Extended programme information providing a full seven day schedule is finally being launched on Freeview across the UK.

Following successful trials in Wales and London, the service is being introduced on five multiplexes, region by region, followed by the SDN multiplex.

Receivers that have been automatically upgraded to receive the extended data will now be able to display details of programmes up to a week in advance. Receivers known to be compatible include Humax and Pace PVRs, the Pace DTVA, Sony VTX-D800 and Sony integrated digital television sets. Some computer products, such as those from Nebula and Hauppauge may also be compatible.

Other receivers will continue to carry only ‘now and next’ programme information, although it is hoped that many models will be made compatible through over air software upgrades.

In order to provide details of programmes to be shown ‘this time next week’, the schedule actually contains data for eight days, because of the way in which television schedules span calendar days.

Richard Lindsay-Davies of industry body the Digital Television Group said: “The roll out of the seven day schedule service on DTT marks a key milestone in the move by the industry to enhance and simplify recording of digital TV programmes – vital for switchover by 2012. There are already a number of personal video recorders on the UK market and these, together with the extended broadcast information, really bring Freeview services to life.”

A schedule for a full week ahead is seen as a minimum practical requirement for electronic programme guides and personal video recorders and has always been available to Sky+ satellite viewers.

The availability of the extended schedule data was delayed for technical reasons, leading some manufacturers of personal video recorders to offer a proprietary programme schedule service, which should no longer be necessary.

The extended schedule is carried in the Event Information Tables or EIT in the Service Information or SI data contained in the Digital Video Broadcasting transmission. The information is cross-carried between multiplexes, meaning that information for other channels will be available when tuned to any given service.

For each programme, a broadcaster can supply an event time, name, synopsis and genre. If a broadcaster updates their schedules then the information should update within 40 minutes.

The carriage of seven day schedule data is seen as a step towards a more sophisticated system known as TV-Anytime, as Richard Lindsay-Davies explained: “Of course this is only the beginning and the DTG is already working hard on the implementation of the more advanced TV-Anytime system and has set up the world’s first digital terrestrial TV-Anytime test bed project.”

The TV-Anytime Forum is an international initiative to establish open standards for a rich of set of metadata to provide more sophisticated support for consumer devices such as personal video recorders.