US 20090070817 A1
An interactive television program guide system is provided in which a user may inform a program guide of the user's interests. Information on the user's interests may be stored in a preference profile. There may be more than one preference profile, each for a different user. Each preference profile contains a number of preference attributes (program titles, genres, viewing times, channels, broadcast characteristics, etc.). A preference level (e.g., strong or weak like, strong or weak dislike, illegal, mandatory, don't care, etc.) that is indicative of the user's level of interest is associated with each preference attribute. Preference profiles may be used to restrict the programs that are listed in various program listings display screens and may be used to limit the channels to which the program guide allows the user to tune.
181. A program guide system implemented on user media equipment, comprising:
a provided option to select a plurality of preference attributes based on the user's programming interests;
a provided option to select one of at least several preference levels for each of the plurality of selected preference attributes; and
a displayed list of programming based on the selected preference attributes and selected preference levels.
This invention relates to interactive television program guides, and more particularly, to television program guides in which users may create profiles of their programming preferences. Profiles contain information about the user's interests (e.g., favored or disfavored programming genres, actors, channels, series, etc.) The profiles are used by the program guide in determining which channels the user may tune to and which programs are to be included in various lists displayed by the guide.
Cable, satellite, and broadcast television systems provide viewers with a large number of television channels. Viewers have traditionally consulted printed television program schedules to determine the programs being broadcast at a particular time. More recently, interactive electronic television program guides have been developed that allow television program information to be displayed on a viewer's television.
Interactive program guides are typically implemented on set-top boxes. Such program guides allow users to view television program listings in different display formats. For example, a user may instruct the program guide to display a grid or table of program listings organized in a channel-ordered or a time-ordered list. Users may also search and sort program listings by genre (e.g., movies, sports, etc.) or by title (i.e, alphabetically). A user may obtain additional information for a program by placing a highlight region on a desired program listing and pressing an “info” button. The user may purchase a pay program from the program guide by placing the highlight region on a program listing and pressing an “OK” button. Some systems allow the user to select a program for recording by placing the highlight region on a program listing and pressing a “record” button.
Because there are so many television channels available, particularly with cable and satellite television systems, television program guides have been developed that allow users to establish lists of favorite channels. When a user is channel surfing, the set top box on which the program guide is implemented can be directed to tune only to channels contained in the favorite channel list. When the user directs the program guide to display current or future programming, the displayed list of programs is restricted to television programs that occur only on the user's preselected favorite channels.
This approach is not very selective. Even though a user may have chosen a channel as a favorite, some of the programming that appears on that channel may not be of interest to the user. Moreover, programs that would be of interest to the user often appear on channels that the user has not chosen as favorites (e.g., because the user does not like most of the programming on those channels).
What is needed is a more sophisticated way in which a user may inform a program guide of the user's preferences, so that the program guide can more accurately filter out disliked programming while retaining more programming of the type the user likes.
It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a program guide system with which a user may set up a profile based on various preference attributes.
These and other objects of the invention are accomplished in accordance with the principles of the present invention by providing an interactive television program guide system in which a user may inform a program guide of the user's television programming interests. The user may specify a number of preference attributes such as program title, genre, start time, broadcast characteristics, language, rating, critics ratings, actor, etc. Each preference attribute has an associated preference level that is indicative of the user's interest in that attribute. Suitable preference levels include: strong like, weak like, strong dislike, weak dislike, illegal, mandatory, and don't care.
The program guide may maintain the preference attributes and associated preference levels for a user in a preference profile. Different preference profiles may be used by different users of the same program guide. If desired, more than one preference profile may be active at a given time.
The program guide may use the preference profiles when displaying lists of available television programming. Only those programs that satisfy the preference profile will be displayed by the program guide, even if other programs are available. Another way in which the program guide may use the preference profiles is to restrict the programs to which the user may tune with the system to only those programs that satisfy the profile.
A user may define a preferred sort order for programs that satisfy the profile. The user may also specify a desired preference scope. A narrow scope may be used to restrict programming choices to programs that are liked, whereas a wide scope may be used to restrict programming choices to programs that are just not disliked.
