The Trouble with TV

TV didn’t change much for many years, in-fact it barely changed from the early days until about 20 years ago. Even then the change was fairly simple — more channels, more content.

Craig Federighi onstage at WWDC explaining Multitasking
Current solutions suck, there must be a simpler way

More recently you got things like Sky+ so you could make that content work for your schedule rather than the one predefined by the broadcasters. That was a good thing.

However, one problem brought about by the influx of channels and content remained — finding content that is actually any good and worth watching. 

Now, deciding what content is “good” or “worth watching” is a very personal thing. What one person likes, another might hate. 

In the past few years, “Cord-cutting” has been the new thing, with lots of new players like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu along with traditional broadcasters like HBO and the BBC getting in on the act. 
These are great things, I rate the BBC iPlayer very highly — because it has a lot of great content and they are continuing to improve the user experience.

At the end of the day, the great Tsunami of content that washes around the globe each day has led to a LOT of crap TV with some great TV mixed in. For end users, there is no way to screen or filter all that content in a personal, easy and intuitive way so they can find that great TV content and not have to wade through the crap to find it.

For instance Netflix. Now I like Netflix, it has some great content. But now I feel like I have watched all the good stuff and cannot find anything worth watching. I have resorted to just watching random things — giving it 2 minutes and if it isn’t floating my boat it goes off and I try something else.

Sometimes this works and we find a real gem, but generally it is a waste of time. Another major issue with current solutions like Netflix, iPlayer and others is that even though I have watched various shows — I still have to flick through the thumbnails of those shows, to find new content. Why can’t we just hide things we have already seen?? 

Another example of how this would be great: 
My 4yr old was watching Netflix and happened to open a kids cartoon that was for kids a bit older. There was a werewolf, my kid got freaked out and that led to a number of nights where bedtime was a struggle. I cannot just hide content that I don’t want my kid seeing. Netflix allows me to create a kids profile so only “Kids” content shows up — but that is it, you cannot filter the content or tailor the profile in any other way.Ratings and recommendations also suck. It’s like the two are not connected. Surely this is not a hard thing to do, if I like a lot of drama shows — why is Netflix recommending that I watch Mouse Hunt????

This is something we are trying to explore at Gourmet Pixel, our first and fairly simple experiment is Screen. This allows you to choose genres that interest you, the app then filters upcoming UK TV schedule to show you only content of the type you have chosen. You can then further filter the choices by removing certain shows, once removed you will not be shown them again. Ever.

As I said, this is an experiment and one that we are continuing to work on. Perhaps On Demand content might work better for this. Unfortunately Netflix closed their API, which is a real shame as with it I am sure we could do some great things.

We will continue to evolve the Screen app with more features over time, perhaps we could gain funding to enable us to push ahead full time on it — but in the meantime it will continue in the background whilst we make great apps for our clients.

If anyone reading this is interested in helping us fix TV, please do get in touch! I think it can be done in surprisingly simple ways.


Making TV content easier to discover

We have just submitted a big update of our TV content discovery app “Screen” to Apple.

Craig Federighi onstage at WWDC explaining Multitasking
Screen will be available on iPhone!  Out Now!

For the past year we have been working on our iPad app “Screen”. It is still considered a pet project here in the Gourmet Pixel studio but this week it has received a great update and is ready for download now!

Screen is a very simple idea; why search through thousands of shows and hundreds of channels in EPGs, TV Guides or TV guide apps when only a small number of those shows are actually of interest to you? There should be an easier way, we think there is and that lead to Screen.

By simply choosing the genres you are interested in, Screen tailors the content to your tastes. Love Sport and Soaps? Just choose those genres to see what is on. Hate Food shows or News? Then don’t select them and you wont see them.

To further enhance and tailor the platform to your tastes, you can swipe left on any show to dislike it. Once disliked, Screen will never display that show again - allowing you to just find shows you do like. If you like a show - swipe right, Screen will learn from that information.

Number One improvement in this new version is that the app is now universal, so works on iPhone too! It looks super slick on the new iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. Not only does that mean more people than ever can discover TV content in a new intuitive and personalised way, they can also enjoy that experience on either of their devices.
This lead to improvement Number Two: iCloud Syncing. If you edit your genres, or dislike a show whilst on iPhone at work or on your commute - the changes will reflect on your iPad when you load it up at home in front of the TV.

We have a HUGE amount of features and improvements we still wish to make, but these will be incremental and based upon user feedback over time. This is still a project for us, but we have big dreams for it in the future – especially with the introduction of Apple Watch and the always rumoured Apple TV.

Screen works for viewers of SKY, Virgin Media, Freeview and FreeSat in the UK (we hope to expand this in the future).