Friday, 12 August 2011

Time for a rant: EPG Metadata Rage for Virgin Media's TiVo

Virgin? Tribune? I find the quality of EPG
metadata for my TiVo disturbing.
TiVo is a great PVR, but a PVR is only as good as the EPG data it receives. Sadly, the data (provided by Tribune) simply isn't accurate enough:

So far, these are just some of the issues I've encountered recently:
  • I've had 2 episodes of The Dead Zone from The Horror Channel not recorded. 
  • Episodes 6 & 7 of The Kennedys from BBC HD not recorded. 
  • Duplicates galore of a Falling Skies episode from FX HD recorded.
  • An alternative broadcast recording of Knight Rider from 5*? Wrong episode. 
  • A suggested episode of Smallville from Syfy? It was part of a film instead. 
  • Suggested episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Syfy? Wrong episodes.
  • Suggested episodes of Angel on Syfy? Wrong episodes.
  • The 'record New episodes only' Wishlist for Warehouse 13 on Syfy? It recorded 3 'new' episodes before the new season started last week.
That's not including TiVo 's online TV guide insisting that this week's England vs. Holland football match wasn't called off, 48 hours after the FA called the game off. Or the series link for Doctor Who which for a while, was configured to record episodes from the old series. And that's before the corrupted EPG download which disabled series link recording for the best part of a weekend.

Virgin opened up a feedback page where TiVo customers could report EPG Metadata errors. I've reported a few, but no longer. Why? Why should I? Or why should you for that matter? Why should customers who are already paying an additional £3 per month have to correct EPG metadata errors? Shouldn't that data be reasonably accurate to start with? Wouldn't - shouldn't - TiVo customers be enjoying the content recorded by TiVo, instead of having to report EPG metadata issues with it?

I don't know why the metadata is so inaccurate. I suspect part of the problem is due to TiVo's lack of a dynamic EPG, meaning that late changes to programme schedules aren't picked up as quickly as other platforms like Digital Terrestrial (Freeview) and Digital Satellite (Sky, Freesat).

But that leaves the remaining metadata for the programme schedule which hasn't been effected by late changes. What's going wrong with that metadata? How is it checked before its sent out to the 50,000+ TiVo's in Virgin Media land? Why is it so inaccurate? Why are we being asked to help check it? Is this just a Virgin Media issue or do other Tribune clients such as Microsoft, Google, Comcast and IMDb have the same issue with the metadata they receive?

Frankly, after sitting down to watch Episode 6 of The Kennedys, only to realise that I was actually watching Episode 8 because TiVo didn't record Episodes 6 and 7 of a show I'd series-linked, I'm past caring whose at fault, or why this issue is happening so often - I just want it fixed, and a quick look at Virgin's Help and Support Forums (here, here and here) reveals that I'm not alone.

Granted, the V+ HD isn't in the same league as TiVo, but as far as series links are concerned, I can't remember encountering so many EPG errors on that PVR which resulted in unrecorded content.

If Virgin are remotely serious about introducing TiVo as the future of watching TV, and bringing all of their 3.7 million TV customers onto the TiVo platform, then I urge them (and Tribune) to do whatever it takes to get this metadata issue fixed. Quickly. Recording content correctly is among the core functionality of any PVR, let alone TiVo, and Virgin's next-gen PVR simply isn't doing this often enough at the moment for Series Links  - let alone for TiVo extras such as Wishlists and Suggestions.


tony said...

I have had loads of epg errors as well, I set a series link for "The Tech Show" and it recorded every single showing, the same with Click. The "New only" setting seems to be generally ignored. I get every episode of Hawaii 5-0 and Murdock even though they are repeats of a few weeks ago. Also these shows do not show "New" against them in the guide so I am not sure what it uses to judge if it is a new show?


Neil Gillibrand said...

Just a thought, but could the missed recordings be due to clashes and the box not recording due to preference order or because it's repeated over the next two weeks?

Not saying this is the case, but could explain some of it?

Jason (Admin) said...

Just a thought, but could the missed recordings be due to clashes and the box not recording due to preference order or because it's repeated over the next two weeks?


The Knight Rider recording was recorded on Sunday due to a clash on the Saturday, but the wrong episode was recorded.

The Dead Zone episodes were recorded in the early afternoon - nothing else was scheduled to record then.

Come to think of it, an series-linked episode of Legend of the Seeker on Syfy was missed as well, it was broadcasted at 6am and I'm sure it was repeated later that day, TiVo didn't record the repeat either.

Simon Middleton said...

The original TiVo in the UK used Tribune as well and over the last 10 years they haven't got any better. Confusion of US and UK first run dates are all too common and many other off errors.

So I'm not at all hopeful that it will get better, but I suppose Virgin have more customers, and so more pull, than when it was just TiVo themselves (in the UK)

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Well said,I currently dont pay the £3 per month charge due to winning a tivo in the draw,When my 12 months is up then i think its back to full time sky for me --- Reasons
New Content(lack of)
£3 charge epg (yer having a laugh)
Great product but epg and no support of new content for vmtv is ruining the experience for me !!!!!!!!!!!

Lee Jordan said...

I owned one of the original UK Tivos 10 years ago and the guide problems were exactly the same then (the programmes were different obviously). The guide data needs to be updated in real time to allow for late running shows and last minute changes (this week's Question Time for example). Only when both these problems are fixed can Virgin begin to say that the Tivo is better then Freeview, let alone Sky. The whole interface has also remained unchanged. It is far too red and feels slow and cumbersome (and a mix of HD and SD). 10 years ago there was no competition so it was OK, but not today. The 'Red Button' problem also needs to be fixed before the Olympics and I would like to be able to record the red button channels as I can with a Freeview PVR.


Nialli said...

I haven't had any EPG problems myself but fully sympathise with those that have. TiVo success depends 100% on that EPG data - if it's not accurate, the whole service is undermined.

Richard said...

i agree with the metadata issue.
It was a lot better on S1 tivo who were a different supplier. For some reason the supplier was switched for VM and it is nowhere near as good.

As for feedback, always had it for the series 1, but it was never frequently posted to, because not a common problem. Now... well 6 months on, it shouldn't be a teething problem, they should have fixed the US program data at least.

Kev said...

I've had problems with my v+hd box crashing when recording/viewing several hd channels. I was planning to move to TiVo but refused on the principle that I shouldn't have to pay an additional fee because the current product is not fit for purpose, these comments make me glad I stood by my decision but more annoyed with virgins poor products.

Carl said...

You have to remember that the data is provided by the broadcasters so if they provide the wrong data (as in Knight Rider eps not being the one as scheduled) that is not strictly either VM or Tribune's fault.

That said, I agree with Nialli. I haven't had too many EPG issues and, although one is one too many, I really don't expect it to be perfect.

Oh, and the 'corrupted download' issue was reported and fixed WITHIN 36 HOURS.

Carl said...

Oh, also... Richard....

"i agree with the metadata issue.
It was a lot better on S1 tivo who were a different supplier. "

WRONG! It's still TMS.

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