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Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Plea To TV Stations For Proper PSIP/EPG Data

I know some TV stations and networks monitor this blog, so I'm hoping that someone that can do something about it will read it and act on it. (I know, I'm a dreamer, right?)

For some time now, many TV stations have had inaccurate, incomplete, or missing PSIP (Program and System Information Protocol) data. For me, this has been an inconvenience mostly, until now. I have an OTA PVR (HomeWorx HW-150PVR, for under $50) that is dependent on PSIP data for recording. I know some of the blame for inattention to PSIP goes to TV manufacturers (For example, my top-of-the-line in 2008 52" Philips TV only tells me what is on now, and only on the channel I am watching now!), but broadcasters should be doing what they can to keep their PSIP data accurate. Manufacturers are only following the specs for our ATSC standards, which stations are supposed to follow - but rarely do.

I realize that most channels with bad PSIP data are independent and/or LP stations, and I thank the "Big Guys" for doing at least a passable job with their PSIP data. But all stations should consider that PSIP data is invaluable to many of their viewers and also encourages viewers to plan their viewing so they can watch YOUR channel and YOUR commercials rather than another channel that has PSIP data. Also it allows those of us with PVRs to record YOUR programs and commercials rather than watch another station's programs and commercials.

Here is what I consider to be important PSIP data:
  1. ACCURATE time/date info: Without accurate time and date info, many PVRs are completely unable to record your channel, period. Most PVRs have no internal clock, getting their clock data instead from whatever channel they are tuned to. Would it be too difficult for a station engineer to check and correct the time and date once a week?
  2. Station ID and virtual channels: Every channel should have a UNIQUE ID for every subchannel. For example, my local CW affiliate KUCW 30.1 and 30.2 are both identified as "KUCW-DT". Also, unless your virtual channel is the same as your RF channel, your channel will not be correctly identified.
  3. EPG (Electronic Program Guide) data: Okay, here's where a lot of stations drop the ball. I know that EPG data can be populated well into the future, even a week out. However I'm lucky if I can get EPG data 5 hours into the future on those stations that even have any EPG data. Here's what is important to viewers as far as EPG data: Accurate listings of programs and start/end times, at least 24 hours out. It is impossible to record a program that starts tomorrow, 24 hours from now, if your EPG data only goes out 5 hours. Even people without PVRs cannot plan tomorrow night's viewing if they have no EPG data. So, if you can't go out a week in your EPG, at least go out 24 hours+.

We really don't need all the extended EPG data ("On tonight's episode, Mary Lou..."). Yea, it's nice, but not essential. PBS stations in general make good use of their PSIP, followed closely by the major network affiliates. Independent and LP stations are lucky to get their own call signs correct. Ironically, LP and independents benefit most from a good EPG, since their listings are often not found on sources like TitanTV, and many OTA viewers (mostly older viewers) don't have access to TV listings on the internet.

Since the demise of TVGOS (TV Guide On Screen) and the weekly TV book that used to accompany most Sunday newspapers, along with the slowly growing number of OTA PVRs, PSIP/EPG information is becoming more important than ever.

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