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Why Traditional EPGs are Doomed to Failure

Thousands of TV programs currently compete for "passive consumer" audiences. With such a huge range of traditional linear TV content, the electronic program guide (EPG) is being promoted as a viable solution -- according to the latest market study by Screen Digest and consulting firm Goldmedia.

It's estimated that 59 million households in Western Europe were equipped with EPGs at the end of 2008 -- a penetration of 36 percent of all TV households. This number will grow 19 percent yearly between 2008 and 2014 so that nearly three quarters of all TV households will have access to EPGs in 2014.

The analysts report has identified about 300 EPGs on the different platforms in Western Europe. These include EPGs in set-top boxes from pay-TV and infrastructure providers, online EPGs from TV guide magazines, TV platform providers, online providers and mobile EPGs.

The research results indicate that market volumes from direct revenues in Western Europe will triple by 2014. Direct EPG revenues primarily come from B2B transactions -- from technical development, implementation of EPGs in end devices, licenses, software and program updates.

The progress of development differs by country and corresponds closely to the digitization process of the TV infrastructure. According to the analysts, the spread of pay-TV and IPTV, the degree of innovation among cable network operators and the proliferation of end devices with specific EPGs are essential factors in development.

The UK has been the most developed EPG market in Western Europe to date -- 70 percent of UK TV households already have EPGs. The Sky Guide from BSkyB is the most widespread EPG in Western Europe, with over nine million users. Cable network operator Virgin Media also offers customers access to the BBC iPlayer via its EPG in a hybrid set-top box.

EPG penetration in Italy is relatively high at 38 percent where the market benefits primarily from government subsidies for DTT boxes and the promotion of the interactive standard MHP. Germany lags behind many other countries in Europe, primarily because of the relatively low penetration of digital and pay-TV.

"The traditional market for EPGs is in broadcast TV and it is likely to remain that way, but we are finding increased interest from non-traditional vendors including some of the largest consumer electronics and media companies," said Tom Morrod, Senior Analyst, Screen Digest.

In contrast, I believe that the traditional EPG is doomed to failure -- because they're developed with a content producer and/or pay-TV distributor perspective. Meaning, the subscriber needs -- finding content that fits their personal interests -- are considered an insignificant afterthought.

That has created the huge window of opportunity for Personalized Entertainment Guides (PEG) -- made possible by intelligent recommendation engines, and supplemented by friends and family content suggestions via social media. Once people discover the alternative to EPGs, there's no going back.

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