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Vistapocalypse

Windows Media Center EPG ending in January 2020

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Plan for change: Windows Media Center Electronic Program Guide retiring in January 2020

Starting in January 2020, Microsoft is retiring its Electronic Program Guide (EPG) service for all versions of Windows Media Center. To continue receiving TV Program Guide information on your Windows Media Center, you’ll need to configure an alternate TV listing provider.

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/release-information/windows-message-center#343

WMC is not supported on Windows 10, so this change mainly affects those running Windows 7 Home Premium or Ultimate who use WMC as a DVR. The relative few running Windows 8.1 with Pro Pack will apparently be shafted, as well as anyone still running Vista Home Premium or Ultimate and using TV Pack 2008 (I might be the last TV Packer remaining AFAIK).

Of course there are third-party DVR programs such as NextPVR and MediaPortal, but (1) in North America you would need a Schedules Direct subscription for EPG and (2) only WMC supports DRM for North American cablecards. Other than buying a Tivo or renting a DVR from your cable provider, the only solution for issue (2) might be EPG123, which would again entail a Schedules Direct subscription.

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We all knew this day would come. M$ has really been working overtime this year, killing any old OS features they possibly can. Early in the year they went after XP with a vengeance; now they're doing the same to Win 7.

But there's a silver lining: I've read good things about EPG123. The Schedules Direct guide is from Gracenote, which supplies guide data for Zap2It.com and used to supply guide data for WMC before M$ switched to Rovi (which later bought Tivo and took the Tivo name for the merged company).

The software is free but (as you noted) the Schedules Direct subscription isn't. The subscription is only $25/year though; a lot less than Tivo (unless you get a Tivo with a "lifetime" subscription), and I've read that you get a 21-day guide for your money; a nice improvement over the 12-day (at best) M$-provided guide.

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Update: WMC's EPG didn't even make it to midnight. It cut off at 6 PM Central today, so I made the jump to EPG123 and Schedules Direct.

So far so good. I'm now on my 7-day free trial of SD; if everything's still going OK by this weekend, I'll sign up for an SD subscription.

The only annoying thing was that when I set it up, it had WMC do its channel scan before setting up the guide. And since WMC won't auto-scan VHF channels, I had to add those all manually. Luckily, there aren't many VHF channels in Dallas at the moment (really only one important one: WFAA/8 with four subchannels; the other three are all shopping/infomercials/religious), so that wasn't too bad.

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1 hour ago, Mathwiz said:

Update: WMC's EPG didn't even make it to midnight. It cut off at 6 PM Central today...

Confirmed: Microsoft/Rovi guide data is history. No more wondering if Microsoft actually meant January 14.

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On 12/31/2019 at 10:50 PM, Vistapocalypse said:

Confirmed: Microsoft/Rovi guide data is history. No more wondering if Microsoft actually meant January 14.

Update: I  just downloaded Microsoft/Rovi EPG data for over-the-air channels extending to 6 PM January 14.

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Posted (edited)

Update: Surprisingly enough, I now have Microsoft/Rovi guide data extending to January 21 at 6 PM. :wacko: Will Microsoft give us the entire month of January then, or do we dare to hope that Microsoft has changed its mind about retiring its EPG service in January 2020 - perhaps thinking of those who paid for Windows 8 with Pro Pack? Of course I do have a Plan B, but for now I will stick to Microsoft/Rovi like a pesky flea who is still running Windows Vista!

Edit: Microsoft EPG data updated to January 29 at 6 PM. Microsoft appears to have taken down the online Guide Terms of Service.

Edited by Vistapocalypse
update without bumping

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Well, I already paid six bucks to Schedules Direct to get me through March. Now that I've made the switch, I don't think I want to go back. Still, it's good that M$ has backed off its plans to EoL their free guide for now.

I set EPG123 to retrieve up to 21 days. I've never gotten that much, but it's consistently given me about 16 days, give or take a day - more than I get on my DVR+. Also the images for the shows are finally correct (I kept getting wrong ones with Rovi).

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Don't get me wrong Mathwiz: I will be SHOCKED if the Rovi data continues a day after January 31 (and January 29 is still as far as it goes at the moment). Using EPG123 with WMC (and NOT upgrading to Win10) is no doubt the best solution for North American cable junkies who are fond of their HTPCs, but there are a variety of options for others. I wish someone in the UK would post about the situation there, but you and I may be the only DVR enthusiasts at MSFN. (I hope that MSFN will become a stronghold for Windows 7 diehards to the same extent it has long been for XP diehards - and FWIW it is also the best Vista forum IMO.)

