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Television Media

No More TV Listings For MythTV Users 346

Ryan Brown writes "As of September 1, the free XML TV guide service at zap2it labs has shut its doors due to misuse issues, as well as internal business issues. Now that Linux users, and most PVR users for that matter, are nearing the end of their last fetched TV guide, what free alternatives exist that can replace this much-needed service?"
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No More TV Listings For MythTV Users

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  • Meh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by biafra ( 4283 )
    Not only MythTV users, but people like me using a Replay TV in countries such as Canada are now SOL as well. This sucks, I hope a alternative I can pay for shows up soon.
    • by stoneymonster ( 668767 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @05:51PM (#20532265) Homepage
      It's subscription, run by the mythtv dev's. Right now it's $15 for 3mos, but they are hoping to change that to $20/yr if they get enough sign-ups.
    • Re:Meh (Score:5, Informative)

      by krisp ( 59093 ) * on Sunday September 09, 2007 @08:13PM (#20533281) Homepage
      Or you can scrape their free tv listings service, which is not going away.

      See http://zap2xml.110mb.com/ [110mb.com] for a perl-based tvlistings.zap2it.com to xmltv scraper which is a drop-in replacement for the labs scraper.
  • Incorrect (Score:5, Informative)

    by FST ( 766202 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @05:49PM (#20532247) Journal

    Also, the Zap2it TV Listings are not being shut down -- there has been some confusion about this in comments on other message boards.
    Submitter: did you even bother to read TFA (which is around 3 sentences, at that)?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 09, 2007 @06:04PM (#20532399)
      Zap2it LABS is shutting down their free XML listing service. Zap2it TV listings are a different service, and something completely different. Just like reading TFA and comprehending it.
      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )
        and there are already 5 web scrapers for zap2it out already. the Poster I guess hates google's new ad's so much he cant search for anything. even the guys on the gbpvr board have a crapload of links to the free screen scrapers.

        it's not hard, many of the solutions have been out for 2-3 weeks already. I tried one of the screenscrapers but I prefer to pay for SD as I can bitch about bad listing data and they will try to get the problem fixed so that it doesnt happen again.

  • Schedules Direct? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Elgonn ( 921934 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @05:49PM (#20532251)
    http://www.schedulesdirect.org/ [schedulesdirect.org]
  • by fluffybacon ( 696495 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @05:50PM (#20532257) Homepage Journal
  • TV Guide Channel? ;)
  • Why free? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 09, 2007 @05:51PM (#20532261)
    What's wrong with paying a couple bucks to get the listing data? Someone somewhere had to pay to provide the service. I don't see why everything, everywhere has to be free, free, free.

    Oh damnit - I forgot. This is slashdot. Paying for stuff = bad.
    • Re:Why free? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @06:40PM (#20532609)
      I pay for it already when i'm forced to watch crumby ads for panty liners and erection problems.
    • by Bandman ( 86149 )
      Well, I'm not saying they should have to, but it would be nice if this kind of information was provided by the company pumping data into your cablemodem. At least this way you wouldn't have to worry about getting the right feed. It would automagically be right.

      Hell, I might even pay an extra few bucks a month for that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Petrushka ( 815171 )

      Oh damnit - I forgot. This is slashdot. Paying for stuff = bad.

      And where in this discussion do you see anyone making the claim that anyone is entitled to this service for free? Where do you see anyone assuming that paying for stuff = bad?

      I look up the page and I see dozens of posts advocating a service which is not free. Take your stereotypes somewhere else, you contemptible anonymous coward.

    • Re:Why free? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by schon ( 31600 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @08:40PM (#20533417)

      What's wrong with paying a couple bucks to get the listing data?
      Nothing. However the problem I have with SD is their "Agreement" - in order to get the listings, you have to agree to some pretty damn onerous things, including "not doing anything to piss off anyone at Tribune Media Services, even if you didn't know it would."

      This is a completely untenable clause, because they don't tell you what things might piss them off, nor do they explain their relationship

      For example, complaining on /. (or any other forum) could theoretically make TMS unhappy, which would cause you to be in violation of the "agreement" - and yet you wouldn't know it until after you get your account terminated (or worse, dragged into court.)

