Home Opinions What matters most in TV UX: Channels, search and… the remote control?

What matters most in TV UX: Channels, search and… the remote control?

Brian Ring, Principal Analyst, Ring Digital
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Like me, many readers no doubt fell in love with the old peanut shaped TiVo remote that – along with the DVR of course, and the snappy and responsive interface – became a turn-of-the-century power-conch for pre-DVR TV haters that immediately fell in love with TV for the first time.

That’s my story and it’s what got me into this business. (I’m stunned it took until 2019 for someone to implement the next jaw-dropping iteration of DVR, by the way. That credit goes – at least in part – to Christian Oestlien of YouTubeTV for their Key Plays feature.)

Now over the years we’ve seen the rise of better, dynamic TV guide interfaces that most serious video service operators can are now providing. So, the stark differentiation between that first awesome remote and its peers in 1999 is more difficult to achieve today. Said another way, most TV makers, streaming player providers and Pay TV operators have figured out how to build a decent remote.

But I just don’t think that’s enough.

My opinion?

Pay TV operators and OTT set-top providers focus some attention on the remote control – it’s an underappreciated front on the #StreamingWars.

First, my own anecdotal experience. Then, some hard data just received.

My recent remote control experience is with both Fire TV and Roku. Both of these are great remotes. But the Roku remote is better – at least for me. I joyfully flip around the guide with it. The Fire TV remote? I’m more likely to speak to it – which again, let me be clear, is pretty awesome. (Interestingly, a separate piece of new data shows this FireTV voice usage is true more broadly.

Or take the last five years of Apple TV remote control rollouts. Some of those have been unmitigated disasters. Again, today’s version is great – but I don’t prefer it.

Now, I’ve been thinking about this for years. So, when my June 2020 #FutureOfTV survey needed to be fielded, I decided I’d do something about it and threw in this question:

For this question, consider the interface and program guide you use to find great content to watch.
Q: Which content navigation features are most important to you?

Multi-select Options were: 

  • TV Channel Program Guide
  • Search for Specific Programs
  • A Great Remote Control
  • Streaming Apps Program Guide
  • Content Browsing by Genres
  • Recommendations / Featured Sections

We surveyed 1,101 U.S. Internet users that watch at least five hours of video / TV a week, from any source.

Tops? First place goes to the trusty Channel Guide. AVOD fanboys, linear is alive and well – it just needs a bit of time-shifting.

Next? I was surprised. It’s a dead heat at the second slot between search – the most important content navigation concept in what, a hundred years? All that and … a great remote control?

Yes. Indeed.

Oh and, one more thing. Would you have guessed recommendations would score so low? Neither did I.

Why is that? Is it because consumers don’t like the idea of recommendations? Or because today’s implementations are not optimized? This will be on my mind – and my Twitter profile – as an area of further research and exploration. Follow me or comment there for more.


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