Without notice, Rovi shuts down TV guide service

The company with so much love it changed its name to fool its fans is at it again, this time killing the signal that provides guide data directly to many televisions and set-top boxes. You see, before changing its name from Macrovision, Rovi acquired Gemstar-TV guide in 2008 -- which was probably most well known for the integrated program guide common in higher end TVs throughout the last decade. While most people just use the guide offered on their provider's set-top, this guide is for those who actually use the clear-QAM or over-the-air tuner in their TV. The way it worked is that manufacturers baked the software into the TV, which would then tune into a local affiliate's broadcast of a week's worth of guide data. The setup successfully made it through the digital transition -- minus the truckloads of analog-only TVs ceasing to work along the way -- as new TVs featured a digital version of the service, as well as some digital converters, like the DTVpal DVR.

This time around it's the smart TV craze, and the internet connectivity that comes with, that is causing the premature death of a feature some people have been using for at least the last three or four years. That's because as of November 1st, all the PBS affiliates that were passing on the signal were asked to return their equipment to Rovi, with little to no explanation as to why. Worse, there seems to have been a complete lack of customer communications to help people prepare for the loss of service (maybe the ad space in the guide could've been put to good use for once?) All the other affiliates are also expected to cease the service between now and April, with limited alternatives available. If you used the service but have a newer TV that can connect to the internet, it might be worth checking with the manufacturer for a firmware update that'll let you download guide data that way instead. But for the rest, you'll need to watch TV sans guide data, or break down and add a set-top box to your TV that features such things.