      I have no problem paying for it (in fact, I had my credit card out to sign up), but it's some seriously fscked-up shit - too much for me.
  • by binaryspiral ( 784263 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @05:51PM (#20532267)
    The service is available for a quarterly charge of $15...

    http://www.schedulesdirect.org/ [schedulesdirect.org]
  • Titan TV (Score:5, Informative)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @05:51PM (#20532277)
    One option is Titan TV [titantv.com] listings. They are free (add supported) via a Web interface and are designed to work with PVR devices.
  • Why wouldnt the TV stations provide this for free - it is the ultimate free advertising pushed straight to the customer.

    Instead they treat the listings like corporate bloody secrets - would you PAY to get junk mail posted to your letterbox?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by uncreativ ( 793402 )
      Not sure why parent is rated -1. It's not an offensive or irrelevant point to make. I have honestly wondered the same thing--why don't the content companies want to distribute their own scheduling information at their own expense? I can only guess for a couple reasons:

      1. Somehow people got duped into paying for it--why ruin a good thing, eh?
      2. Content companies don't like PVRs for their commercial skipping capabilities, and out of time slot views aren't properly counted in ratings for their shows. Both prob
  • by Noksagt ( 69097 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @05:55PM (#20532317) Homepage
    Suck it up and use Schedules Direct [schedulesdirect.org] just like everyone [linux.com] else [slashdot.org]. It isn't free. The opening cost is $15/3 month (with a 7 day trial). However, compiling schedules is not free. SD purchases them Tribune Media Services. But SD is a nonprofit company & they are free/open source friendly, having been formed by people involved with MythTV, XMLTV, and MacProgramGuide. I can think of worse places to send my money.

    Free/open source PVRs are more functional than most proprietary competitors & the software itself will always be not only gratis, but free as in speech. If you want the cheapest possible service, you'll do better to get something with a lifetime subscription to guide content. But I prefer my freedom to a full pocketbook.

    It'd be nice if the guide data would eventually become free/open. But who's going to provide it?

    If you don't like SD, I guess you can try their competitor [ctpvr.com] (if they ever release something for Linux). Or screen scrape for no cost.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )
      $5 a month is a lot to spend just to see what's on.
      • Then look in your TV Guide, comes free with your paper (if you get one).
      • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @08:41PM (#20533421)
        The more people that sign up for Schedules Direct, the lower their costs will be in the future (or something along those lines). They've already stated that their intention is to have a much lower fee for listings after the first quarter, but that the $15 cost for the first three months was necessary since their organization is just starting up.

        Personally, I find the listings useful enough that I'd (just barely) pay the $5 a month, but I would hold them to a much higher QoS if I had to keep paying that much.

        BTW, one of the SD guys mentioned that they found out that Tribune Media Services, and other TV schedule aggregators, do a lot more than just put together already-available data. They have to cross-reference syndication feeds with local schedules, they have to come up with episode descriptions, and in general, there's work and some original content arising from that. Even local stations have no idea what episode they're showing on a particular day - they just get the episodes from the distributor, possibly with promos, and then run them. TMS already knows how to do this stuff, and they had the infrastructure to distribute it already, but they weren't interested in managing the business of selling the listings. SD acts as a broker in that sense, paying TMS for the listings and collecting the individual fees from the users.

    • However, compiling schedules is not free.
      About that... why not? It's in the channel's best interest if people know what it's showing so they know to watch it and not a competitor. Why don't they each make their listings available in a standard format so that all you need to do is know the address where each one is published.
      • by Noksagt ( 69097 )
        If getting immediate total cooperation from everybody in a decentralized system at once was easy, we'd save a lot more than $5/month for our cable listings. Tribune Media Systems [tribune.com] and Gemstar [gemstartvguide.com], who are the only two companies to compile the listings have a financial incentives to continue charging for the service. Their services fulfill the needs of a very large percentage of the customers of the cable channels. The channels won't take an action that costs them money & reaps little return. Even if ther
    • If you want something that's not tied into some specific hardware (ala Tivo) but that still provides free monthly listings, and the ability to extend it with your own code, try out SageTV [sagetv.com]. It works on Windows, Linux, and Mac, and is extremely easy to set up. It's stable, and has great support. Oh, and as per the point of this post, it include free TV listings.
  • XMLTV (Score:5, Informative)