The user may direct the program guide to require a personal identification number (PIN) in order to access certain profile modification options. Such personal identification number access control may be used by parents to control the television viewing of their children.
A master profile may be used that has settings that override the settings in other profiles.
Profiles may contain non-program settings for controlling audio and display options in the system.
Further features of the invention, its nature and various advantages will be more apparent from the accompanying drawings and the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments.
An illustrative program guide system 30 in accordance with the present invention is shown in
Television distribution facility 36 is a facility for distributing television signals to users, such as a cable system headend, a broadcast distribution facility, or a satellite television distribution facility.
The program guide information transmitted by main facility 32 to television distribution facility 36 includes television program listings data for current and future television programs. The television program listings data for each program preferably includes the title of the program, the channel for the program, a scheduled broadcast time (start time) and an ending time (or duration). Other typical program listings data include ratings, critics ratings, descriptions, genres (sports, movies, children, etc.), actors, etc. Transmitted program information may also include advertising information and pay program data such as pricing information for individual programs and subscription channels, time windows for ordering programs and channels, telephone numbers for placing orders that cannot be impulse ordered, etc.
Television distribution facility 36 distributes television programming and program guide information to the user television equipment 40 of multiple users via communications paths 42. For example, television programming may be distributed over analog television channels and program guide data may be distributed over an out-of-band channel on paths 42. Data distribution may also involve using one or more digital channels on paths 42. Such digital channels may also be used for distributing television programming and other information. Multiple television and audio channels (analog, digital, or both analog and digital) may be provided to set-top boxes 44 via communications paths 42. If desired, program listings and other information may be distributed by one or more distribution facilities that are similar to but separate from television distribution facility 36 using communications paths that are separate from communications paths 42.
Certain functions such as pay program purchasing may require set-top boxes 44 to transmit data to television distribution facility 36 over communications paths 42. If desired, such data may be transmitted over telephone lines or other separate communications paths. If functions such as these are provided using facilities separate from television distribution facility 36, some of the communications involving set-top boxes 44 may be made directly with the separate facilities.
Each user has a receiver, which is typically a set-top box such as set-top box 44, but which may be other suitable television equipment into which circuitry similar to set-top-box circuitry has been integrated. Program guide data is distributed to set-top boxes 44 periodically. Television distribution facility 36 may also poll set-top boxes 44 periodically for certain information (e.g., pay program account information or information regarding programs that have been purchased and viewed using locally-generated authorization techniques). Main facility 32 preferably contains a processor to handle information distribution tasks. Each set-top box 44 preferably contains a processor to handle tasks associated with implementing a program guide application on the set-top box 44. Television distribution facility 36 may contain a processor for tasks associated with monitoring a user's interactions with the interactive program guide implemented on set-top boxes 44 and for handling tasks associated with the distribution of program guide data and other information to user television equipment 40.
Each set-top box 44 is typically connected to an optional videocassette recorder 46 so that selected television programs may be recorded. Each videocassette recorder 46 is connected to a television 48. To record a program, set-top box 44 tunes to a particular channel and sends control signals to videocassette recorder 46 (e.g., using an infrared transmitter) that direct videocassette recorder 46 to start and stop recording at the appropriate times.
During use of the interactive television program guide implemented on set-top box 44, television program listings and other information may be displayed on television 48. Such program guide displays may be presented on top of a television program to which the user has tuned with set-top box 44 or may be presented in place of such a program. Each set-top box 44, videocassette recorder 46, and television 48 may be controlled by one or more remote controls 50 or any other suitable user input interface such as a wireless keyboard, mouse, trackball, dedicated set of buttons, etc. Remote controls such as remote control 50 have various buttons that may be pressed by the user such as cursor keys (for on-screen movement of a highlight region, scrolling functions, etc.), an enter key (for making a selection), channel number keys (for selecting a television channel), a favorites key (to invoke functions related to user preferences), etc.
Because television viewers sometimes feel overwhelmed by the large number of programming choices that are available, particularly with modern cable and satellite systems, the present invention allows users to inform the program guide of their programming preferences. The program guide may then tailor its operation to reflect the user's programming interests.
