EPG updates from automation at ABC Asia Pacific

An increasingly important factor involved with DTV transmission is the accuracy of the electronic program guide (EPG) data that is transmitted along with a station’s signal.

Florical Systems’ AirGuide provides updated information from the on-air automation system to the electronic program guide generator to ensure reliable information for the viewer.

The EPG data, whether it takes the form of PSIP or DVB, tells DTV receivers important information about the signal originator, the program schedule and the content that is being shown.

As the number of broadcast channels increases and more viewers migrate to DTV receivers, accurate EPG data becomes critical in maintaining the highest possible viewership levels. The EPG in digital television is the home page that the viewer relies on to navigate through all of the program choices. Incorrect data could lead viewers to undesired programming or even to miss a show altogether. The result of inaccurate EPG data for the originator is a subsequent loss in audience ratings.

Early EPG systems relied on static copies of program schedules created many weeks in advance and purchased from listing services. Later systems began to obtain the program schedule directly from the in-house traffic system and reduced the latency period from several weeks down to a day or two. However, in today’s environment of fast-paced program changes and last-minute decisions on programming alternatives, an EPG that is programmed days in advance will quickly become outdated. The situation is especially true regarding news, sports and other live events, where a savvy broadcaster can retain and even enhance audience levels with an up-to-the-minute EPG.

DTV broadcasting is typically deployed along with a sophisticated mul-tichannel automation system because of economic pressure to minimize overhead costs. The ideal source for accurate, up-to-date EPG data is the automation system, which originates the program stream in the first place. Not only can the automation system provide the most accurate information, but it can do so automatically, eliminating any tedious manual tasks for facility personnel.

A continuously updated EPG is exactly what is being done for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s two Asia Pacific satellite broadcasts that originate from Newcastle, Australia. The key design requirement was that the automation system control the complete system, not only including ingest, preparation and on-air playout control, but also automated management of the EPG features to be included with the new broadcasts.

AirGuide, from Florical Systems, is being used to produce the EPG for the DTV broadcast. The system is automatically updated from AirBoss, the company’s play-to-air automation system. Information from the play-to-air system is automatically passed to AirGuide, which then distributes the information to a DVB encoder for transmission.

Real-time data is passed from the AirBoss on-air automation system to the AirGuide and then on to TANDBERG’s EIT Manager. The native XML protocol is used to encode the DVB EIT-compliant transport streams with the electronic program guide data.

At ABC Asia Pacific, the EPG is assembled from two play-to-air automation clients, with any changes updated in real time. The real-time data is passed to TANDBERG’s EIT Manager, using the native XML protocol to encode the DVB EIT-compliant transport streams with the EPG data. The AirGuide system periodically reads the schedules for each play-to-air channel and creates the required EPG. Each channel has a display view to allow easy verification of the events that are included in the guide.

The system can be configured to minimize or expand the amount of schedule information displayed by the EPG. The information display can be as detailed as every event or can be filtered to include program information with start time and total duration. As on-air events are added or removed from the play schedule, the EPG is automatically updated to reflect the changes.

With the availability of real-time data, the system can also produce a current program schedule for the Internet. Customers can use the Web toolkit to integrate the EPG into the Web site, meaning that instead of subscribing to a TV listing service for program scheduling information, the local facility maintains the Web guide with information that is always up-to-date. Web visitors can select a channel and then view the program guide for each day.

By employing the system, ABC Asia Pacific has improved efficiency, eliminating the manual tasks of entering program data and updating the EPG when schedule changes occur. The EPG is automatically created from the automation schedules, requiring no assistance from facility personnel. Additionally, the new system enables ABC Asia Pacific to provide viewers (and potential viewers) with updated EPG information, ensuring accuracy and reliability.

Mark Bishop is the chief technology officer for Florical Systems.

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