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Where is smart tv going next?

Last year, I bought a “smart” tv. I wasn’t specifically looking for one, but was pleasantly surprised when I got home and realized there were Hulu, Netflix and YouTube applications — in my tv!

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that no one is truly designing for the tv experience yet. The apps are buggy, sluggish and under-designed. “Typing” with a remote is tedious. Rarely do you have access to your account information or settings.

But let’s imagine, for a moment, that we can improve the tv-watching experience by making tv apps better, smarter. What could that mean?

Photo by Frank Okay on Unsplash
  • Smart skipping

Network television is built around commercials: previews before you go to commercial, look-backs when the commercials are over. If you’re watching a commercial-free option, it’s laughable, then annoying, to watch 60 seconds of the same scenes back-to-back that you’re about to see in the actual show.

Theme songs are another offender. I recently started watching Golden Girls for the first time. It’s a short show, so easy to binge watch, but some streaming services make it unnecessarily painful. Watching a set of commercials, then the theme song, and going into another commercial break seems to discourage marathon sessions.

  • Learn how I like to watch tv

At night, I like to adjust my lighting down as I get closer to sleep; if I’m watching tv, I do the same with the volume. I don’t bother to do this with the brightness, because I find it tedious. Phones continue to get smarter in this regard with adaptive brightness and “do not disturb” times. How cool would it be if my tv reacted to me as well?

Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash
  • Truly personalized recommendations

Do I like to watch cooking videos on YouTube on Saturday mornings? How about rewatch old favorites on Netflix when I get home from work?

Along with the generic Popular, tv apps could offer hyper-personalized content recommendations. “It’s 6pm on Monday. You like to watch inspirational reality tv shows during this time.” Creepy? Maybe. But they already have this data — can it be used to improve our user experience?

  • Create social spaces

People love watching tv together. It happens in college dorms, with work colleagues, in bars — it’s an easy social activity with a low barrier to entry. However, when it comes to tv apps, it’s either a solitary activity or one with the people physically around you.

Instead of just telling me what my friends are watching, let me watch with them. How great would this be for distributed families or long-distance friendships/relationships? Third party apps have attempted to solve this problem over the years. If major platforms supported this, they could ensure the user experience on both ends, reducing the friction that comes from currently trying to coordinate a watch-along.

What do you think a “smart” tv should do?