Verizon threw down the gauntlet early on with its FiOS IMG guide interface and features like TV widgets, a decent search function, and VOD cover art. However, the guide has always had certain shortcomings – like no HD display – and cable companies have started to roll out their own improvements to compete with the FiOS threat. Now Verizon is moving to the next level. In a “sneak peak” program, the telco has started selectively pushing out IMG 1.9 to Verizon community forum members in New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.
New features in the 1.9 release include an “expanded TV listings guide, improved graphics, and new functionality in DVR and parental controls settings.” The “improved graphics” part refers to the long-awaited 16:9 HD display as well as updated image art across menus and specifically in the VOD library. Reports are also coming in from the DSLReports forums that the eSata port is now open on the Motorola QIP7200 set-tops. And, near and dear to my heart, the multi-room DVR service (Home Media DVR) now lets subscribers manage and record shows from any set-top in the home, creating a single virtual library across both set-tops and external hard drives.
Electronic program guides have always been a major point of contention among operators, and a major pain point among consumers. Expect the wars to heat up in 2011, however. Between new IP-based guides and regulatory wrangling over who controls the interface when new CE devices have broader access to pay-TV services, the EPG is likely to be in the spotlight for the industry next year.