Mathwiz, have you been getting annoying pop-ups in Media Center advising you to "switch to an alternate TV program guide provider"? There is a GreenButton thread about this issue, and setting up EPG123 evidently doesn't stop it. My vintage Vista with TV Pack appears to be immune. If you haven't seen such a pop-up either, that might mean that you haven't installed any Windows updates for quite some time - or that you know exactly which updates not to install for Win7?

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20 minutes ago, Vistapocalypse said:

North American cable junkies

Actually I'm OTA ;)

21 minutes ago, Vistapocalypse said:

Mathwiz, have you been getting annoying pop-ups in Media Center advising you to "switch to an alternate TV program guide provider"?

I think I saw that once, but not since I switched.

It's possible the nag comes from one of two .dll's I've long reverted: markup.dll and StartResources.dll. The M$ guide update process regularly replaces these .dll's, so if you have the latest/not-so-great versions from M$ on your system, you may get the nag. Usually I'd notice those .dll's had been updated because the old, defunct "Sports" line and/or the Netflix app would disappear, so I'd shut WMC down and revert them from backups. It's possible I saw the nag during a time when the updated .dll's had been installed.

Switching guide providers seems to have stopped the periodic update of those .dll's (another reason I don't want to switch back), but if you don't have older versions to revert to, you may be stuck with the nag.

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10 hours ago, Mathwiz said:

Actually I'm OTA ;)

Well for those like you and I who are watching and recording over-the-air TV broadcasts, the fact that Microsoft paid licensing fees to Cable Labs of America in connection with DRM is irrelevant - and that is actually the only feature of WMC that is irreplaceable. (SiliconDust had a "Kickstarter" project to develop an alternative DVR with DRM for American cable, but nothing became of it.) I'm not rushing to find an alternative because I've actually had NextPVR installed since 2012. You like Schedules Direct's guide data? NextPVR has native support for it - no need for something like EPG123 to convert the data to Microsoft's MXF format.

OTA broadcasts actually contain guide data. In the UK, DVB-T (terrestrial) channels contain a week of completely free in-band guide data. Alas, our North American ATSC broadcasts contain only several hours of data, but NextPVR can utilize that data if desired (whereas WMC cannot), which might be sufficient for time-shifting purposes but obviously not for elaborate recording schedules.

NextPVR is certainly not the only alternative to WMC: just the only alternative I'm well-acquainted with. I hesitate to mention this in the Windows 7 forum, but NextPVR can readily be installed on Windows 10 (WMC only with difficulty, if at all), and NextPVR is about to go cross-platform when version 5 is released from public beta (I'd like to see someone get WMC to work on Linux or Mac).

Granted, WMC has a more deluxe UI and greater ease of use (although setting up EPG123 might be considered difficult by PC users who are, shall we say, not MSFN material - but let them buy Tivos). Notably, NextPVR does not include decoders. On Windows 7, it can be set to use Microsoft's DTV/DVD Video Decoder; but users in North America would need to install an AC3 audio decoder such as LAV or AC3Filter unless they choose to use Kodi as a front end, which has its own AC3 decoder. Of course support issues should generally be directed to NextPVR Forums.

 

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Aren't we all (US OTA users) going to run up against a hard switch when ATSC 3.0 goes live anyways?

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ATSC 3.0 doesn't have a hard cut-over date like the transition from analog to digital did. And for the next few years, stations have to continue broadcasting at least their primary channel in ATSC 1.0 if they decide to broadcast in ATSC 3.0. And the FCC doesn't even plan to ever mandate ATSC 3.0 tuners in new TVs! So I don't think we'll see an end to ATSC 1.0 broadcasts anytime soon.

At any rate, though, that's a tuner issue. Presumably, once ATSC 3.0 tuners hit the market, SiliconDust will make an HDHR with them, and you can just put one on your network. There's a question of whether it'll be compatible with current models, and if not, whether drivers will be available for a product as old as WMC, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

7 hours ago, Vistapocalypse said:

Microsoft paid licensing fees to Cable Labs of America in connection with DRM is irrelevant - and that is actually the only feature of WMC that is irreplaceable.... I've actually had NextPVR installed since 2012. You like Schedules Direct's guide data? NextPVR has native support for it....

