Rovi Phasing Out Over-the-Air Guide Listings

Rovi has started shutting off the TV listings data it has provided in over-the-air broadcasts to dozens of consumer-electronics device models in North America -- and will completely end the service by April 2013 -- a move that has infuriated consumers who claim it will render their DVRs useless.

The company said its agreements with data broadcasting partners CBS and National Datacast Inc. (NDI), a for-profit subsidiary of PBS, are coming to an end.

“Rovi has relied on over-the-air traditional broadcast data service providers to deliver the data broadcast service. The agreements with these service providers are in the process of ending,” Rovi spokeswoman Linda Quach said in an email.

All Rovi guides in analog TVs, digital TVs and consumer-electronics DVRs that receive over-the-air broadcast data via an antenna or a cable TV connection in the U.S. and Canada, including the Rovi Guide Plus+ and TV Guide on Screen products, will be affected by the change.

The company said it began informing customers of the shutoff directly via affected devices in early November. According to Rovi, its over-the-air TV listings have already been discontinued in about 20% of markets in North America.

In 2009, Gemstar-TV Guide International -- one of Rovi’s predecessor companies -- cut a deal with CBS, under which its local stations distributed the data for the on-screen guides to CE devices using a portion of their broadcast digital spectrum. Rovi also has had a contract with NDI to distribute IPG data over digital broadcast signals.

Rovi-supplied guides have been available in CE products from manufacturers including Hitachi, LG Electronics, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Samsung Electronics, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony Electronics, Toshiba and RCA.

Consumers who have relied on the Rovi listings have expressed frustration with the move. “Sony DVR Useless After Rovi Stops TV Guide OnScreen,” a post on technology forum Slashdot earlier this month.

Rovi’s Facebook page has received multiple comments from disgruntled users. “Last night I got a message on my $1000 Sony DVR that my $1000 DVR will soon be useless after you discontinue TV Guide services in NA,” someone posted on Rovi’s page on Sunday.

“Honestly it's hard to believe you will turn thousands of owners' DVRs into bricks,” wrote another Facebook visitor, who claimed to own a Sony DHG-HDD250 digital video recorder.

Rovi said it will continue to provide data over the Internet for certain models of broadband-connected TVs. In addition, guides provided through cable operators, such as Rovi’s i-Guide, will not be affected by the change.