    by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @06:03PM (#20532391)
    As long as there are TV listings in the world, there is the means to rip them. One example is XMLTV [xmltv.org]. This rips listings from certain sites and produces an XML schedule file that you can feed into MythTV. I assume that once a free service disappears that you'll see scripts for XMLTV that do pretty much the same.
  • by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <giles...jones@@@zen...co...uk> on Sunday September 09, 2007 @06:15PM (#20532455)
    There are Mythtv users outside of the US. In the UK the listings are carrying on as normal.
  • We collect our own (Score:4, Informative)

    by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @06:26PM (#20532523) Homepage

    For local broadcasters, we can collect our own. Many broadcasters may be willing to provide their schedules for free. Someone in each city would have to be the "point person" to encourage the stations to provide them in a usable form with no distribution restriction. Then they would be submit them to central databases (can be more than one) where they would be merged and others can then download in bulk. The national networks might be harder to get them from.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cylix ( 55374 )
      Local broadcasters already submit them to a central authority.... well... self proclaimed central authority. (that's another rant for another time). Many broadcasters already provide their listings on the web as well.

      The national stuff is easy as they already have to send their schedules to many local broadcasters and cable co. Format access can be as easy as an ftp, http or email. Up until recently buena vista had a lovely dial-a-fax option to send a show format to your desired fax line.

      There are essential
      • by Skapare ( 16644 )

        I don't think we need the detailed show format (segment timings, commercial breaks, etc) ... do we? What we need is the basic start and end time for the show, the name and code of the show, and where applicable the episode number. Other data is a nice plus but could usually be indexed by the show's code and episode number (e.g. lists of actors/actresses, plot description, date of production, and other trivia). I assume (because I've never looked at the MythTV stuff, yet) the XML DTD has already been work

  • Ha (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MBCook ( 132727 )

    Does this really surprise anyone?

    I dabbled with MythTV a few years ago. I was quite surprised then that the Zap2It service was free, and I'm quite amazed it lasted as long as it did. At a certain point, if MythTV got bigger, they would have HAD to do this.

    Now other posters have pointed out that ReplayTV in some countries used this, and some companies were taking these listings and reselling them for profit.

    If you want to be open source, this data has to come from somewhere. Maybe someone will write scrip

  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @07:08PM (#20532813)
    You start with random recording schedules and breed them off one another based on user provided success metrics.

    In about 15 to 20 years you should have developed a sufficiently agile show selection expert system that you won't need any steeekin' TV guides.

    Or something.
    • by glwtta ( 532858 )
      You start with random recording schedules and breed them off one another based on user provided success metrics.

      The programming execs are way ahead of you on this one: most networks already implement the first part of that algorithm.
  • by PolyDwarf ( 156355 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @07:11PM (#20532839)
    Here goes some karma...

    Reading through the comments, I'm struck by one thing, really.. The utter deviation of the posters, versus the "normal" mode of Slashdot.

    Why is it an utter crime to want to get free tv listings? Why is it considered mandated that you must pay money to get them, where before they were free? Is it because it is the ScheduleDirect people? Or is it because it's "only" 5 dollars? Or is it because the word "Free" is bad? Seriously, tell me. I can download Linux for free, but I guess that's bad? I can read Slashdot for free, but I guess that's bad?

    The ScheduleDirect people are offering a paid service. More power to them. I have a little nagging doubt in my head that they will degrade other methods of program acquisition (EIT, direct inserts into the database from a scraper, etc), to "facilitate" SD (otherwise known as rope people into using their paid-for service, and nothing else). Those fears may or may not be unfounded, but why shouldn't I be worried and looking for alternatives?

    Why shouldn't people want to find out about any free listings that are out there, just like has been offered for years from the Zap2It people?
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @07:23PM (#20532925)
      I assume it's because they are sick of people asking. Google is GREAT for finding things that exist. The fact that you -can't- find this on Google is a huge hint that it doesn't exist. Let's not forget that the last service to provide this for free closed down because of all the abusers, even after they were asked not to abuse the system. What other service in their right mind would take their place?

