With hundreds of channels and thousands of programmes available on demand, not to mention millions more online, the electronic programme guide is likely to become much more important in the future. Fewer than 60 million homes in Western Europe had an EPG at the end of 2008, which is around a third of television households. That is expected to grow by nearly 20% annually over the next four years as digital television becomes ubiquitous, so that nearly three-quarters of all television homes will have an EPG in 2014.

Although initially the province of pay-television operators, the programme guide is evolving.

A new report from Screen Digest and Goldmedia looks at the market for EPGs and television middleware applications. It concludes that the United Kingdom is currently the most developed and innovative EPG market in Western Europe, led by Sky which is in nearly ten million homes.

The national adoption of electronic programme guides clearly follows the predominance of digital pay-television platforms. The report finds that Scandinavia has a large number of innovative guides. They are also popular in France, which leads Europe in IPTV services, and in Italy, thanks to the support for the MHP standard. Germany lags behind other major European countries because of the relatively low penetration of digital and pay-television.

Direct revenues from electronic programme guides will triple over the same period to €451 million. These will primarily come from the provision of technology and programming information, but the electronic programme guide is gaining significance for transactions, advertising and communications.

“The traditional market for EPGs is in broadcast TV and it is likely to remain that way, but we are finding increased interest from non-traditional vendors including some of the largest consumer electronics and media companies,” said Tom Morrod, a senior analyst at Screen Digest. “The lines are starting to blur and where content is sourced outside of pay-TV operators new entrants such as Apple, Sony, and Microsoft have an opportunity to provide branding and control into the living rooms. As hybrid services, home networking and multiple content sources become more mainstream, the EPG will be central in gaining control of our entertainment choices.”

“The EPG is becoming much more than a digital programme guide: it is evolving into an interactive, personalized and integrated entertainment guide.” concludes Mathias Birkel, senior consultant at Goldmedia and author of the report. “Whether on the television, the internet or mobile, the EPG of the future locates content that is of interest for the specific user. Not only will it offer automatic recommendations — either personal TV channels or personalized programme tips — but it will also include suggestions from friends, and from customers with similar interests from sites like Facebook.”

EPGs and TV Middleware Applications: Market Assessment and Forecasts to 2014 is produced by Screen Digest in Association with Goldmedia, supported by PPS, the Press-Programm-Service, a subsidiary of Deutsche Presse-Agentur.