HTML5 support, the developers behind catch-up apps like Netflix and iPlayer will be able to deploy updates more quickly, taking up less space on the TiVo hard drive and feeling more familiar and unified against mobile and web versions.

HTML5 support will also bring with it the introduction of an app store to the TiVo platform. Though it's yet to be named, it will be built using Opera's App Store as its foundation, and will house many on-demand apps such as Vimeo, and Virgin's time-sensitive themed content portals.

Changes are coming to the existing TiVo interface too. A "What to Watch Now" section will be introduced, giving real-time recommendations based on what you've previously watched weighed against the most-popular, most-watched shows on TV at any given moment. These recommendations can be refined with the TiVo remote's "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" buttons, learning your preferences over time. Initially, What to Watch Now will be limited to live TV, but Virgin Media will be expanding it to On Demand content too shortly after launch.

Your saved recordings will also now be broken down into categories rather than existing as a lone, sprawling list, with the category definitions set by the viewer. "Partially Watched" shows will also be highlighted in their own separate area, letting you jump quickly to a programme that you didn't have time to finish, while the existing "Suggestions" area (where TiVo pops the programmes it thinks you will love after automatically downloading them) will be given its own area in the UI too.

Many of these changes will be reflected in the revised TV Anywhere on-demand mobile app, sharing the colour scheme and EPG tweaks. There's still no sign of offline, downloaded shows being supported though, and iOS users will get the upgrade some months before Android uses see any changes.

Finally, Virgin Media will be introducing a "Quick Start" option for upgrading customers, letting them follow a guide to install a new TiVo box without the need to call out an engineer.

A gradual roll-out, Virgin Media customers should start seeing the changes reflected on their set-top boxes by the end of October, with all boxes upgraded by Christmas. The Opera App Store will roll out separately, some time after that initial
October upgrade.