      I admit, I think $5/mo for TV listings is a lot. TV Guide provided that service, plus interviews and articles, for less. (At least, last I checked.) There's free TV listings in the paper each week. (Again, last I checked.) And you can always look stuff up on tvguide.com and other sites for free, they just don't provide an easy-to-use feed for automated abuse. Err, use. I don't even pay that much for services that do a -lot- more work.

      Some day, TV will get on the ball and start providing the service people want, instead of trying to force things down our throats. Europe has tv-via-satellite that seems to work very well, except it's not HD. The HD over-the-air works well, if you aren't stuck in a valley like I am and can't receive any signals without a ton of equipment.

      No, some day, someone will see the light and provide TV over the 'net, with an electronic guide that mythtv or other programs can use. (AT&T, ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?) Maybe they'll even have TV-on-demand and eliminate the need for a DVR altogether... If I could stream TV shows any time I wanted, instead of having to know ahead of time, I'd be willing to pay for that. (More than I already pay for HD & DVR cable, I mean.)

      We seem to have hit a phase where companies are trying to force us to want what they want to sell us, instead of trying to sell us what we want. It's backfiring left and right and they're soon going to have to open their eyes.
      • "I admit, I think $5/mo for TV listings is a lot. TV Guide provided that service, plus interviews and articles, for less. "

        $5/mo. for TV listing is just a few cents/month more than a typical TV Guide subscription (which was about $4.17/month at the time we ended our subscription). If you buy the TV Guide at the checkout counter, you pay a LOT more per month than that. TV Guide at the store is sold by the week, not the month. It's been a few years since I bought one at the store, but it was more than $1.2
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 09, 2007 @07:43PM (#20533075)

      Here goes some karma...
      No, but it is nice that you've fished for "insightful" mods by prefacing your statement with this.

      Why is it an utter crime to want to get free tv listings?
      It isn't a crime. Nobody said it was. They just said that payment for a service provided by F/OSS devs is reasonable.

      Seriously, tell me. I can download Linux for free, but I guess that's bad? I can read Slashdot for free, but I guess that's bad?
      Nice strawman. You can also read tv schedules online for free too (or at least in the same fake "ad supported" free that you read Slashdot).

      I have a little nagging doubt in my head that they will degrade other methods of program acquisition (EIT, direct inserts into the database from a scraper, etc), to "facilitate" SD (otherwise known as rope people into using their paid-for service, and nothing else). Those fears may or may not be unfounded, but why shouldn't I be worried and looking for alternatives?
      Given the reputations of those involved with SD, this is somewhat insulting. That being said, the reason you have nothing to fear is that the code to process XMLTV listings already exists & is open source.

      There are more pragmatic reasons too--multiple F/OSS projects are collaborating on providing SD & even more will be encouraging their users to get their listings from SD.

      Why shouldn't people want to find out about any free listings that are out there, just like has been offered for years from the Zap2It people?
      They can want whatever they wish! But they aren't going to get it soon. Only two companies compile guide data & they sell it to other businesses. Some of these businesses (like SD) charge at least enough to pay for what it costs them to provide the listings. Others put it on the web & use ads to pay for it. Payment must come from somewhere. Z2It was free because they were a subsidary of Tribune.

      If the data comes from one of the two "mother" listings, it will cost money. Period. No one will give you a free lunch. (Or you can violate TOS by scraping it.)

      If it doesn't come from these "mother" sources, someone would have to form a third listing generation service (but this would cost significant setup & operating $$$ that they'd want to pass on).
    • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Monday September 10, 2007 @01:00AM (#20535157) Journal

      Why is it an utter crime to want to get free tv listings?

      Because it costs money to get them, assemble them, and distribute them.

      Linux is free because a bunch of volunteers put it together for free. So why aren't you volunteering to call up numerous TV networks, every few days, to get a list of their schedule, and input that into a public database for others to use, for free?

      How about calling up every cable network in the country every month, to see if they've made any changes to their channel line-ups? And checking on every FCC action to see if broadcast TV channels have made any changes.

      Somebody needs to do it. In absence of a huge and sustained mass of unimaginably dedicated volunteers, somebody needs to get paid for doing the hard and thankless work. Otherwise, you're just being a leech.

