Setting the scene: The evening light is dimming. It’s 8pm and the children are snuggled down in bed and the husband says, “Dinner is almost ready honey, can you find us something to watch on TV?” …
Picking up the remote the wife switches on the TV …
“I don’t know darling!” “Why not honey?” “Because there is only a bunch of icons on the TV and I cannot see any TV shows, that guide thingy we used to have, it’s gone darling!” “Gone! Why would they do that honey, it was very convenient.” “I heard that you are supposed to know what you want to watch darling, you just ask for it now.” “Really honey, OK!” “Are there more programmes like that documentary on South Africa we saw the other night?” “Maybe darling, what was the programme called?” … “Ermm, what channel was it on?” “I cannot remember darling.” “Neither can I honey.” “Oh!” “Now what shall we do?” … “Ask the TV honey its got that voice thingy activated.” …
Wife fiddles with remote control – pushes button …
“TV, Can you find me any travel programmes about South Africa, but not about South Africa as we have seen that, what about somewhere else please.”
Screen icon turns … searching … searching … searching … TV replies …
“Can you be more specific, I have 24,000 programmes on South Africa and 30,000 programmes not on South Africa and I have several shows called Somewhere Else.” “I have them in English, Greek, Spanish, Arabic, French, Portuguese, Polish, German and 25 other languages, what do you want me to do?”
8.45pm: “Have you found anything honey?” “No darling, I’m afraid not … its not that instant anymore.” “Shall I put the radio on honey?”
The subject of this piece is navigation, search and recommendation on modern day television platforms. The standard way of navigating through the hundreds of channels via the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) is heavily criticised. The EPG is called antiquated; Linear TV channel and programme line-ups are very old-fashioned is all we hear. Surely we have a better system? We know we do and it is called Apps! The future of Television is Apps is it not? After all we do Apps on the telephone, tablet, so why not on the TV? Let’s have an Apps dashboard approach for the navigation of content.
Simple! Errrm! Nope!
An Apps driven navigation platform expects everyone to have a mental programme/film database for the plethora of coloured tiles (Apps) that hide content within them. As we split the content into a myriad of ‘coloured tiles’ on an interface, we all start only watching the top ten that we can remember. There are thousands of programmes that do not get watched, not because the content is bad, but because it just never appears anywhere. Then the Apps all need to fight it out for prime position on the 42″ screen. Everyone wants to be the only entertainment theatre in town, so it is a real-estate war (As it is on the EPG). Just as in Google search if you are not on the 1st page between 1 and 10 you are purportedly toast. Android TV just added 600 Apps. This is just the start. So is there an answer to rid us of all of this fragmented, App, coloured tile, buried content complexity? Can we offer a better system that makes it easier for the consumer? Well, it seems we can. It is already deployed. It is called voice!
“Hello! Is it ME your looking for?” Yes, we can just talk to the device and ask it for something to watch. Yes, we can just ask the device for a particular film, programme or TV personality and the system will present all the options available to us across the TV eco-system. It is called Universal Search and it is a new way of navigating the millions of programmes available on the system. Simple! As we travel around all the TV business to business seminars, people are raving about this new system and how this system is the saving grace for accessing all TV content.
Wait a minute! Does this not mean the end of the App? Because in the case of Universal Search it quite honestly does not matter behind which brand a particular content features anymore, does it? It’s just stored somewhere, and we ask for it with voice and then it is presented in a selectable list. No need to bother yourself with what sits behind what App; woohoo! Who cares whether it is is Hulu or Netflix, or NowTV or Roku or ESPN or Disney it is the content that we want to watch … So we just ask for the content and it will appear!
Wait a minute! As we will never see anything presented in any format in this new buried content paradigm how will we get to know what content is available across all of our services connected to our TV? Perhaps we can go back to the old paper TV Guide and can look up content that is available (Like a Karaoke Catalogue) and then holler to the device so it can do all the work. The TV industry can then stop wasting money on all this Apps malarkey and the need for continual software upgrading, supporting of all their complex individual back-ends et al. The TV world can just fill a big repository with wonderful content and go about promoting it…We as consumers will get what we want when we want where we want, by asking for it…and in any language.
