BBC iPlayer channel launching next week

The ‘soft launch’ of BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media happened a few weeks ago with it being available through the red button from any on-air BBC channel. From next week a BBC iPlayer channel will be added to the Virgin Media EPG. The news comes from an official Virgin Media press release (click here). The BBC iPlayer service will be fully integrated into the On Demand menus (like Catch Up TV) in a few months (the exact date is not yet confirmed).

‘Rabbit’ has launched

The new interactive dating & chat service from Teletext – ‘Rabbit’ – has launched on Freeview channel 102. The channel used to be home to Teletext Cars but was renamed to ‘Rabbit’ on the EPG recently. The ‘Rabbit’ service has now launched. The service enables viewers to text in and get their messages put on-screen and also allows them to send in pictures of themselves & have them displayed on the channel. ‘Rabbit’ is very much like one of those Sky dating channels. It’s all done using MHEG technology so it’s quite impressive what features it has when you think it’s only an MHEG application.

Virgin Media rolls out set top box update

Updates are rolling out to Virgin Media set top boxes at the moment. These updates are for standard set top boxes (the ‘V’ boxes) – ‘V+’ boxes got upgraded a while back. The application version my set top box is now running is ‘13.100.1_ukcable’ (ex-NTL area). To get the update, you should just need to turn your set top box off at the wall socket and then power it back up. A message should come up on the screen saying it’s updating itself. As Virgin Media usually stagger the release of updates between regions, the update may not be available in your area yet. The update appears to add the following;

– When you switch subtitles on and off from the mini guide bar it prompts you to make sure you want to turn the subtitles on/off

– This update seems to convert all the channels that were originally using analogue (888) subtitles to the digital format (so they are selectable from the Subtitles option on the mini guide bar

– Reminders can now be unset via the OK button with the mini guide bar up

– The programme information popup is much bigger giving more room to fit in long programme descriptions and names

– If you hold the power button in on the front of the set top box, it will restart the box (you no longer need to switch it off by the wall to restart it)

– It seems to flick through the channels faster when using the left and right arrows

– All the menus (including iPlayer via the red button on any BBC channel) just seem to load quicker

‘Picnic’ service not launching anytime soon

The proposed pay TV service from Sky called ‘Picnic’ doesn’t look likely to launch on DTT anytime soon as the Ofcom consultation continues, and delays any plans. If ‘Picnic’ were to launch, it would replace their existing free channels on Digital Terrestrial and they would likely be replaced by Sky One, Sky Movies and Sky Sports. The Guardian say the ongoing Ofcom consultation “would appear to make it unlikely that Sky could launch its DTT pay-TV service – if it were given permission to do so – before the summer of 2009”.

‘Rabbit’ placeholder appears; Teletext Cars removed

Teletext Cars – the interactive service from Teletext – has been removed and replaced with a placeholder message for the new interactive dating service ‘Rabbit’ on channel 102. ‘Rabbit’ is thought to be launching this month. Teletext Cars had been dormant on Freeview for a while.

BBC Parliament to be removed for the Olympics

BBC Parliament will be temporarily removed from Freeview for the duration of the 2008 Olympic Games this August. The freed-up video stream will mean more Olympic coverage can be provided for Freeview viewers. MediaGuardian is reporting “BBC Parliament’s Freeview capacity will be used to enhance the quality of the interactive TV streaming the BBC is planning to use for the Olympics, which take place between August 8 and 24”. BBC Parliament will return to Freeview after the Olympics have finished. UK parliaments and committees are likely to be in recess for the duration in August anyway, so BBC Parliament shouldn’t be missed too much and will mean better interactive video services for those viewers on the Freeview platform.

Free Setanta Weekend

The Setanta Sport channels are free for the entire Bank Holiday weekend (2nd-5th May). You must be subscribed to the M or L TV package for this offer. XL TV customers already get them for free, so they will see no change. The Setanta channels are, Setanta Sports 1, Setanta Sports 2, Celtic TV, Rangers TV, Arsenal TV, Setanta Golf and Liverpool TV.