Monday, 29 October 2012

Integrating catch-up services into the EPG

The recent high-profile launches of YouView and Freesat’s new Freetime service in the UK have shifted focus back on to the role that the EPG plays in finding what to watch. Both platforms feature a “backwards EPG”, where users can scroll “back in time” to find programmes on catch-up services as well as seeing what’s on in the future.

There is much to be praised for this approach: a large part of the population still finds it difficult to use the traditional type of catch-up service, because it’s not how they’re used to choosing what to watch. By integrating catch-up services into the guide, that mental barrier gets reduced and makes catch-up TV part of their normal viewing experience.

However, the question that then starts to emerge is “will the grid-based EPG soon have had its day?”
There’s a lot of inertia behind the use of the grid-based EPG (among users and manufacturers), as the amount of available content increases. But, it’s still not really clear if the traditional EPG is the best way of displaying this much information to the user in a way that’s actually useful to them.  The traditional EPG will still be with us for a long time, because linear TV is also going to be with us for a long time.  However, I doubt that the grid-based EPG will remain the primary means of finding something to watch past the current generation of user interfaces that we’re seeing from companies like Freesat and YouView. 

This brings us full circle back to the integration of catch-up services in to the guide, because familiarity is a powerful tool, but sometimes our current tools just aren’t powerful enough to face the demands of the future.

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