The killer app for television? It might be an interface.
As the ecosystem evolves, an area worth watching involves the way programs are surfaced and presented regardless of underlying brand association. Apple, Google, Roku, and others continue to fine-tune interfaces that shuffle TV episodes and movie titles drawn from multiple sources into a unified presentation that favors the show, not the service. The Apple TV app user, for example, sees a personalized pastiche of titles when they summon the app to the screen. So long as a user has access to the content by way of TVE authentication or a direct subscription, the programs are there for the watching with a few clicks. Information about whether these programs happen to be exclusive to Netflix, drawn from HBO Max, or embedded into the Hulu SVOD service is typically conveyed only by a small icon impressed across a program tile.
This approach to title curation has been around for some time now, but came to light anew recently in a review of the new Google TV interface published by the New York Times tech review microsite, The Wirecutter. Reviewers were impressed by the latest iteration of the app, noting that “instead of presenting a home screen with a bunch of separate streaming services (such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and the like) Google TV groups all your recently watched shows and movies together along with your watchlist of preferred content – making it easier and faster for you to find what you want to watch.”
Next? To the possible chagrin of streaming service brands and television networks alike, we may be moving toward a world where primacy belongs to the show, not the licensor. In some ways, this approach mirrors what’s happening in the streaming/subscription music space, where millions of songs find their way to listeners from a common front-end, with little regard for the identity of the record label as the enabling source. As the program-first presentation approach expands, it’s possible the pedigree of program creators – showrunners like Shonda Rhimes or JJ Abrams – will take on as much or more brand influence as the television networks they do business with.