The end of the affair

As I’ve written about before, the demise of the 4TV programme guide has left owners of several brands of Freeview recorders without an easy way to schedule recordings. And now, I think, we can say that the coffin lid has been pretty well nailed down, and the chances of a resumption of the EPG service are pretty much extinguished.

I’ve said before that I think it would be unlikely, despite the online petition (which now stands at around 1500 signatures), that anyone would step in and take over the service. So why am I even more certain? Because of Sony.

As mentioned in some of the comments to stories on this site, and elsewhere, Sony told the owners of their SVR-S500 that they were “looking into the matter” and some people gained the impression they might consider taking over the EPG service (though given they no longer run their own TVTV EPG on Freeview, that would have been an odd decision).

What makes that look even less likely is this email, sent to an SVR-S500 owner (I’ve removed identifying information):

Thank you for your recent e-mail received on 09/07/2010 08.00 AM.

Thank you for contacting Sony regarding your Sony SVR-S500.

In recent weeks we have been contacted by a number of customers with reference to the loss of EPG service on their SVR-S500 Freeview recorder.

This loss of service is, very basically, due to the EPG data stream, specific for this product, no longer being broadcast as of the 29th June.

Since this date, the electronic programme guide will now only display the ‘Now’ and ‘Next’ information; where before it would display up to 8 days of programme lists.

As a result, we are aware that you will no longer be able to see forthcoming programmes or use the EPG to record them in advance. However all other functions will continue as before, with the product still able to display the Freeview broadcast and record programmes via the manual timer function.

However, with the change in service firmly in mind, we have put in a place an offer to give you the option to trade-in your SVR-S500 and get £100 off of one of the following Freeview HDD/DVD recorders:

RDR-DC200

RDR-DC100

Details of these models and their full features and specifications can be found on www.sony.co.uk. Please note however that new ranges do not feature twin Freeview tuners but these products do come with built in DVD recorders which is an added benefit.

If you wish to participate in the trade-in, you can either do this by contacting our Sony Centre Sales line on 0845 6000 124 (select option 1) where they can arrange for you to reserve and collect the new product via your local Sony Centre, or, you can visit your local Sony Centre directly. The offer will run from midday on 29 July. Details of your nearest Sony Centre can be found via www.sonycentres.co.uk. Please note you will need to return the SVRS500 to the Sony Centre to obtain the discount.

I hope that this offer helps you with the current situation.

I’ve called the number in that email to verify the offer, and it is indeed correct – select option 1 first, then option 3 from the next menu; the person I spoke with told me you have to have registered with the support line first to let you know there’s a problem, but they’ll be able to transfer you.

Sony RDR-DC200
Sony's offer to SVR-S500 PVR owners: £100 off a new Freeview+ DVD/hard disk recorder

You can see the specs for the RDR-DC200 and RDR-DC100 on the Sony web site; they’re single tuner Freeview+ units with a DVD recorder; the DC100 has a 160GB hard drive, and the DC200 a 250GB drive.

So, if Sony are handing out discounts and arranging trade-ins of their affected PVRs, I think it’s fair to say that they’re not going to be suddenly starting up an EPG service for even fewer people, especially when the majority of those people will probably not even be their customers.

And, I think this is the final nail in the coffin because the other companies involved don’t have a presence in the UK market for PVRs at the moment. Sony is the only company that would perhaps have suffered from goodwill issues if nothing was done, and so they’re addressing that – and good on them for making an offer. The replacement products might not be exactly what you want, but £100 is a pretty reasonable deal, in my opinion.

The only other company that might really be in a position to do something about restarting the EPG is Beko – and while those who are online and reading about this issue will know of their involvement, I suspect that the vast majority of people affected aren’t aware at all. As I’ve commented before, would you be more likely to buy a Beko fridge, if the guide reappeared on a Thomson or Digifusion PVR?

I don’t think so – and so I don’t think Beko will view this as their problem at all. If there was ever going to be a resumption of the EPG, then Sony would have been the best bet. And their offer to affected customers suggests that they’ve done the sums, and decided a trade-in scheme is far more cost-effective than buying capacity, licensing an EPG, and paying someone to transmit it. They got out of that business in the UK with TVTV, and leaping back in for an obsolete product was never likely to happen.

So, unless something unexpected happens, I think that’s the end of the 4TV affair.

3 thoughts on “The end of the affair

    1. Unfortunately, not quite as simple as that. For example, in the case of Sony, they didn’t do the software – they bought it in. And since the EPG code was used in various different boxes, it might not have been coded by the same people who did the other bits of the systems.
      And, in many cases, the teams that worked on these products – which are all discontinued – won’t still be together, and will have moved on to other things. Chances of finding one of the original people to work on the code are slim, I’d have thought, and that means getting a new team up to speed with the code, before they start pulling it apart and putting a new EPG system in there.
      That’s going to take time, and money.
      After that, you have to arrange for the firmware update to be done, and the way to get it to most people is by a broadcast ‘OTA’. That requires testing and approval by the DTG to ensure it won’t affect any other receivers, which costs more money. And if you don’t do a broadcast update, then lots of users won’t get it, because they either won’t know about it, or won’t feel confident messing around with cables and PC update software.
      So, even getting a team together to work on the code will cost money, before they actually do the work. Broadcasting it OTA will cost even more, and not doing that will mean the number of people who benefit is so small that it probably is cheaper to make people offers.
      If you’ve ever done programming, you’ll know that sometimes, even coming back to your own code after a break is confusing, trying to work out what it all does. It’s even more the case when it’s someone else’s.

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