Future of TV? It’s the UI, stupid

remote-controlsEveryone’s trying to offer us new things to watch on TV. Great, but how about giving us a better way to find it, says Tim Green. And he thinks the mobile might be the answer…

At home my TV offers me an array of special treats. Here’s what I can do:

  1. Browse the thousands of free TV and movie options bundled with my £5.99 Netflix sub.
  2. Browse the thousands of free TV and movie options .bundled with my annual Amazon Prime sub.
  3. Pay for a premium HD movie via Amazon Instant.
  4. Pay for a premium HD movie via Virgin broadband.
  5. Pay for a premium HD movie via Sony PlayStation.
  6. Watch again via Virgin Catch-Up.
  7. Watch again via BBC iPlayer.
  8. Watch again via 4oD.
  9. Plug my phone/tablet into the HDMI socket to see any one of my duck-face selfies on a 42 inch screen.

I could list lots more, but I suspect you’re already losing the will to live.

Anyhow, here’s what I actually do:

  1. Watch an episode of Big Bang Theory I’ve already seen before.
  2. Watch half an hour of some golf tournament in Malaysia.
  3. Go to bed.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 13.45.00

Now, you can draw two conclusions from these exciting revelations. The first is that I am extraordinarily lazy. The second is that the Maybank Malaysian Open is must-watch TV.

Of course, they are both true. And no one who witnessed Anirban Lahiri’s unerringly straight driving at the Kuala Lumpa Golf Club in March could argue with that.

But possibly there’s a third conclusion: the TV user experience is horrible.

“Apple’s vision for TV seems to revolve around apps. I get it. Instead of a schedule, you just have a bunch of apps that don’t discriminate between linear and on-demand or even TV, music and games.”

The thing that links everyone of those diverse services from multiple providers is the remote control. The stupid, crappy, decades-old remote control. So when I want to find something on-demand (remember, readers, it’s 2015), I’m forced to point an ugly black box at the screen, then click an arrow up, down, left and right.

It’s painful. So I hardly ever bother.

Last night, Apple unveiled a new TV offering that kind of approached this issue, but not really. The Apple TV box comes with a new remote that has touch capability and even voice (though I’m not convinced people want to shout at the telly, unless it’s to scream abuse at the idiot presenters of The One Show – sorry for the UK-only reference).

Apple’s vision for TV seems to revolve around apps. I get it. Instead of a schedule, you just have a bunch of apps that don’t discriminate between linear and on-demand or even TV, music and games.

So a UK viewer like me could have a home screen with apps for: BBC, ITV, Spotify, Netflix, first person shooter games, HBO, Sky Sports etc etc.

You can see the logic. The app store model works on a five and 10 inch screen, why not a 42 inch one?

There are huge commercial and regulatory hoops to jump through before this becomes a reality. It may not be in the interest of Sky to let me buy single channels rather than a bundle. And channels like BBC don’t always make their own programming, so there are rights issues to negotiate with smaller producers.

But assuming this all gets resolved I come back to the UI. Apple has upgraded its remote a bit. But would it be better to go through the phone or tablet? What about a ‘TV Remote’ app that mimics what’s on the big screen and lets me pinch, zoom and touch?

Tim GreenTim Green


Mobile Money Revolution

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That seems the most efficient way for me to select Bergman’s Cries and Whispers from the Curzon Cinema channel before changing my mind and re-watching Blades Of Glory for the sixth time.

(And why wouldn’t I, when it features the immortal line: “They laughed at Louis Armstrong when he said he was gonna go to the moon. Now he’s up there, laughing at them.”)

Until this pain-free future arrives, I’ll continue with my zombie-like consumption of whatever golf tournament schedulers throw at me. Or maybe get a life.

No, on reflection, golf.

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