      Why is it considered mandated that you must pay money to get them, where before they were free?

      Zap2It was being charitable, nothing more. It was costing them money, but they put up with it for quite a while anyhow. No one else has, nor will do so again. There's just no profit in it, and it's not sustainable.

      I'm sure you can think of many other examples of some software or service that started out free, but was merely a loss-leader or other marketing ploy, before it went commercial.
  • This is one of the reasons why I opted to go Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) 2005 when I built out my PVR earlier this month.
    • Which begs the question: How long until somebody does the Evil thing(with a capital E) and just starts scraping and copying Microsoft's listings?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      You could pay for SchedulesDirect listings for a few years and still come out money ahead of the cost of MCE. You paid for the listings in the overpriced software.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 09, 2007 @08:05PM (#20533213)
    I am glad people have mentioned SchedulesDirect. But, you know, free doesn't mean "costs money", so I'm surprised so many people CONTINUE to post yet more threads on schedulesdirect.

              Found at http://forums.schedulesdirect.org/viewtopic.php?f= 7&t=43&start=10 [schedulesdirect.org]:

    http://zap2xml.110mb.com/ [110mb.com]

    http://forums.gbpvr.com/showthread.php?t=27546 [gbpvr.com]

    http://planetreplay.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=143 14 [planetreplay.com]

              I am using MSN_XMLTV_scraper, running under Wine personally. To run under Wine, you need msxml6.msi, install that with "msiexec /i msxml6.msi". For GZIP compression to work (which you do want, so MSN doesn't get cheesed and start changing the format...), I had to install wininet.dll into /root/.wine/drive_c/windows/system32/ and run regedit, adding in HKCU/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Int ernet Settings/EnableHttp1_1=0x00000001 . This is equivalent to checking "Enable HTTP1.1" in the Internet Options with Internet Explorer I guess. More or less, run the app once to set it up, then put in a cron job that runs "wine MSN_XMLTV_scraper_v54.exe /d" and feeds the XMLTV data into mythtv (I have a shell script that does all that.)

              The first run is very slow, but it caches the detailed program info so after the first run it's pretty fast.
  • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @09:07PM (#20533599) Homepage Journal
    ...and offer PVR friendly listing feeds for something along the lines of $2 or $3 a month or so.
  • Does anyone know the nature of the alleged "misuse"?
  • don't forget...MythTV is good for other things than just watching TV.
  • DVB-T (Score:3, Informative)

    by smoker2 ( 750216 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @10:00PM (#20534051) Homepage Journal
    DVB-T broadcasts include an 8 day EPG in the transmissions, and MythTV picks it up just fine, thanks. (In the UK/Europe of course)
  • by CountryGeek ( 35546 ) * on Sunday September 09, 2007 @10:05PM (#20534099) Homepage
    Until a new distribution model for the listing is devised, services like labs.zap2it.com are going to spring up, then close down due to the cost of running a bunch of servers. It's hard to monetize the data with adds, since the data in interpreted by MythTV/ReplayTV/whatever.

    Several posters have mentioned that they have programs that scrape data off of web pages. IIRC, this is the original method used by MythTV. When the load becomes great on the pages that are being scraped, those pages will change or go away.

    We need to agree on a standard (ala Bittorent) for distributing this type of static content among the users. Each MythTV user can spare some bandwidth late at night to seed others. Assuming that the cable and television companies allow it to succeed....
  • by Chabil Ha' ( 875116 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @10:55PM (#20534453)
    I have a non-Windows Media Center box that is the hub of my media. It really sucked when Zap2It went down. So, I spent an evening looking for a free alternative. I have a laptop that has Media Center 2005 on it (where it automagically downlaods its EPG data) and found a nifty application [gbpvr.com] that will parse it into XMLTV format. I then drop that in a share on my media server where it picks it up and installs the latest data. Rinse, lather, and repeat. It bites that I have to manually do this every so often, but it sure beats manually parsing or screen scraping a website.
  • Can I (Score:3, Informative)

    by akijikan ( 994811 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @11:04PM (#20534517)
    get modded informative for mentioning http://www.schedulesdirect.org/ [schedulesdirect.org] like everyone else has?

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