That's correct. Unless you're using cable TV with a CableCard tuner, you don't need WMC. Any other PVR freeware would do. (Is MediaPortal still maintained? That one looked like the best alternative a few years back when I was considering my options.) But as always, it's a hassle to switch; so as long as WMC is working for me, I'll stick with it. Kind of like Windows XP, Vista, 7....

Quote

North American ATSC broadcasts contain only several hours of data, but NextPVR can utilize that data if desired (whereas WMC cannot)....

PSIP guide length varies greatly from station to station and from market to market. In my market (D/FW) most stations broadcast 2 days of guide data. PBS leads the pack with 3 days! A few only give 12 or 24 hours, though.

At one time, I looked for programming that would convert PSIP guide data to WMC's peculiar format, just in case it ever came to that point. I found something that I thought would work, but since Microsoft's guide was working, I never tried it ... if SD ever goes away, I don't know if I could find it again.... but my standalone DVR will use PSIP data if/when its Internet guide goes away, so I can fall back on that while I consider my PC options. Again, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Edited by Mathwiz

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Well I have acquired another 24 hours of Rovi EPG data from Microsoft. My WMC guide now extends to January 30 at 6 PM.

On 1/20/2020 at 4:44 PM, Mathwiz said:

ATSC 3.0...that's a tuner issue.

Perhaps also a decoder issue. I doubt that the old Microsoft DTV/DVD Video Decoder can handle HEVC, new audio decoders would likely be required for Dolby AC-4, and WMC's UI has no provision for selecting different decoders (but NextPVR's UI does). However. when ATSC 3.0 eventually becomes dominant in North America, I would imagine that converter boxes will be available.

On 1/20/2020 at 4:44 PM, Mathwiz said:

(Is MediaPortal still maintained? That one looked like the best alternative a few years back when I was considering my options.)

I have never used MediaPortal, but it is apparently still being developed. Unlike NextPVR, MediaPortal is open source. I believe it has considerable "media server" features in its own right, but could be used as a back end for Kodi (and probably other media servers) if desired. Personally, I have almost as much history with NextPVR as I have with WMC, so I'll stick with it unless I become dissatisfied.

On 1/20/2020 at 4:44 PM, Mathwiz said:

At one time, I looked for programming that would convert PSIP guide data to WMC's peculiar format,...I found something that I thought would work....don't know if I could find it again....

I believe you are referring to EPG Collector. There has recently been some discussion about it at the GreenButton WMC forum beginning here. It sounds like a viable option, and wouldn't even require an internet connection (much less any payment), although the data wouldn't extend as far into the future as WMC users are accustomed to - and of course would only be available for OTA channels. not for cable channels. (Again, NextPVR has native support for in-band EPG collection, as well as for Schedules Direct.)

The lack of interest in this topic has more to do with the rise of Netflix and similar online services than with Microsoft abandoning WMC - in fact Microsoft was merely going with the flow IMO. Growing numbers of people rarely watch "linear" TV. so why should they bother with special hardware and software, recording schedules, etc? Just get TV shows and movies online whenever you like (for a fee).

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11 hours ago, Vistapocalypse said:

The lack of interest in this topic has more to do with the rise of Netflix and similar online services than with Microsoft abandoning WMC - in fact Microsoft was merely going with the flow IMO. Growing numbers of people rarely watch "linear" TV.

That's true. Most folks under 30 probably only watch traditional TV for sports, or maybe because the business they're patronizing has a TV on. Most of them stream pretty much everything else. WMC and similar software is just for old-timers like me who refuse to let go of our dinosaur viewing habits. ;)

It's ironic, therefore, that the two biggest features Micro$oft removed from WMC over its lifetime were the sports line and Netflix.

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It appears that HEVC (which will be part of ATSC 3.0) was being used in Europe by 2015, by which time LAV made a suitable video decoder, and NextPVR began to support it (see HEVC (H.265) support).

Edit:

On the other hand, the Nov 23, 2017 column Does Next-Gen TV spell doom for over-the-air DVR? by Jared Newman pointed out that the ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard allows DRM...

Edited by Vistapocalypse

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