Comcast's Next Guide To Be Ready In Second Half of '09

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The next version of the i-Guide interactive program guide used by Comcast and other cable operators—slated to include Start Over-style features—won’t be ready for commercial deployment until the second half of 2009.

The IPG’s next major release, version A28, will include several key enhancements, including support for Start Over applications and switched digital video systems.

The software, which runs natively on Motorola set-top boxes, will go through lab testing and trials in early 2009 before its general availability in the latter part of the year, said Sharon Metz, Macrovision’s vice president of vertical marketing for system operators for North America.

Comcast had previously hoped to roll out a service similar to Time Warner Cable’s Start Over, which allows viewers to restart certain recently aired programs, by the end of 2008.

The i-Guide code is developed by GuideWorks, a joint venture 51% owned by Comcast and 49% owned by Macrovision. Macrovision, which completed the acquisition of Gemstar-TV Guide International in May, has rights to market the guide to other operators.

Other features in store with A28: the ability to search and record by actor, director or keyword, similar to TiVo’s WishList (e.g., the DVR can automatically save all upcoming programs with a specific actor); folders to group DVR recordings of the same show; and bulk deletion of recordings.

The next i-Guide can also show viewers who tune to a standard-definition channel an on-screen prompt that lets them switch to an HD version if it’s available. “We think subscribers will really get a lot of value from these features,” Metz said.

Support for switched digital video originally was planned for version A25, released earlier this year. (A26 and 27 were consigned to beta releases.)

That was pushed to A28 because the switched digital video portion of the guide encountered “technical issues” in testing, said Macrovision executive vice president of marketing Corey Ferengul, who declined to be more specific.

“We went through some field trials and found some issues, and decided to pull it back and make it part of the next major release,” he said.