Virgin Media's TiVo hard disk recorder and on-demand set top box has changed the way people find and view TV programmes, according to the fibre-optic entertainment supremo.

A quarter of its users forgo the electronic programme guide (EPG) favoured by other set top boxes, instead preferring TiVo's intelligent search feature.

Half of these searches are for programmes that aren't in audience research company BARB's top fifty for the UK - which means more people are seeking out programmes, rather being spoon-fed the top result on the EPG.

According to Virgin Media's second 'Entertainment Index', the top ten customer searches were:

1. The Apprentice
2. Camelot
3. Doctor Who
4. House
5. Glee
6. EastEnders
7. Dexter
8. Casualty
9. Desperate Housewives
10. Fringe

Too demanding

Dexter and Fringe aren't broadcast on conventional 'terrestrial' channels, instead being shown on FX and Sky1 respectively which, Virgin Media reckons, reinforces the prominence of "word of mouth social recommendations or marketing campaigns".

What Virgin Media hasn't revealed is the number of people who prefer watching on-demand to recording on the TiVo's hard drive, so it's not clear if the Tivo's 1TB of storage is proving increasingly redundant.

At 484 million views in the first half of 2011, Virgin Media's on-demand service is still dwarfed by the BBC iPlayer - which achieved 175 million views in December 2010 alone.

The company believes it's on track to achieve one billion views this year, but this could be a drop in the ocean compared to the (free) iPlayer's results.

We doubt Virgin is too worried though. It's already delivered Britain's fastest fibre-optic broadband to many homes, and many will take out a TV package at the same time.