The Electronic Program Guide

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Phase 2 efforts to develop EPG software and then lab test it before conducting field trials are now underway with the goal of completion by the fall of 2009. Once the project team started tackling the problem of developing a radio EPG service, however, it quickly became apparent that to create a successful business and technical model for a universal radio program guide service is more complicated than it appears on the surface. For example, in the case of television, a cable or satellite operator obtains and provides a common program guide for all of its services. Also, there are national program schedule databases for television programming that are routinely fed program guide information from the individual stations and networks. Finally, there are third parties who provide and operate program guide services. None of this infrastructure exists for radio.

Because radio is a medium that serves its audience directly rather than via a cable or satellite distribution platform the way most broadcast TV is watched, radio stations must take primary responsibility for delivering program information for what's on radio. And since the locations of radio transmitters are so geographically diverse, the radio signals received on the northern side of a market will be significantly different from the signals received on the southern side. Who will transmit all this program data and how will the receiver make sense of it?

The BIA/Broadcast Signal Lab/Unique Interactive project team envisions four possible models for EPG data delivery.

Four Models for EPG Delivery
  • Parochial Model - each station transmits only its own EPG data.
  • Shared Model - each station transmits all market EPG data (at least high level data without details).
  • Master Station Model - one or more stations transmit market level EPG data for all other stations.
  • Network Model - stations transmit "pointers" to EPG data sources which can include over the air sources as well as other sources such as Internet-based program guides.
  • Figure 1 shows how the Electronic Program Guide data could flow from source to listener. Program guide data can be provided by the program source (network or program syndicator), automation systems, traffic systems or input manually by station personnel. A third-party EPG service bureau can provide some or all of these services. Another function of a service bureau is to scrub the data for consistency, accuracy and formatting. Once the EPG data has been acquired and prepared for delivery to the listeners, it can be sent either over-the-air or over the Internet to receivers for display to listeners.

    Figure 1. Possible EPG data flow

    Figure 1. Possible EPG data flow (Enlarge image)

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