So-called “smart” technology is supposed to make our lives easier by connecting our electronic devices to the Internet and providing an intelligent, easy-to-navigate user interface that allows access to curated, relevant content instantly. In some smart product areas — for example, phones — hardware manufacturers, service providers and technology developers work hand-in-hand. While not completely seamless, it’s relatively easy to watch a video or access content from your phone.
In other spaces, however, those three technology providers have yet to learn to work together. In particular, the television industry has made little progress when compared with smartphones. Watching TV should be all about the user experience. It’s what drives the consumption of a wider range of content and future development of more personalized TV features that will attract a larger viewing audience.
But the process of actually accessing content on a television often feels like the user experience is the last consideration. With cable service providers, VOD, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and so forth, the amount of content viewers must wade through just to find something to watch is overwhelming. For an industry that’s supposed to be all about the customer experience, why is the user interface for television so slow to improve?
Once upon a time, the television remote was the only interface viewers had to deal with. If you wanted to change between the eight available channels, turn the volume up and down, or turn the television on or off, it was easy. But then we started getting more channels, remotes got bigger and soon, you could hook video players and game systems up to your television. Then, add cable television into the mix: this was TV, but it required its own remote and interface, too.
Today, viewers have access to hundreds upon hundreds of television channels via cable, satellite, telcos, video-on-demand and streaming services — and they all require a separate user interface. Each individual service has made some progress within its own system when it comes to helping viewers manage the vast amount of available content, but the user has to
perform a different search-and-discovery process on each platform.
It’s as if, while the rest of the technology world advances in user experience, the television industry has devolved. It has become incredibly complicated and frustrating to find content to watch, and user experience seems to not be a priority. In order for the industry to have a robust future, the consumer experience has to be the primary consideration.
TIME TO GET SMART
Content providers and television manufacturers need to provide consumers with a quality user interface, one that is intuitively easy to use and provides an element of personalization so that users can find exactly what they’re looking for and get recommendations based on previous viewing behavior.
Today, viewers have to use one search-and-discovery method on one platform, and a completely different one on the next. Viewing history isn’t curated across systems, so the recommended content is specific only to the individual platform. Not only is it irritating to switch back and forth, the quality and relevance of the content that’s being generated for the user is far below where it could be.
The market is waiting for a solution that provides the consumer an integrated system with the ability to shape the search experience across all platforms, provide recommended content based on comprehensive viewing activity and reduce the myriad requisite interfaces to one. Smart television manufacturers need to look toward search-and-discovery technology providers for user interface inspiration.
If television manufacturers are truly smart, they’ll work with the technology companies that can provide solutions that actually make the TV experience a source of pleasure instead of frustration.
Todd Viegut is CEO of Kannuu, a Dallas-based content discovery and personalization firm.