I’ve just got round to setting up Virgin TV Anywhere on my TiVo box and wish I’d done it before – just the ability to watch TiVo on the iPad is worth the effort (the kids want to watch something in their room where there’s no TV, say) but the remote controlling of the TiVo box online is pretty great too. Stop there – I wrote this opening paragraph before discovering what you can and can’t do with the app, so hold that first bit for now…
If you’re like me and just dive in expecting it to work straight away then you’ll come across the same problems I did – it’s not difficult to get going but there a couple of things you need to do to the TiVo box to make it work fully (and a couple of extra things you need to know too).
The first thing you’ll probably do is install the app on your iPad and sign in – install it but I wouldn’t sign in yet. There are 2 or 3 steps you need to take with your TiVo box itself to make it visible to the app and if you do those after signing in it may not recognise it. Having just been through the process, here’s what I would do…
- * Firstly if your TiVo box isn’t connected to your Super Hub with an ethernet cable, connect it now as it needs to be on the same home network as the iPad you’re using.
- * Now grab you TiVo remote and go to Home > Help & Settings > Settings > Network Remote Control. Choose ‘Allow network-based remote controls’ (it will warn you about accessibility by others if you’re on a shared network) – you will then need to press the Thumbs Up button on the remote to confirm.
- * Next go to Home > Help & Settings > System Info > Media Access Key, enter your PIN – default 1234 – and make a note of the Media Access Key number as you’ll need to enter it into the iPad.
They don’t mention this on the instructions page but at this point I would restart the TiVo box by switching off the power for 10 seconds or so, just as you do when there’s a fault. My iPad wouldn’t pick up the TiVo box until I did this so save yourself a few ‘Try Again’ attempts and associated swearing and restart now.
Now go to that new app and sign in with your user name (which is an email address) and password, at which point the app will scan for TiVo boxes, will find yours and show a link saying ‘Not complete’ – click on this and enter the Media Access Key you noted earlier.
One more thing, you need to register your iPad as a device before you can use it for live TV. Click on the little settings cog wheel next to your TiVo box number in the top left of the app and choose Device Registration, then pick a name with at least 6 characters (a bit annoying as all you want to call it really is iPad but you’ll need more than that). You can choose at this point whether or not to make this the primary device – the difference here is that certain programmes like sports and movies can only be watched on your primary device for copyright reasons, but you can change your primary device twice a month so it’s not the end of the world.
You’re now, as waiting staff in the US would say, ‘all set’, so when you’re at home on your own network you’ll be able to control your TiVo box with the app and when you’re online away from home you can use the ‘Away’ mode, which lets you watch some live TV and set your box to record, set up and cancel Series Links etc.
So what can you do with it?
Once you’ve got over the novelty of controlling the telly – not much really. I was hoping to go in the bedroom and watch a programme recorded the other night from My Shows while my wife carried on watching live TV in the living room – ‘fraid not (I suppose that would be like an extra box?). Same for watching live TV in another room, no can do – I went to a programme, clicked Watch Now and all it does is control the TiVo box, ie make that programme come on the TV. Wife not that pleased (sorry, just testing!).
One thing that is very welcome, indeed if you use the iPlayer or YouTube apps on TiVo it’s an absolute bloody relief, is the ability to search for programmes WITH A KEYBOARD instead of the awful ‘select a letter with the arrows and OK it but you’ll probably get one wrong due to the delayed reaction of the remote and have to go back’ method (as it’s known). Having the iPad keyboard to search on iPlayer and YouTube makes them so much more usable as apps and it’s worth getting TV Anywhere for this alone.
To replicate going out (I do go out sometimes but didn’t fancy it on a cold Sunday night) I switched to my neighbour’s WiFi (don’t worry, with permission) and opened the app again. It seemed to confuse it so I signed out and back in again (fair enough) and on doing this I saw what I expected – I was now in Away mode. I went to My Shows (Away) and could look through them, delete, explore, see upcoming episodes etc. Now to the Guide (Away) area. I select what’s on on BBC2, it’s the snooker. I can record it, possibly handy when you’re out, how about watching some live TV? I select ‘Watch now’ and the next button is ‘Watch on TV’, so I click this only to be told I need to be at home connected to my network to watch it on TV. I knew that, so how do I watch it now while I’m ‘out’, on my iPad?
Maybe it’s a restricted programme, let’s try Family Guy on 3 – same thing. Not that happy now – my iPad is showing as the Primary Device, I’ve signed out and in again, where’s my live TV?
I go back to the instructions (there’s a lesson there) and see that only programmes with the little streaming symbol can be watched live, which explains it. I now see the dropdown where you select All Channels, Favourite Channels or Streaming Channels and it makes sense. What’s the choice like? Well, it’s fairly late Sunday and I can’t get BBC1 (Match of the Day 2), BBC2 (Snooker), ITV (The Constant Gardener movie) or 4 (Beverly Hills Cop), however I can get 5 and another 24 channels after 5 in the list, Now when I click ‘Watch now’ I have the choice of ‘Watch on TV’ and ‘Watch on iPad’, which makes a lot more sense. Watching is fine too, with volume, pause button and a ‘catch up to live’ forward button.
So there’s choice but first impressions are that the best stuff may not always be on the menu. Also that bit about the kids watching something else in the other room was a bit optimistic. We’ll see though, I’ll keep playing with it and give it the benefit of the doubt – try it yourself too, it’s free if you’re a Virgin Media customer and if you’re not yet with Virgin check out their Collections here.