The future of the TV guide interface

People love to hate their on-screen TV guides. The grid layout we’ve known for decades looks antiquated and is functionally lacking now that cable TV and online media have dramatically expanded the content universe.

What most consumers don’t realize, however, is that pay-TV operators aren’t thrilled with current electronic program guides (EPGs) either. The outdated interface keeps subscribers from fully utilizing TV services today, and it hampers the deployment of new services that offer operators additional revenue opportunities for the future.

There’s a transition under way that will shift many on-screen program guides from the set-top box in a consumer’s home to a web-based or cloud-based management system. The interface is one part of that transition, but the bigger and more complicated part is the underlying platform that will connect EPGs with content-recommendation engines, interactive applications, advertising platforms, and more.

The stakes are huge in the EPG space moving forward:

  • TV service providers and, increasingly, hardware manufacturers want to strengthen their brand presence at home on the TV set, and they also want to extend that presence through the television interface to other connected devices.
  • Service providers want to take advantage of increased technology flexibility to offer new content bundles, services, and applications through the program guide.
  • Perhaps most important in the long run, service providers, software providers, and CE manufacturers all want to use next-generation technology to collect information about consumers and create new advertising opportunities through the program guide and beyond.

In the forthcoming GigaOM Pro report “The future of the TV guide: a look at the transition to cloud-based EPGs in the U.S.,” we examine the many facets of the industry’s shift to hosting program guides in the cloud. The report covers major companies involved in the EPG transition, including service providers, hardware manufacturers, software providers, and market disruptors. It also looks at the different strategies in play for managing legacy TV systems during the transition. And it covers major trends, including the likely timelines for different phases of new guide deployments.

In the future the TV program guide will be more than just a pretty interface. It will be a front for new channels of entertainment, information, and commerce.