For example, a user may inform the program guide that the user likes the program Seinfeld and the programming genre “movies,” but dislikes the actor John Wayne. The program guide can use these preferences to limit the amount of material that is presented to the user (e.g., when generating lists of television program choices or when deciding which channels to allow the user to tune to with the set-top box). The different types of television program characteristics that a user may indicate a preference about are referred to herein as preference attributes.
Each preference attribute may have an associated preference level. For example, users may indicate whether a preference attribute is liked, disliked, illegal, mandatory or don't care (neutral). The degree to which a user likes or dislikes certain preference attributes may also be specified. For example, the user may indicate that the preference level associated with the preference attribute of the genre sports is a strong like and that the preference level associated with the preference attribute of the actor John Wayne is a weak dislike.
The program guide implemented on set-top box 44 provides various options that allow the user to specify which different preference attributes are to be used in presenting television program listings information to the user. Such options may be provided in the form of clickable menu items, drop-down lists, or any other suitable format. The user may select a desired menu item using a highlight region, cursor, arrow, or other suitable on-screen indicator that may be positioned over an option on the display (i.e., television 48). For example, a user may position a highlight region over a desired menu item and press “OK” on remote control 50 to complete the selection. Selections that involve entering characters may be made by selecting characters from characters displayed on screen (e.g., using cursors to move through the alphabet) or by using a wireless keyboard or other alphanumeric entry device.
Steps that are involved in providing preference attribute options with the program guide are shown in
At step 54, the program guide may provide the user with the option of selecting a given airing of a program as a preference attribute. For example, if the user wishes to watch the next broadcast of the program Seinfeld at 9:00 on Thursday, the user may select that broadcast of Seinfeld as a preference attribute and may indicate that the selection has a preference level of “strong like.” This effectively allows the user to use the indicated preference as a reminder (e.g., in situations in which the program guide has been configured to present an on-screen reminder of all upcoming programs that satisfy the user's selected preferences).
At step 56, the program guide may provide the user with the option of selecting a given program series as a preference attribute. For example, the user could indicate an interest in the Seinfeld series. When the user directs the program guide to present a list of available programs, the programs that are listed will include those in the Seinfeld series (unless a conflicting preference prevents such a program from being listed).
At step 58, the program guide may provide the user with the option of selecting as a preference attribute a program genre (category) or other suitable grouping (e.g., all programs aired on Sundays, etc.—that are not in a traditional genre, but that are in some way related). For example, the genre (which may be a subgenre) may be sports, children's programming, news, weather, movies, action, horror, baseball, football, comedy, etc.
At step 60, the program guide may provide the user with the option of selecting a rating (G, PG, TV-Y, etc.), a range of ratings (e.g., the R rating and all ratings for more mature audiences), or a parental control advisory (e.g., this program contains strong language, etc.) as a preference attribute.
At step 62, the program guide may provide the user with the option of selecting an actor or actress as a preference attribute.
At step 64, the program guide may provide the user with the option of selecting a topic (e.g., cooking, photography, music, painting), keyword (e.g., cooks, etc.), or sporting team as a preference attribute.
As shown in
At step 68, the program guide may provide the user with the option of selecting a channel as a preference attribute.
At step 70, the program guide may provide the user with the option of selecting a start time (e.g., a scheduled broadcast time), an end time, or a range of broadcast times as a preference attribute. This feature may be used for parental control by restricting the viewing times available for children.
At step 72, the program guide may provide the user with the option of selecting original (or rerun) programs as a preference attribute.
At step 74, the program guide may provide the user with the option of selecting a given broadcast characteristic such as closed-captioning or secondary audio as a preference attribute.
At step 76, the program guide may provide the user with the option of selecting a language as a preference attribute.
At step 78, the program guide may provide the user with the option of selecting a certain critics rating (e.g., three stars, or three stars or greater, etc.) as a preference attribute.
