September 04, 2011

TiVo EPG: an update from Virgin Media

From Virgin Media's official TiVo forum:
When we decided to partner with TiVo for our next generation TV service, we realised the quality of metadata (programme information) would be a key element to the success of the product. Quite simply, the features that make TiVo so great require better, more detailed schedule data than any other products on the market today.

So, we selected TiVo's long term partner, Tribune Media Services (TMS), as our provider of metadata. TMS has a really deep understanding of how metadata drives key parts of the TiVo service and the importance of getting it right.

But as you'd expect with the launch of any new product, we've had some unexpected challenges along the way which we have been working hard to resolve. I'd like to explain two of these and what we've done to fix them.

Challenge 1:
We're aware there have been some occurrences where a series has not recorded when a Series Link is set to NEW only. (It's worth pointing out right now that no other product attempts to offer such flexibility with a Series Link.) One of the key pieces of information TiVo uses to decide if a programme is NEW is something called the 'Original Air Date' (forever now referred to as the OAD!). The OAD is set as the first date that a particular episode of a programme was aired in the UK. TiVo describes a programme as NEW if it airs within 28 days of the OAD.

This situation threw up two issues. The first was caused by another feature of TiVo, the Episode Guide. To ensure the Episode Guide was as detailed as possible, we had to merge parts of TMS' US database with the one for the UK. To do this, we picked a historic date whereby the US OAD would take precedence over that of the UK. However, some US shows were inadvertently affected when there was a long gap between the US and the UK airing. As time has gone on, the number of shows that could be affected by this has reduced greatly.
The second was in relation to channels broadcast in Northern Ireland. That is, Virgin Media provides the RTE and TG4 channels to customers in N.I. However, some US shows are shown on both the Irish channels and on UK channels. Sometimes the 'Irish' airing is well in advance of the 'UK' airing. If that date difference is more than 28 days, TiVo would not apply a NEW tag to the 'UK' airing. TMS have been working hard to make sure their systems take this situation into account and any shows aired since July 1st should no longer suffer from this problem. Just as a tip and to ensure you don't miss any shows, you can also select 'NEW & reruns'.

Challenge 2:
We've discovered there are some challenges around 'Non-episodic programme information'. TiVo loves to know specific information about each and every programme, however some UK broadcasters aren't used to providing this for all shows.

This has lead us to use generic 'series information' for some shows and this causes the following issues:
1) all showings of a programme will be recorded regardless of the Series Link setting and 2) when a Catch-Up TV show is available in the reverse EPG, TiVo doesn't always know which episode to play. We're working with TMS and our channel providers to increase the amount of episodic information in the schedule.

So in summary, I hope this helps to clarify how we are dealing with some of the challenges we are facing. We're working closely with TMS to improve our operational compliance processes to ensure other mistakes don't slip through. We really appreciate your feedback and please continue to use the Survey Monkey link to report any problems so that we can resolve these as quickly as possible. We're also working on a better way for you to report issues directly to us and I'll be in touch once it's up and running.

Stephen Featham
Director, Digital Entertainment Technical Operations, Virgin Media.


Chris Emmett said...

That sounds promising. Although, I'm a little surprised this wasn't figured out during field tests.

Idrathepoza said...

There is no doubt that Tivo is a great experience. But on occasion it throws up some frustrating anomolies. I like to watch Pardon the Interuption on ESPN America - and because the show is run three times in 24 hours - I get three recordings as the metadata shows each run as "New". In the grand scheme of things this is mildly irritating - Tivo has recorded stuff that we would never have considered or known about - and the ability to browse new series is exceptional - so I am more than happy to pay the extra £3.00 per month. Our 500GB box is 60% full - we have so much enjoyable TV to watch - so VM - please iron out the wrinkles - but they won't stop us wearing the shirt!

Richard said...

I'm a little surprised at point 1 they raise.
We've know about the OAD stuff for series 1 TiVo at least 10 years now, infact, I've posted comments about understanding OAD when selecting 'new' only and confusing with channel premier,
The OAD has always been a source of problem with the epg, So Like Chris, I'm surprises, nay stunned VM didn't get something this basic and well know sorted sooner.

Still, they have realised, so it should fix some things!

However there is no comment on the other areas of meta data re actors, genre etc. This is just as important for advanced wish lists.