Wait a Minute! How will the content be monetized? Well, as it will be true ‘a la carte’, so you only pay for what you watch, or not, if it is Ad supported.
I believe that Amazon has already hatched this plan …
Interestingly we are finally seeing the truth about Internet based TV (OTT): It is just another form of PayTV on an unregulated transmission medium, dah! dah! Sorry about that but it is nothing earth shattering; however it finally has people writing about this obvious fact. The ‘do-it-yourself’ package is described in this recent Advanced Television article: Cord Cutting Unrealistic Option is seen as probably costing even more for a consumer than a packaged payTV Operator offer. Not only that, the author Colin Mann quotes Alan Wolk of TDG who states that there is no ‘User Interface’ that makes for a cohesive and pleasant experience. In a previous blog post Changing the transmission media not the business model I had already highlighted the issues of more or at least same cost and clearly noted the backwards move in terms of experience. However there is another very important issue, which has not been addressed by the ‘oracles’ of the future of TV and that is ‘unregulated access to content’. Most DIY bundles have Apps that require access to Internet content – There is no Age Verification required. That is an oversight in a very mobile, smartphone driven society. So I have also been wondering when the ‘Do-it-yourself’ payTV bundle and free for all access might come under the scrutiny of the Regulators for both Consumer and Child Protection issues?
I already see that my very young children are exposed to some terrible things via the increasingly pornographic Internet, via Twitter feeds, via search engines etc. Now that TV is a watch what-you-want-when-you-want experience on the Internet it requires parents to be careful – The so called ‘watershed’ does not exist on the Internet and there appears to be no regulation apart from personal parental control, which has to set on a myriad of channels, devices and websites – BUT ISN’T. That is almost a full time job in this mobile-free-for-all-do-it-yourself-media-world. I happen to care! I try to protect my offspring as much as possible from the gratuitous violence, sex and ever increasing psychopathic, narcissistic media offerings… (e.g. Walter White toy figures for sale at Toys-R-US). However, I am fighting against adversity, especially if my 12 year-old is exposed to shows like ‘Breaking Bad’ as well as a myriad of free ‘Porn’ on a classmates smartphone browser at school. I cannot supervise every moment of my son’s viewing habits outside of the home…and we happily tout OTT (Internet TV) as an in and out of the home experience. We are also told that youngsters don’t watch Big Screen TV anymore – So where is the protection for the young, the vulnerable and the stupid in this mobile-free-for-all-do-it-yourself-media-world?
Not all parents care what their children are exposed to that is why we have regulation. The regulators should be ahead of the game and not late like they have been with Music Videos, finally realizing that they should be ‘rated’. In 2015 that is very, very late … Listening to my very, very young daughter signing ‘I wanna Sex You Up’, now exposed to ‘twerking’ – This is just not right! We have a constant battle to keep them well grounded and not let their malleable minds be damaged. I am not a prude and we have a healthy open relationship with the kids, but I cannot be the good parent if all around me doesn’t care and exposes them to the ever failing controls of the world’s what-you-want-when-you-want media access.
Why TV shows that contain Drugs, Sex, Bigotry and Violence on the Internet be treated any different to that on Broadcast TV is beyond me!
Apple said this about discovering music: The Guardian Story on Apple Music
“You have to humanise it a bit, because it’s a real art to telling you what song comes next. Algorithms can’t do it alone. They’re very handy, and you can’t do something of this scale without ‘em, but you need a strong human element.” “Understanding that i have a lot of Latin music in my library doesn’t give me a great Cuban playlist,” adds Cue.
Quite honestly it is the same for TV and just because I like a ‘Chick Flic’ now and again does not mean that I want to watch all the ‘Chic Flics’ in the world now does it – Well the Algorithm thinks I do. VARIETY in TV, as in MUSIC, has always been my mantra – Variety is the Spice of Life.
Thank you famous Apple people for stating what I have been stating for years…It’s the ‘HUMAN’ factor that counts. ‘ALGORITHMS’ may have a place in our techie driven TV world but they should not be the only thing that determines anyone’s evening entertainment.