Virgin Media has finally launched its second-screen companion application for its TiVo box service on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad as it looks to take its fight with Sky beyond the television screen and into the world of supportive apps.
Virgin TV Anywhere allows subscribers complete access to their TiVo box - the EPG, recordings, the lot. It also offers remote access to the Anywhere live TV streaming service (formerly only available online). Unfortunately, however, only TiVo customers will have access through the app; other subscribers will have to make do with the online version at present.
Its TiVo functionality is impressive. Once connected to a set-top-box on the same home network - or remotely through the user's account details - the app acts as a mobile version of TiVo's home screen. A full electronic programme guide is the hub of the action, with forward and backwards-in-time browsing and TiVo-powered information on actors, shows, etc.
Using that 14-day EPG, users can change channels to the show they want to see, set recordings and series links, look for upcoming episodes and more. There is also social networking share functionality to let others know, through Twitter and Facebook, what you are watching or plan to see.
All you need do is tap a button on your iPad or other iOS device and the TV responds instantly. It's much quicker than using the TiVo box's own remote and user interface. Indeed, so much so that if you have a old iPod touch lurking around, you may want to consider re-purposing it as a permanent TiVo remote.
When connected to your TiVo service, both home and away, you can also access your recordings on the box's hard drive. Sadly, you can't view them on a mobile device (yet), but you can organise them better and delete them in a much more speedy fashion than previously allowed. If you're home, you can start to watch them at the slightest of taps. Recorded shows also allow you to seek out more info and/or upcoming episodes.
A full TiVo-powered browser is included, which can find catch-up or paid content, as well as information on any TV or movie-related cast member or title you like in order to flag for upcoming episodes. And that's about it for now.
Virgin Media promises that more functionality will be added to the service in the near future and throughout 2013. For example, at present not all channels are available as live streams. While the online version of Virgin TV Anywhere has 45 channels currently available for streaming, many of those - such as the Sky channels - aren't available for watching on an iOS device through the app. There are 25 from day one though, so it's not too shabby. And, thankfully, you can restrict the EPG view to just those available (and set favourites) to make things easier.
Catch-up TV and on-demand services are also planned for mobile and tablets in 2013, as is support for Android devices.
Virgin TV Anywhere is available to download for free on iTunes now. You can check out the online version at anywhere.virginmedia.com.