Towards the future of television (part 1)

In the first of this two part blog, we look in more detail at the possibilities and opportunities that HTML5 can offer the humble EPG.

We begin this year as we ended the last: excited by the prospect behind a

We begin this year as we ended the last: excited by the prospect behind a "Connected Broadcasting" era.

We begin this year as we ended the last: excited by the potential of this era of combined broadcast and network connectivity – “Connected Broadcasting” - in which the television industry finds itself, and with one eye on what the future may hold. We haven’t fully entered a world of cloud television, yet - that said - in the short to medium term “web meets TV” innovations are heading in television’s direction. In the first of this two part blog, we look in more detail at the possibilities and opportunities that HTML5 can offer the humble EPG (electronic programme guide).

EPGs meet the web

In terms of their presentation at least, EPGs across the major UK television platforms share many commonalities, the software on which they’re built and run are in fact very different. At the moment, Sky’s EPG – refreshed in late summer 2014 with an enhanced recommendation engine – is built on proprietary software. Virgin’s, having undergone an EPG and user interface upgrade in late 2014 for its TiVo boxes, is built in Flash software, though the company admits that - particularly where the apps made available are concerned – it will seek to use more HTML5 (i.e. web language) in the future. YouView lives in a bit of a dual universe, incorporating HTML5 elements – particularly in relation to the catch-up and VoD players – but with its core built in a modified version of the Flash software, Flash Air for TV.

To date, the connected EPG has been a service available only to those with pay TV subscriptions or expensive set-top boxes. All eyes will now be on Freeview, whose recently announced connected offering is due to bring an HTML5-compatible EPG to the mass market. Of all the current platforms, the one most accurately pointing to television’s future is Freesat, whose freetime EPG is built entirely in HTML5. It provides a revealing window as to what a television EPG could be now (bearing in mind that it’s already technically possible) and will be in the future. Turn on freetime and you’ll see graphics and images across the EPG that are relevant and current with the week’s television schedule – not just for catch-up but for upcoming shows too. The Showcase section provides suggestions and recommendations of upcoming shows that a viewer may wish to watch. Not only that, this section is refreshed daily (sometimes more often) and so the EPG – something traditionally thought of as “static” and largely fixed – is now something live, changing and whose appearance is often refreshed.

But an EPG built in HTML5 need not just be a “pretty” menu. It can be a lot more than that. Should a platform wish to advertise products, its own or those of others, an EPG built in HTML5 would allow for adverts to be inserted, adapted and refreshed. Based upon a viewer’s behaviour in and around the EPG, and assuming a platform is capturing elements of its customers’ usage data, it’s possible that these ads could in future be targeted. In the same way, the platform could “push” recommendations of programming a viewer may like, clearly signposting the viewer to this content – be it catch-up or as part of the live schedule.

Far from being something that rarely changes and is simply one size fits all, the onset of HTML5 means that EPGs could soon become something live, changing and personalised.

Part two is available here.

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