Operators are struggling with the look and feel of their programme guides as the need for improved navigation clashes with elder set-tops, writes Julian Clover
Shop regularly in any supermarket and you begin to learn the tricks of the trade. The special offers that shout at you the moment you walk through the door, while you have to walk to the back of the store to pick out the item you want to by, along the way passing items that really shouldn’t end up in your trolley.
In the world of electronic programme guides everyone wants to be at the front of the store. This week NBC Universal announced a cabinet reshuffle, moving Hallmark Channel to the relatively prime position of 130 on the Sky EPG, jumping forward 20 places to the slot currently occupied by Sci-Fi +1.
Sky operates a supermarket style aisle system, dividing its goods into regular categories, Entertainment Movies, Sports, News, etc, so you can imagine the surprise when using the Comcast network in Washington DC to find a system that created the impression that the numbers had been picked out of a hat. UPC Netherlands has also let its once orderly system slip.
In the digital world and its vast array of channels there is much talk about the improvement of navigation and allowing the customer to find their way around the increasing amount of content that is being offered to them. At the Driving Digital Content conference this week Kevin Baughan, director of technical strategy at Virgin Media gave an indication of Virgin’s thinking that if accepted would see the operator blend both broadband and linear content into a single interface.
There have been a few grumbles about the new Sky+ HD interface, though my hunch this is more to do with the consumers being presented with something new, rather than there actually being anything wrong with it. It does after all replace a guide that has been in use for over 10 years. Notice that it was the original plan to introduce the guide on the majority of Sky+ boxes, standard and high definition, underlining the difficulties in bringing in a new interface when you have several million boxes in the market.
Virgin too, which this week renewed its contract to use the Liberate middleware, has similar issues. As one source close to the contract told me this week, if only all the boxes were the new Samsung. It is however talking about a renewal of its EPG, though the lead times mean this may still be several years away.