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For those of you tuned in from around the world – welcome. I’m a Kiwi (a person from New Zealand) and this article was written primarily to address NZ Windows Media Center users lack of access to the Electronic Program Guide from Sky Broadcasting.

Having said that, there are topics covered herein that could well be of use to others beyond the borders of New Zealand. Our primary tool in this article is “Big Screen EPG” that’s now being used by many people around the world to push the contents of an XMLTV file (the EPG information) into the Windows Media Center database. If this sort of thing is of interest to you, please read on.

Did you miss the previous posts in this series?

Our story continues:

I hope we’ve laid the groundwork for this next piece. You might want to review the most recent items on TV Setup and Big Screen EPG. In this offering we will take you through the process of getting the Sky EPG into your WMC Guide.


Windows Media Center – we’re using the Windows 7 version.

Big Screen EPG – the current release (v1.0A) is the one we are working with here

A TV Tuner card with a DVB-T input – we are using the Hauppauge WinTV 88x

an IRC Blaster kit and the remote control that comes with it

A video feed – can be your set-top box, or could be a handy-cam – doesn’t matter,so long as your TV Tuner card recognises it.

The remote control for your set-top box (unless you can describe the model of that set-top box)

3-stage process:

stage 1

We have to perform 3 distinct operations to make all this work. Part 1 is to prepare WMC to receive the new data. This may or may not be required, but taking this first step clears the existing data and generates a sufficient number of “slots” to hold the new channel information we are going to load in. This makes the process a bit easier to understand, although it might be a bit more work later on to reinstall the existing channel data (probably the Freeview channels depending on how your WMC was set up).

The good news is that you should only have to do it once, and reinstalling the FreeView channels can be done using Big Screen EPG along with EPG Collector, but that’s a story for another day.

stage 2

Part 2 is the collection of the program information with the help of Big Screen EPG. The result of this will be an XMLTV file that is imported into WMC.

stage 3

The last Part 3 takes us back to WMC to make the connection between the data we’ve just imported in Part 2, and the blank slots we created in Part 1. This step is labor intensive, but doesn’t need to be accomplished all in one sitting – just pick a few of the channels you want to include in the guide and leave the others to later.

CAUTION: Don’t delete any channels from the WMC line-up just now as I don’t think you can get them back without going through the whole “reset” carry-on.

Blank Slate

We’ll assume no prior work has been done, and that you can download and install the new and improved Big Screen EPG.

Having done that you can then use its ability to reset the Windows Media Center database.

This will take you to the WMC setup screen whereupon you will get a message saying someone has reset the database and would you please go back and set the whole TV thing up again. This is needed to allow us to add the channels to WMC and show the results without a lot of other clutter.

So we start the WMC setup at this point:

And jump ahead to the point where it asks us about the signal type:

I told it “cable” although I’ve heard it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the next one — say yes

and a couple of screens later you get the question about a working signal:

And because I didn’t have the set-top box in the room with me at the time, I plugged the video output from my video camera into the video-in receiver on the card. WMC was quite happy to take it.

Next, we get the part that determines what kind of set-top box we’ve got:

and that part should be straightforward and we get to the confirmation:

and eventually we reach the guide page where you will see this: (remember that we wiped everything to start with) If you didn’t wipe the database first you will see your existing channel information mixed in with the new blank channel slots.

If you want to verify that you’ve got more than the 37 channels provided by the Freeview feed just scroll down to number 38.

It’s my guess that the addition of the set-top box option is what provides us with the “slots” to capture and present the channel information above channel 38. At any rate, I haven’t come across another option that works in this regard.

Now we need to populate these slots with some data. For this we use Big Screen EPG which passes through the data gathered elsewhere on the Internet. Big Screen re-formats the files to suit WMC then pumps it into the db.

Open the Big screen EPG program and select the “Add Provider” line:

and activate the “Preset XMLTV Provider” radio button:

Make the next screen look like this:

and accept the defaults until you arrive at this screen wherein you select the channels you wish to populate with data. Please note that it’s possible this source could vanish without warning. In that case I hope we can come back with another solution.

Select the channels you want then continue accepting the defaults until you get back to the main screen where you then have the opportunity to generate data and feed it into WMC:

Accept the rest of the defaults to the end. You can then head over to WMC to see the results.

Link the program data to WMC:

In WMC, call up the guide which will have channel slots but no program data (remember the reset?). From your keyboard type in a channel number you like – 70 has Discovery, for example:

(typing in the number is a lot faster than scrolling). Now right-click on the channel number box and select “Edit Channel”

then “Edit Listings”

You’ll get a screen that looks like this (although it may be populated with old data if you didn’t do the reset). You’ll note in particular that there are 1097 lines of possible listings to choose from (most are blank).

The data you want is at the bottom of this list, so you can either push the down button a thousand and ninety seven times for every channel you want to set, or you can hit “END” on your keyboard to get to the end of the list:

Now it’s easy enough to page up to the channel you want:

Hit “Enter” to get back to the edit page (don’t forget to save) and you will be returned to the guide where your channel name will appear along with details of the current show, and if you scroll out to the right you can see all the data for the next 2 weeks if its there .

Continue this process until you’ve got all channels you want then at some point in the future you can start to “disable” the channels you don’t use to make your list easier to read.

In Conclusion:

There must be better ways to do this — drop me a note and let hear about them.

In the following weeks we’ll look at more ways to enhance your WMC guide with Big Screen EPG including the addition of channel logos and modifying the categories so stay tuned.

Post Script:

I suspect that the reason I didn’t have a set of Sky channels loaded into WMC (image 14) is that I hadn’t done a proper WMC setup – the normal with a Sky connection, but instead wiped all the existing data in the WMC database – fooled the setup program into thinking I had a Sky connection – but didn’t provide any channel data from the Sky feed.

It doesn’t make too much difference as the process of setting up your channels is the same either way – you still need to go into each channel and edit the source.

I mention this only as your setup screens may look different than those presented here.

About Deck Hazen

A computer user since 1976, Deck enjoys testing new software and reconfiguring his equipment to squeeze the most out of it. "Computing has come a long way since those early days" Deck recalls "I get a real kick out of watching the industry grow - getting paid to write about it is just icing on the cake!"

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One thought on “Big Screen EPG Puts the “E” in Electronic Program Guide [Part 3 of 3]”

  1. Serendipitynz says:

    Thanks Deck fro a fellow Kiwi am just about to buy a new Win 7 PC so have saved your invaluable instructions.

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