The steps involved in providing the preference attribute selection options shown in
The preference attributes the user selects may be organized in a profile (sometimes called a preference profile or a favorites profile). If there are several users (e.g., different family members) associated with a given program guide, each user may have his own profile. A profile may contain more than one preference attribute of the same type. For example, preference profile 80 of
If desired, the user may specify a priority or sort order in which programs satisfying the preference criteria in a profile are to be displayed or tuned to. When listing or tuning to programs that satisfy a profile, the programs matching the highest priority preference attributes may be tuned to (with set-top box 44) or listed (on the display of television 48) first. This feature is particularly useful when a user wishes to further simplify the process of selecting programs of interest.
When a user selects an individual showing of a program as part of a preference profile, the program guide will allow that selection to expire at the end of the program. This is shown as step 88 in
Preference levels that may be used to indicate the user's interest or disinterest in a given preference attribute include strong like, weak like, strong dislike, or weak dislike, mandatory (appropriate, e.g., for closed-captioning for a deaf person), illegal (appropriate for R-rated programs for a child) and don't care (neutral). As shown in
The program guide also allows the user to specify a preference scope at step 96. Each profile may have a separate associated preference scope. The preference scope is used to determine which programs that match the preference criteria in the profile will be displayed (or used when tuning). If the user opts to display a list of programs based on a preference profile, the program guide may display a list of current or future programming based on the selected preference attributes, selected preference levels, and preference scope that are associated with the profile at step 98. If the user opts to have the program guide restrict the user's tuning options based on the preference profile, the program guide may allow tuning to certain channels or programs based on the selected preference attributes, selected preference levels, and the selected preference scope that are associated with the profile at step 100. The program listings information that is used by the program guide in displaying the list of programs or in controlling the tuning of the set-top box is the program listings data provided to the program guide by the television distribution facility.
An illustrative preference profile 102 containing a number of preference attributes 104, associated preference levels 106, and an associated preference scope 108 is shown in
When the user selects the widest scope in the example of
When the user selects the moderate scope in the example of
When the user selects the narrow preference scope in the example of
The program guide allows multiple profiles to be used. For example, different users (e.g., different family members who share user television equipment 40) may each have their own profile. One profile maybe used for children. Another profile may be used for children when watching television with their parents (who can supervise). A profile may be created for each adult. Another profile may be created for adults to use when watching television together.
An illustrative set of profiles is shown in
Although each profile has its own independent set of preference attributes, any given attribute may be in more than one profile. For example, the attribute comedy appears in both profile No. 1 and profile No. 2.
When a user desires to use the program guide, the user may activate an appropriate profile. As shown in
When multiple profiles are used at the same time, the program guide resolves conflicts between profiles. For example, if one profile indicates that comedy is a strong like and another indicates that comedy is a strong dislike, the program guide may use a preference level of neutral for the attribute comedy. Conflicts between the scopes selected in different profiles may be resolved, for example, by using a moderate scope for all situations in which multiple profiles are active. These techniques for allowing multiple profiles to be active at the same time are illustrative only. Any other suitable technique may be used if desired.
Preference attributes may be added to a profile by example. This is illustrated in
For example, as shown in
Another way in which profiles may be modified is shown in
Other user interfaces may be used by the program guide if desired. For example, it may be preferable to select ratings from a list (i.e., using arrows 146 in option 142 to select from among various available ratings choices). In option 138, the program guide may allow the user to enter the first few characters of a desired title. The program guide may then present a list of available titles that start with those letters. When the list has been narrowed sufficiently, the user may select the desired program title from the list. The program guide may allow text to be entered letter by letter using the cursor keys on the remote to change each letter, using a wireless keyboard, using the numeric keys on the remote to enter letters corresponding to a telephone keypad, etc. If desired, the program guide may allow users to remove attributes from the profile being modified using profiles display 134.
As shown in
If desired, the user may direct the program guide to generate automatic program reminders for programs that satisfy the criteria in a profile. As shown in
The program guide may allow new profiles to be created using create profile screen 162 and set up profile screen 164 of
The preference criteria selected by a user (e.g., in the form of a preference profile) may be used by the program guide in a number of ways. For example, the program guide may use the preference criteria in a profile to restrict the number of program listings that are presented to the user, regardless of what type of display format the user has chosen to view (e.g., a by-time listing format, a by-channel listing, etc.). This approach may also be used by the program guide to restrict the channels or programs to which the user may tune (either directly or when tuning using a special program guide feature such as a browse feature or a flip feature). Alternatively, the program guide may only use the user's preferences to provide a special “favorites” program list. Another possibility is that the program guide use the preferences in all modes, but only to restrict the movement of the highlight region on the screen, not to eliminate program listings from the user's view.
