TVs

TiVo to make triumphant return to UK with Virgin Media

You might think you know what a PVR is, but in the UK we're really stuck in the past with our digital recording antics. Happily, Virgin Media is bringing TiVo back

We forgive you if you don't know what TiVo is. Any Americans reading will tell you it's a PVR that's done for TV recording what Apple did for MP3 players. Like Google, its success has made its name a verb, leading to some employment for our learned friends. Central to its appeal is a simple, user-friendly interface that makes recording TV less of a chore. The good news is, TiVo is making a return to the UK after a long absence, and it's partnered with Virgin Media to provide a new set-top box experience for cable users in the UK.

We can hear you saying, "So what, we've already got V+, which records our shows and that." But TiVo is an entirely different proposition. V+ is slow, prone to crashing and will never attain the graphical beauty or aesthetic simplicity of TiVo. More than just a pretty face though, TiVo is also much more sophisticated than a mere VCR replacement.

We've had devices we call PVRs in this country for some time now, but they aren't PVRs in the very strictest sense. A PVR is very much like the Freeview recorders we know and love -- which are technically DVRs -- but a PVR uses what it knows about your viewing habits and selects other TV shows it thinks you'll like. It's a 'personal video recorder' because it recommends stuff to you, rather than just looking thick, sat in the corner of your lounge, obeying orders.

TiVo is one of only a few systems that offer a service like this. To keep a check on how it's doing, TiVo gives you the opportunity to say, "I like this" or, "I don't like this". Using this feedback, the TiVo should, over time, learn your taste, and select only shows that you should enjoy.

Virgin is stepping into Sky's shoes, several years after MurdochCorp stepped out of them -- TiVo was initially brought over to the UK as part of a deal with Sky. Thomson made the hardware and Sky provided the customer service and listings data. Sadly, the deal was done just shortly before Sky+ launched and, as you can imagine, Sky quickly lost interest. Without any marketing, TiVo sank without trace, leaving around 30,000 boxes in the UK and an incredibly loyal following that persists to this day.