Guide data ‘freed’

The Age reports that television guide data with be made freely available to manufacturers of digital video recorders. This will make it much easier to record programs. The newspaper reported it as a “massive blow to free-to-air TV.” But how could that be? Knowing what’s on is surely a way to get consumers to tune in; especially Foxtel viewers where information on Channels 7 and 10 are blocked out. Yes, it is true that recording is made easier but viewing is easier too.

Part of this was spurred by ACMA moves in this direction. The Foxtel spokesperson was supportive:

Foxtel spokeswoman Rebecca Melkman said: “If all consumers are able to access free-to-air electronic program information, we look forward to the networks supplying the information to the one-in-four households in Australia that have Foxtel.

“We have had an integrated electronic program guide for 3½ years, which now also operates on the internet and soon on mobile phones,” she said.

The question for those hoping to purchase a Tivo next year is, will the ACMA also move on Foxtel to make its guide data freely available? After all, you can’t have these rights just one way.

[Update: I spoke too soon, according to this report it looks like Foxtel wont have access.

But Foxtel will not get access. Subscribers to its iQ DVR will need to use a free-TV-approved service to record Seven and Ten programs, which are unavailable on Foxtel’s digital platform.

All too confusing really.

It gets worse. Sigh.]

5 thoughts on “Guide data ‘freed’”

  1. This might be a problem for IceTV. I pay them 80 bucks a year for program information to be downloaded for my EyeTV/Mac-mini combo PVR style device (with added bonus of built in computer functionality).

    If the data is free to consumers, their business model looks kaput!

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  2. I was just wondering whether its true that 25% households have inflexible pay tv packages at the expensive rate they charge?

    Last figure I heard was a couple years ago and was 15%

    Can anyone vouch for the accuracy of this figure?

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  3. The announcement from FreeTV is to make the EPG free to ‘DVR manufacturers’ and (further down) ‘EPG service providers’ (ICE?) It doesn’t mention making the EPG ‘free to consumers’; somewhat to the contrary, the provision is subject to copyright, integrity and ‘ratings collection’ conditions. ICE’s business model (assuming it survives 9’s legal challenge) depends on the attractiveness of its pay-and-do what-you-want service compared to the presumably more constrained service that recipients of the ‘free’ EPG will have to provide. Indeed, I can’t see how Topfield, with its fully user programmable DVRs, could possibly enforce the usage conditions that FreeTV wants to impose. Maybe end users will just have to accept ‘licence conditions’. In that case, ICE is sunk.

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  4. And now FreeTV are saying (see the Oz) that their conditions include DVR manufacturers barring ad skipping. So, goodbye TiVo’s 30 second skip button (and iQ’s, if FreeTV is forced to make FoxTel part of the deal.)

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  5. This is hardly being “freed”. Thanks to the infamous Telstra vs Desktop Marketing Systems case, it became possible to copyright a collection of facts here in 2001.

    Subsequent political incompetence ensured that TV schedules didn’t pass into the public domain as a condition of winning a broadcasting licence.

    Now, we have the most egregious case of rent-seeking you’re ever going to see. Since it involves an alphabet soup of technologies like PVR, XML and EPG, the public just can’t grok it and we’ll be stuck with criminalising anyone with a modicum of savvy and a sense of fairness.

    Perhaps the answer is to develop an analogy that the public can grasp? Here’s a first draft, using biting satire to make the point.

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