THROWBACK THURSDAY: TV Guide Channel

Believe it or not, an onscreen, scrolling guide channel used to be a selling point. An even bigger selling point was a guide built right into the TV. Before that, the best way to get TV listing was (gasp) a printed publication that sat on the coffee table called TV Guide. At one time it was among the most popular magazines in America.

While the always-on, scrolling guide channel was great because it had the channels you got in an easy-to-read format, it was never perfect. With a typical 80-channel cable TV system it could take 4 minutes to scroll from top to bottom (and there was no way to change the speed.) That’s too long to figure out what you’re going to watch next when one program ends and another’s about to begin. And remember folks, this was before DVRs… if you missed the beginning then you missed the beginning.

By the mid-2000s there were truly interactive guides in most cable and satellite boxes and that made the TV Guide channel obsolete. The built-in versions on TVs no longer needed the “TV Guide” label – guide data built into every broadcast made it easy for TV makers to build an interactive guide (although in practice most didn’t and still don’t.)

And so, by the ’10s it became pretty obvious that the writing was on the wall for both the print and scrolling versions of TV Guide Channel. It’s since been replaced by the general entertainment-oriented “TVG” channel but the the first big step toward that was back in 2012 when the owner of the TV Guide service stopped it. The change was instant in TVs that relied on TV Guide for data, but it took a few more years for the channel listings to stop on cable and satellite providers. Today… there’s nothing left of the once-proud TV Guide empire. Do you miss it?