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What is TiVo?

In today’s digital era, there are literally hundreds of channels available to the consumer. Even the more basic subscription packages present the viewer with a dazzling array of channels to choose between – and pay for. But despite paying extra for those channels – how many viewers still ignore the vast majority of those extra channels? How many viewers take the time to scour programme guides to see what is being shown on all of the hundreds of channels available every day? Even with only the five basic terrestrial channels it is a time consuming affair to check the full twenty-four hours listed in the programme guides each day.

How many times have you missed your favourite programmes because you haven’t managed to get home in time and forgot to set the video to record them? How many times has the phone rung half way through watching your favourite programme?

How would you like to throw out your programme guide and have just one channel that shows all of your favourite programmes? You can watch them whenever you want – not when they are broadcast. Not only that but you would find available all of the interesting programmes from those hundreds of channels that you never realised were on. Sounds too good to be true? The solution has been available for over a year and you probably didn’t even realise!

TiVo is a revolution in television viewing. It puts you the viewer in control of what you watch, and when you watch it. It manages TV for you so that you never miss your favourite programme.

So how does TiVo work? It replaces your video and stores recorded programmes on a computer hard disc. This means no video tapes – and fast high quality access to all of your programmes. Each day a free quick phone call to TiVo HQ by the box downloads the latest programme guide data giving you listings up to 21 days in advance. All sounds complicated? Well forget that – TiVo provides a unique user friendly way to allow you to completely manage your viewing experience. Even those of you who found VideoPlus numbers difficult will now be able to record programmes with ease.

At the heart of TiVo’s radical new management of TV is the Season Pass. Instead of having to set your video to record programmes each day, you simply tell TiVo which programmes you always like to watch. Tell it you like to watch “Friends” on Channel 4, and whenever that programme is broadcast TiVo will record it. Even if the time for the programme changes from one week to the next – TiVo will realise and still record the programme. Next time you are late home from work or shopping, TiVo will have recorded your favourite programmes for you without you having to lift a finger!

Finding programmes to record is easy, TiVo provides many different ways to find programmes, and displays both the name and description of the episode, For films a BBFC rating is shown (U, PG, 15 etc) as well as a number of stars to indicate how good it is:

Live Guide: A transparent guide that overlays whatever is currently on TV. It lists what programmes are currently on each channel.

Browse by time: Shows what’s on all available channels, or all of your favourite channels at any given time.

Browse by channel: Shows what’s on a particular channel at a given time.

Search by title: Enter the title of a programme to quickly find it without having to specify a channel or time.

Search by genre: Search for programmes of a particular genre, eg all Science fiction programmes, all documentaries about animals etc.

Inside TiVo / Channel Highlights: Special guides exclusive to TiVo that list the best programmes on for the coming week.

Your recorded programmes are ready to watch at any time. You can even start watching a programme whilst it is still recording! The Now Playing list shows each of the programmes available to watch.

Recording of your favourite programmes couldn’t be easier! But what about those hundreds of channels that you have no idea what’s on?! TiVo learns about your viewing habits – it analyses what you ask it to record, and makes suggestions as to other programmes you may like. You can rate programmes by giving them “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” by pressing the thumb buttons on the remote. Give “Coronation Street” a thumb up, and TiVo might suggest that you may like to watch “Eastenders” as well.

TiVo can automatically record its suggestions so that you always have even more choice than the programmes you recorded yourself. It’s great to find interesting programmes waiting for you that you didn’t even realise were on TV. TiVo scans all available channels and chooses programmes that you like. Don’t worry though – it will always remove these automated recordings first if you begin to run out of space! TiVo has very sophisticated but extremely simple space management – either delete programmes, wait for them to expire (become old), or flag them to save forever.

TiVo frees you from sticking to the broadcasters schedules. After using TiVo for a while you start to watch what you have recorded – not what’s on. Viewing becomes a pleasure not a chore. Some programmes still just have to be watched live though – like watching your favourite football team! As you watch a live programme, TiVo is also recording it – automatically saving up to the last thirty minutes of whatever you are watching. If the phone rings, simply press the pause key and the live programme is paused! When finished simply press play and continue watching where you left off! If you turn your head and miss a goal, simply press the instant replay button to jump back a few seconds and see what you missed.

TiVo can work with and control a number of set top boxes. It can emulate your remote control and send out commands to change channels automatically to make its recordings. It can control Sky, ITV Digital, and cable (both analogue and digital), as well as having a built in analogue terrestrial tuner.

Sounds impressive? Its also future proof – like most set top boxes, TiVo’s software can be updated with new features. This process happens automatically – when new software is available TiVo will download and install it for you. In early 2002 a new major update arrived on TiVo boxes – this further enhanced TiVo’s ability to manage TV. Some of the amazing new features now available are:

  • Season Pass Manager – rank your programmes in order of their importance. If two are on at the same time TiVo will automatically pick the higher priority programme, and try to record the other if it is repeated on another day.
  • Wishlists – perform searches using keywords, programme genre, actors, and directors to find programmes that you like, and optionally automatically record them.
  • Overtime padding – set your recordings to start earlier or finish later than scheduled so you don’t miss them when the broadcasters don’t stick to their scheduled start/stop times.
  • Save the buffer – TiVo is always recording the last 30 minutes when you watch live TV. If you watch something and wished you had recorded it for someone else to see – simply press record and TiVo will save its buffer up to the start of the programme.
  • Parental controls – Allows you to lock certain channels or programmes of a specified rating so that your kids can’t watch them without a code. Applies to both live programmes and ones you have recorded.

TiVo truly does revolutionise television viewing. It has an extremely loyal user base – once you start using TiVo you will never go back to normal TV. It’s extremely easy to use even for those that find VCR’s difficult. Amazingly the more technical savvy people who buy TiVo are astonished to find that their non-technical partners take over TiVo and love it more than they do!

TiVo will cost you £300 (RRP) for a 40 hour Thomson Scenium TiVo, and a further £10 per month (or £199 lifetime) to subscribe to the TiVo service which activates most of the features outline above, provides guide data, and software updates.

For more details visit TiVo’s website at http://www.tivo.co.uk and join the TiVolution!