Review: TV Guide app impressive, but could be more

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NEW YORK (AP) - I grew up in a TV Guide household. I’d flip through the magazine each week to see what was on. Keeping track of what to watch was pretty simple with only three main networks and a new one called Fox. Cable channels showed mostly reruns and old movies.

There are a gazillion channels these days, including basic and premium cable channels with decent original series. Add to that all the content available through streaming, downloads and DVDs, and it can be challenging not to miss your favorite shows. TV Guide’s printed edition doesn’t bother with full listings anymore.

That’s where the new TV Guide app comes in. Available for free for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices, the app gives you a clean display of what’s on TV over the next two weeks. An Android version is coming this fall.

You can view listings by time or channel or search for specific shows. You can create a Watchlist of your favorite shows, movies, actors and sports teams and see what’s available on demand now or on television later.

The new app is more comprehensive than the guide on a digital-video recorder because it includes shows available on such services as Hulu, iTunes and Netflix, plus on-demand offerings through Xfinity for Comcast subscribers.

But it could be much more.

You start by creating an account and picking your television provider from a list. The listings are then customized according to what’s available on your cable or satellite lineup (there’s an “antenna” option on the list, too). You can choose to display all channels, or create a list of favorites containing channels you watch most often.

You then start browsing the listings. If you see that “SpongeBob SquarePants” is on at 5 p.m. on Channel 6, you can set a reminder for the iPad (or iPhone) to notify you five, 10, 30 or 60 minutes before the show starts. You can have the iPad do that for all episodes or just new ones _or just that particular showing. By hitting “I’ll Watch,” you can make that known on a social network such as Facebook or Twitter.

Or you can add the show to your Watchlist.

The Watchlist is the best part of the new app. I can set it up for quick access to Mets games listings or anything on television starring Natalie Portman.

That’s also where you can find out whether any of your favorites are available on DVD through Netflix. It doesn’t tell you about online streaming choices on Netflix (that’s coming), but it does for Hulu, HBO, Cinemax, the CW, ABC, ABC Family and Sony’s online streaming service, Crackle. Others are expected soon. The Watchlist also shows the episodes you can buy and download from Apple’s iTunes store.

On my Watchlist, I saw that a handful of “Revenge” episodes were available for free on ABC. Clicking on one took me right to ABC’s app for viewing.

Through another tab, called New Tonight, you can see which of your favorites are on television that night. You can see what’s popular based on how many users have clicked “I’ll Watch.” With that feature, I learned of a show about a food truck competition on the Food Network.

Beyond that, the app has news, photos and video on television and celebrities. There were also special features, such as the fall television schedule at a glance and the Emmy nominees in key categories.

Unfortunately, the app was stingy when it came to giving me information on shows. I clicked on “666 Park Avenue,” hoping to get a description of the new ABC show. All I got was an option to add it to my Watchlist.

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