Verizon is targeting mid-2011 to complete the rollout of the next major revision of FiOS TV's Interactive Media Guide, which boasts more than 25 new features including a full 16-by-9 screen for HDTVs, more personalization options, improved search capabilities and DVR enhancements.
IMG version 1.9 is "our most significant upgrade to FiOS TV's guide since we introduced the Interactive Media Guide in 2007," Verizon director of product management Joe Ambeault wrote in a blog post.
On Thursday, Verizon rolled out IMG 1.9 to FiOS TV customers in four markets: Harrisburg, Pa., and Syracuse, Albany and Buffalo, N.Y. The new guide will come to all remaining markets through May and June.
A "very small number" of older standard-definition set-tops will not support IMG 1.9, nor will the guide run on the Motorola DCT700 adapters Verizon distributed to eligible customers when it converted to all-digital video in 2008, Verizon spokeswoman Heather Wilner said. All other set-top boxes will be upgraded through an automatic software upgrade, she noted.
Among the IMG 1.9 personalization features are guide customization, enabling users to choose a mini-guide on the bottom of the screen, a half-guide on the right side of the screen or a full guide with a view of more hours of scheduled programming.
New parental control options provide the ability to block out portions of programming by rating during key hours of the day, like homework time, and schedule times for parental controls to be automatically turned on and off.
IMG 1.9's new DVR features include: DVR "chaptering," which provides a DVD-like ability to navigate recorded programming via using on-screen thumbnails in 10-minute increments; "multi-hub DVR," which lets customers record and manage DVR settings from any room in the home if one of the DVRs is a multiroom DVR; eSATA external storage device compatibility, available with most FiOS DVRs; and "play all" and "delete all" options, which let customers play all recorded episodes of the same show sequentially or automatically delete all episodes of a show with one command.
Verizon said improved search capabilities include a "smarter" search function that predicts what a subscriber is looking for and automatically provides potential matches. IMG 1.9 also lets users filter and sort by channel, and more easily locate favorite programs.
On the 3D front, the upgraded guide detects when a customer tunes to a 3D program or channel and automatically changes the necessary settings for watching those programs on a 3DTV set.
A video with highlights of new IMG 1.9 features is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqQSE3TpbS8.
"We've found that FiOS TV isn't about passive video watching -- it has evolved into an entertainment and information destination," Verizon vice president of product management Eric Bruno said in a statement. "Our new generation of FiOS TV is all about increased interactivity, ease of use, simplicity of design and high tech made easy."
Verizon touted other previous features introduced with IMG, including interactive applications for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, HSN Shop By Remote and others, and Media Manager, which allows customers to access personal photos, music and videos from their computers on their TVs.
While initially Verizon planned to develop the FiOS guide with Microsoft, the telco took the software in-house in 2006.
As of the end of 2010, Verizon had 3.47 million FiOS TV customers.