At the end of the working day I drag myself reluctantly away from my desk and, like almost all honest sons (and daughters!) of toil, I slump on the sofa in front of the television.
There, the first thing I do is click on the TV Guide which presents me with a list of the channels available to me, and the programmes scheduled for the coming hours and days. If, as happens surprisingly often, I cannot find anything I fancy, I click on another link and I get to see all the programmes I have stored inside the digibox awaiting my pleasure.
This is such an integral part of everyone’s viewing experience that most of us do not even think about it. Because it guides us to the programmes we might want to watch, it is called the electronic programme guide, or EPG for short.
Where does it come from? It depends on metadata, downloaded from each broadcaster’s asset management system in a standardised form, and assembled inside your set-top box.
The EPG includes schedule data – when the programme is going to be broadcast. This should be linked direct to the latest version of the playlist, so viewers record all of a programme if the nominal slot time is 20:00 – 21:00 but it is actually transmitted 20:04 – 21:03.
One of the most useful parts of the EPG is the description, which appears when you select a programme in the listings, or click the i button. This has to meet a defined specification, not least the character count so it fits within the available space on screen.
One of the most useful functions in digital television is the ability to set the box to record all programmes in a series with one command, rather than resetting the record each week. Increasingly, digiboxes are clever enough to remember that you recorded series one so the chances are you want series two and set that up automatically, maybe long into the future.
For it to be a seamless delight for the consumer, it needs series links and identifiers to be in place in the metadata that drives the EPG.
If all of this is making it sound like the EPG is a burden on the broadcaster, then it probably is. You need to allocate staff to it, to write the pithy but informative listings, to provide all the series links, and to check all the other information.
The good news is that a sensible planning system, like ForeTV Pulse from MSA Focus, will provide a great deal of support for EPG creation and management. It will provide the links to ensure the latest information is always included, and it will also automate the translation of EPG metadata from one broadcaster’s requirements to another, and to online platforms.
The EPG is vital: without it audiences are not going to find your content. To ensure that you have the clearest, most engaging, most accurate EPG information you need to provide all the support that a modern planning and preparation system offers.