Monday, July 16, 2007

Easy TV Data-Possible Replacement for Zap2It

A possible savior for those that rely on Zap2it's free tv guide service

Last month when Zap2It announced they would no longer offer their free tv listings to "hobbyists" for their own noncommercial use there was a lot of hand-wringing by MythTV, GBPVR and MediaPortal HTPC users since they all rely on this service for the TV Guides built into their HTPC software. The GBPVR forums have been extremely active on this topic with a group of people working on possible replacements.

The net is buzzing with a possible replacement for the free, Zap2It service called EasyTVData. Right now the site has the following message:

Greetings from the newly-formed team at Easy TV Data,This
organization was formed by members of various software projects in response to
the announcement from Zap2it Labs that they will be discontinuing the free TV
listings service that they have been providing to the non-commercial free and
open source communities for the last 3+ years.We know that many of you are
waiting on the edge of your seats to find out what's going on behind the scenes
here, and we're just as excited to tell you, but we can't give you many details
while we are still involved in negotiations. We can, however, let you know that
we are actively working on a solution that will provide what we hope will be a
smooth transition away from Zap2it Labs by the September 1 deadline. We will
release more details as soon as we are able to do so, so please keep an eye on for updates.In the mean
time, we are in need of a good lawyer who is familiar with business contracts
and federal nonprofit law (preferably someone willing to work pro bono, at least
initially). We are also looking for a good accountant/CPA (we are registered in
Washington State) to help with any eventual financial/tax paperwork. If you are
qualified and willing to help, please contact us.

Thanks for sticking with us,

The Easy TV Data Board: Isaac Richards, Chairman (MythTV)Robert Eden (XMLTV)Daniel
Kristjansson (MythTV)Kevin Odorczyk (MacProgGuide)Chris Petersen (Mythtv)

If they are able to pull off a usable solution, this would make MythTV, GBPVR and Media Portal Users extremely happy. If it doesn't work out other possible solutions include:
  • Someone developing a screen-scraper to scrape data from an online tv guide site. This could create a major bandwidth demands for the site beeing scraped. Another concern is that any change to the source site would require an adjustment to the screen scraper with the users relying on volunteers to continually update the screen scraper.
  • Getting guide information from EIT Data - This would work, but would include only the program name, the show time and duration, and a description. Not included in EIT data is any indication of whether the show is new or not, no original air date, no indication of whether HD or SD and no episode title.
  • Some other service opening up thier guide data for free or a small fee. I kind of doubt this would happen but you never know.

We have 45 days to see what happens - lets hope EasyTVData comes through. I should mention that the loss of the free Zap2It Labs data will not affect BeyondTV, SageTV or MCE as those companies pay for their guide data and the price is built into the purchase price of the software.