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MONITORING EPG: Guiding content discovery by Keith Bedford, EBS D igital TV is something that we’ve become accustomed to, we don’t think about how we search and select the vast volume of content that’s now available to us, we just know that with the press of a button we can see what’s on, record our favourite shows, series link them, select recommendations based on our previous viewing habits and pay for downloaded content that we then own. It was only just over 30 years ago that the television, that stood alone in the corner of the room without any additional adornments other than the aerial sticking out, had three channels. In those halcyon days of a handful of channels of terrestrial TV we had one remote to argue over and if we wanted to know what was on we fl icked through the channels or read a listings magazine or the TV guide in the local newspaper. In those days this was state-of-the-art technology. Never at that time could we have imagined digital TV, the web and multiple connected devices. It seems incredible to think that in such a short space of time our viewing habits have changed beyond recognition. Now we’re spoilt with hundreds of channels that we can watch any time we like: in the traditional real-time sense, on demand, or using time shift. And we can consume content wherever we like: on the TV, PC, tablet or smartphone. This is all fantastic news, but with all this content available 24/7 how do we fi nd the programmes that we want to watch now? These days instead of fl icking through the channels we’ve become heavily reliant on the EPG. It shows us what’s on and when, acts as the GUI to record programmes and crucially provides additional information that may or may not tempt us to watch. Not only has the EPG become an integral part of our viewing habits it’s also a key sales tool for broadcasters. With so many channels fi ghting for audience share the way that the content is written and presented is vital. So how does the EPG work? Let’s take a small national channel as an example. The channel will schedule its shows each day (probably using Excel or a scheduling system). This information is then fed to the playout system, which in turn provides the video feed to the platform hosting the channel. This takes care of the video but what about the data for those scheduled programmes? Most platforms require the data to be supplied separately, in this instance, the schedule information (Excel spreadsheet) is sent to an EPG provider where it is imported into an EPG database, along with additional metadata such as series links, images and cast etc. With many of these channels broadcasting across multiple platforms and multiple territories, which all require different specifi cations, not just for fi le formats but for character length, additional data fi elds and fl ags etc., we can see that this is not a straightforward process. Knowing how important the EPG is in providing a hook from channel-to- viewer means that the job of the editor in creating that eye- catching copy, which sets channels apart from the crowd, is highly skilled. Then comes translation, highlights creation, press document production for print and online publication and so on. As well as enabling us to discover content listed on the EPG, the data provided by the channel to the platform also has important technical implications. Again if you cast your mind back it’s not that long ago that we were 58 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 95 NOVEMBER 2014 TV-BAY095NOV14.indd 58 06/11/2014 13:05