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In Depth: Top Up TV Anytime

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Digital Spy's Alan Jay takes an in depth look at Top Up TV's new DVR-based Anytime service in this special report.

According to Top Up TV's sales and marketing director Matt Seaman, the company some time ago found itself in a position to expand but were too small a player to be able to secure more bandwidth to complement their existing linear programming services.

The solution, Seaman told DS, was Anytime. In essence, the digital video recorder (DVR)-powered service caches approximately 100 hours of programming from a variety of existing and new Top Up channels.

The Anytime PVR was a year in the making. Manufactured by Thomson, it is styled like Sky's digiboxes and - Seaman claims - was designed to be a "best of breed" DVR for the Freeview market. The box will be compatible with the "Freeview Playback" branding once it is agreed but for now provides numerous features intended to enhance the Freeview DVR experience.

Upon plugging the box in, it automatically tunes and searches for a data stream from Top Up TV from which to download channel icons and other technical information. At first, the box populates its EPG using the standard Freeview 7 day service but overnight it replaces this with data from a 14 day EPG.

The STB interface looks clean and well thought out and the instant access to the EPG works well. When surfing the EPG the system automatically brings up the info on a programme if you pause on it (it disappears as soon as you press the cursor keys) and when watching live TV there is a pop up window to access all the Anytime content.



> Click here for more technical details about the Anytime DVR

19 channels in total are available using the Anytime service. According to Top Up TV, rollout of the box was delayed because the software had to be updated to permit the inclusion of more channels than originally intended because the service has proven popular with pay TV channels.

Deliveries of the box are expected to begin over the next few weeks with a retail launch scheduled for the New Year. The Anytime DVR will be priced at retail for between £180 and £200 and there will almost certainly be some kind of initial subscription tie-in offering to accelerate takeup.

Without a subscription, the box will offer the 14 day EPG and, in a future software update, "series link" functionality.

With a £9.99 per month subscription, the 100 hours of programming from 19 channels is made available. NBC Universal's Picture Box movie channel will be available as an additional premium service, costing £5 per month for subscribers or £7 per month for non-subscribers. The channel will offer 30 movies per month, with one movie updated each day. Setanta will be available as a premium channel when it joins the platform next summer.

Top Up is optimistic about take-up of the new DVR, telling DS that sales to existing customers have been sufficiently strong to warrant the ordering of additional boxes from Thomson. The company is in discussions with other manufacturers about developing other boxes, with news expected on this front next year.

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