OK, so over the past week or so we’ve seen quite an advancement in the world of HDTV. First came ITV HD, then came FIVE HD in and amongst a whole host of other new HD offerings from various companies. Well now comes another unveiling that is just another rung on the ladder on Virgin Media’s path to conquering what is essentially, Sky’s monopoly on digital HD broadcasting.
Unveiled earlier in the week was Virgin Media’s HD V box which sits alongside their ‘free’ HD service. Its intentions? To make high definition more affordable and appeal to a wider audience than Sky’s sometimes very costly service. With no monthly fee this sets in good stead in its fight with BSkyB, although you do have to pay for an initial set up fee as well as the box itself.
The basic HD V box doesn’t possess the ability to record programs (much like the basic Sky box), however there is a V+HD box with PVR functionality. There are the usual connectivity options with HDMI and Scart in the audio/video department, as well as USB and ethernet ports for extra connectivity and functionality. The box itself is build by Cisco, and Virgin proudly describe it as the ‘best in its class’ when it comes to the environment. It’s advanced power saving function cuts power usage by 95% when compared to a traditional stand-by mode.
In terms of cost, it gets quite interesting and a little complex. Although Virgin describe the HD content as free, unfortunately it’s not quite as simple as that. Whereas Sky’s monthly subscription charges start at £10, Virgin Media subscribers that want a little more than the basics, must fork out an extra £5 a month for any extra content and the price does indeed rise as the amount of channels and content demanded does.
Add to this the initial price of the box which is currently at £49 and a set up cost of £35 and it all starts to look a little less free from where I’m sitting. Weirdly, the cost of the basic HD V box is identical to that of the HD+V box which sort of makes it a no brainer when deciding which one to opt for. The discounted price on the HD+V box though, is for a limited time only.
Virgin Media’s executive director of digital entertainment, Cindy Rose, said: “We want to make the best high-definition TV available to more people at affordable prices and without the additional monthly subscription fee.”
“If you really love telly you’ll probably want our V+HD box because you can then record programmes on up to two channels while simultaneously watching another. Our new V HD Box is ideal for anyone who wants to experience the power of HD without the extra monthly fee.”
This new box comes as no surprise really when you consider the added content they have recently announced over at Virgin. With new channels on the way such as ITV1 HD, Sci-Fi HD and Film 4 HD in addition to ESPN, BBC, FX, MTV, National Geographic, Living, Eurosport and Discovery there is certainly no shortage of content. However they are still lagging some way behind Sky HD’s planned 50 channels by year’s end.
There is definitely light at the end of the tunnel for Virgin Media as their new partnership with TiVo is promising and certainly gives them a ‘unique selling point’ over that of the more basic Sky+ system. Developments over the next year or so are looking ever more interesting as far as TV is concerned and I for one, am growing somewhat excited at what lies ahead.