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Electronic Programme Guide (EPG)


An electronic program guide (EPG) or interactive program(me) guide (IPG) or electronic service guide (ESG) is an on-screen guide to scheduled broadcast television or radio programs, typically with functions allowing a viewer to navigate, select, and discover content by time, title, channel, genre, etc. by use of their remote control, a keyboard, or other input devices such as a phone keypad.

In conjunction with Programme Delivery Control (PDC), content can also be scheduled for future recording by a digital video recorder (DVR) (or personal video recorder (PVR) ).

The on-screen information may be delivered by a dedicated channel or assembled by the receiving equipment from information sent by each program channel. To facilitate the latter method, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has published the standard ETS 300 707.

Although completely different from the on-screen program scroll on the TV Guide Channel in the United States, the technology is based upon broadcasting data to an application usually residing within middleware in a set-top box which connects to the television set and enables the application to be displayed.

EPG technology is predominant in the digital television and radio world, but equally EPGs exist that rely upon analogue technology. Guide Plus+, for example, uses the vertical blanking interval. These signals may arrive via cable TV, satellite TV, cable radio, satellite radio, or via over-the-air terrestrial broadcast radio and television stations.

By navigating through an EPG on a receiving device, users can see more information about the current program and about future programs. When EPGs are connected to PVRs, or personal video recorders they enable a viewer to plan his or her viewing and record broadcast programs to a hard disk for later viewing.

Typical elements of an EPG comprise a graphical user interface which enable the display of program titles, descriptive information such as a synopsis, actors, directors, year of production, and so on, the channel name and the programs on offer from subchannels such as pay-per-view and VOD or video-on-demand services, program start times, genres and other descriptive metadata.

EPG information is typically displayed on a grid with the option to select more information on each program. Radio EPGs offer more text-based displays of programme name, programme Description, genre, on-air or off air, Series. artist, album, and track title information.

An EPG allows the viewer to browse program summaries, search by genre or channel, immediate access to the selected program, reminders, and parental control functions.

If the device is capable of it, an EPG can enable one-touch recording of programs, as some DirecTV IRDs can do with a VCR using an attached infrared emitter (which emulates a remote control).

The latest revolution in EPGs is a personalized EPG which uses semantics to be able to advise one or multiple viewers what to watch based on their interests. iFanzy is such an EPG that is completely personal. It allows users to use or create custom skins (like a personal computer's desktop image) and knows what they like to see. It also records these programs so that the viewer no longer has to depend on a broadcaster's time schedule but watch a programme at the moment of choice.

EPGs are typically sent within the broadcast transport stream or alongside it in a special data channel. The ATSC standard for DTV uses tables sent in each station's PSIP, for example. These tables are meant to contain the program start time and title, and additional program descriptive "metadata". In the U.S., these devices receive time signals from local PBS members, so that they can record on time.

Most EPG systems, however, rely upon third party "metadata aggregators" (companies such as Tribune TV Data, Gemstar-TV Guide in the U.S. and Europe, and Broadcasting Dataservices in Europe), to provide good quality data content. Newer media centres (PC based multi-channel TV recorders) and digital video recorders may use an internet feed for the EPG. This enables two-way interactivity for the user so that media download can be requested via the EPG, or related link, and remote programming of the media center can be achieved. Examples include IceTV and MythTV.

In developing EPG software, manufacturers must include functions to address the growing volumes of increasingly complex data associated with programming. This data includes program descriptions, schedules, ratings, user configuration information such as favorite channel lists, and multimedia content. To meet this need, some set-top box software designs incorporate a "database layer" that utilizes either proprietary functions or a commercial, off-the-shelf embedded database for sorting, storing and retrieving programming data.


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