As shown in
An illustrative arrangement for providing the dedicated favorites display format option is shown in
The type of program listings display that may be provided by the program guide when option 180 is selected is shown in
When the user selects the always-on mode option provided at step 176 of
In addition, the programs and channels to which the program guide allows the user to tune with set-top box 44 (
As shown in
The restricted highlight movement mode option provided at step 178 of
If desired, the favorites key may be used in the flip and browse modes to advance to the next program satisfying the active profile.
To accommodate multiple active profiles, the program guide may list programs using different colors, patterns, icons, etc. to distinguish which programs satisfy which profiles. For example, in the by-time listings display of
As shown in
The program guide may allow the user to display hot list 226 by pressing a single key on the remote control (e.g., an “OK” key) while watching television. Any programs for which active (non-expired) reminders have been set may be added to the hot list. In the example of
For example, the program Terminator appears before the program Seinfeld in the hot list arrangement of
After hot list 226 is displayed, the program guide may allow the user to remove hot list 226 by pressing a single key. The program guide also allows the user to select any of the displayed programs in the list (e.g., using a highlight region) and tunes set-top box to the appropriate channel for the selected program. When there are more programs that satisfy the user's preference profile criteria than will fit on the lower portion of the display, the program guide may allow the user to scroll through the hot list entries. The program guide may remove programs from hot list 226 when they are no longer viewable. Programs may be added to hot list 226 by the program guide when the programs start, or at a specified length of time (e.g., five minutes) prior to the scheduled start time of the program. The program guide may provide the user with an opportunity to select the option of displaying the hot list a short time (e.g., one minute) before the scheduled broadcast time of programs on the list and to adjust this length of time at step 234 of
If the user chooses to display the hot list sorted by start time, the program guide displays the list in this fashion at step 236 of
Any profile may be assigned a PIN. As shown in
Option 248 allows the user to specify whether the PIN is required to activate the profile (e.g., to activate the profile for Joey in the example of
The arrangement of
Particularly in situations in which parents wish to set limits on the viewing of their children, it may be desirable to use a master profile that contains settings that override the settings in all other profiles. As shown in
Steps involved in using master profiles are shown in
As step 264, the program guide resolves conflicts between the preference criteria in the various profiles in favor of the master profile. After (or at the same time) such conflicts are resolved, the program guide may display a list of programming or allow tuning to certain channels based on the criteria in the active profiles at step 266.
If desired, the program guide may provide an opportunity for the user to select whether the program titles, descriptions, etc. for programs that do not satisfy a given preference profile should be hidden from view. This feature is useful in situations in which a parent not only wishes to restrict the viewing options of a child, but also wishes to prevent the child from being able to view information on programming that does not satisfy a given profile (e.g., the master profile). When the user directs the program guide to block the titles and descriptions for programs that do not satisfy the profile, the program guide may display a message such as “restricted” on various program guide display screens in place of the program listings for the blocked programs. The option of replacing non-favorite program listings with a “restricted” message may be placed inder master PIN control.
Another feature provided by the program guide relates to profile settings for non-program items. For example, a profile setting may be used to define various audio settings 268 for user television equipment 40 (stereo, mono, Dolby on/off, bass and treble settings, etc.), as shown in
As shown in
Because the program guide knows which profile is active (e.g., Mike or Joey, etc.) at a given time, the program guide may use this information in providing various services. For example, the program guide may provide access to a program guide e-mail service or other messaging service using information about which profile is currently active (step 280). This allows a user to access e-mail, for example, without having to separately log into the e-mail service. If Mike's profile is currently active, the program guide can retrieve messages addressed to Mike. If Joey's profile is active, the program guide can provide access to Joey's messages. If more than one profile is active, the program guide can provide access to the messaging service to the users of all active profiles or may require that each user log in separately.
The foregoing is merely illustrative of the principles of this invention and various modifications can be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention.