Amazon overhauls the main video interface, balancing complex and simple

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Is there anything about streaming TV (not to mention smart TVs that offer these services) that’s both more important and attracts less attention from customers than the actual user interface? Probably not.

But in an increasingly competitive and churn-filled streaming industry, it’s likely becoming a differentiator, having great shows when people want to watch them. The hardest part is making it simple/easy to access while quickly connecting people to the billions of dollars worth of shows offered by the service.

Customers don’t want to be overwhelmed by cluttered, clunky, or unresponsive interfaces. But they also want to find the shows they want and be able to stumble upon the ones they’re most likely to like.

This is a big reason why Amazon
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unveiled a major overhaul to its Prime Video interface this week that looks a little more like Netflix
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.

And Amazon Prime isn’t the only streaming service getting a makeover in Hollywood, as Pluto announced its own changes late last week.

Other departments are making adjustments, but clearly have work to do. For all its great shows and deep library, HBO Max is regularly criticized for a buggy and problematic interface that can make it difficult to access all the great content.

Worse news for customers, parent company Warner Bros. Discovery
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the merger plans to eventually mix Discovery Plus with HBO Max (and the likely renamed result). But this merging of different audiences, interfaces, and supporting technologies will only delay and complicate a definitive update, especially as the recently merged company continues to cut spending and integrate various divisions.

Even the OG Hulu streaming service exhibited (on my screens anyway) a weird glitch when it cut ads, in this case showing the biggest hit of the summer the bear. Instead of going straight to the announcement, the interface switches to a black screen, with closed captioning dialogue from the show for several seconds, before switching to the announcements.

The issue is confusing and off-putting, but at least doesn’t seem to cut out the actual show after the ads have finished playing. That a streaming service that’s been running since 2007 still has issues like this suggests they’re not easy things to fix.

To be fair, taking a (web)page from the market leader, like Amazon does, is not a bad idea. It’s even a centuries-old tradition among tech companies, which have ruthlessly borrowed from each other for decades (see also, Microsoft-Apple
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Facebook/Instagram-Snapchat, etc).

There’s a lot to like with what Amazon is rolling out right now, first to its Fire devices, the Android TV platform and some other living room devices, said Helena Cerna, global product manager at Prime Video, during an interview. briefing. The redesign will hit iOS devices and the web later, as part of a global rollout affecting thousands of device types.

The company is hiring “more visually evocative visuals” and adding trailer access for the highlight show. It also reduces the visual clutter at the top of the page.

This is done in part by moving a set of navigation controls from the top of the page to the left side, with a stack of icons for quick access to “my stuff”, free content, a store for all movies and available series that are paid, the homepage, and in particular live TV. Another sidebar at the bottom includes links to movies, TV shows, and sports.

“In the last few years, Amazon has really invested in a lot of different content,” Cerna said. “We were really focused on giving customers easy entry to understanding what was coming next.”

If you own the content shown, whether it’s from Prime, another subscription or video service, or something acquired from the store, the service will show a blue check mark. And if you need to spend more to watch, it’ll feature a yellow shopping cart icon instead, with links to subscribe, rent, or buy.

Amazon will also highlight the substantial amount of free content it offers through more than 200 live linear channels on its separate FreeVee service and on Prime for many genres, services such as AMC and popular franchises such as The Walking. Dead.

“We really focused on making sure customers could understand how they would consume this content, live and linear, on-demand, and whether they would need to buy,” Cerna said. “Those are the main areas that we have focused on. We certainly, as we get more live, linear, and sports content, you can see that we wanted to pop that content.

“During usability testing, we repeatedly heard, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know Prime had live TV,'” Cerna said.

Given the increasing shift of many viewers to low-intensity, ad-supported viewing on services such as Pluto, Tubi, STIRR and similar outlets, trying to highlight this content and give people a reason to staying on the Prime platform makes a lot of sense.

As LightShed Partners pointed out in a research note on Monday, all streaming services need to focus on optimizing time spent, especially as advertising becomes increasingly important to future profitability.

“The importance of time spent becomes the critical driver of revenue when trying to sell advertising,” wrote LightShed analysts Rich Greenfield, Brandon Ross and Mark Kelley. “Time spent creates inventory (impressions) that can be monetized. In the world of connected TV, Netflix and YouTube dominate time spent and even strengthen their lead over their peers.

This live TV spotlight will only grow in importance for Amazon this fall, when Prime Video resumes “casts” of the NFL’s Thursday Night Game, long one of the most-watched shows on television. The company also better highlights other sports in the interface, Cerna said.

Pluto.tv, owned by Paramount Global, the ad-supported service with 68 million viewers worldwide, has also just revamped its US interface, adding five categories and four channels and shows to its offering, as well as new shows.

Among the new categories are popular genres such as “Game Shows”, “Daytime TV” and “Lifestyle & Culture”. The service is also adding channels dedicated to sustainable union powerhouses Let’s make a deal, Judge Judy, Jeopardy!, and Wheel of Fortune.

“We are always looking for ways to improve our programming offering and make it easier for audiences to find what they are looking for,” said Scott Reich, senior vice president of programming for Pluto TV, in a statement. “Not only is this expansion driven by the viewing habits we can see, but we spoke directly to our audience to get feedback on the suggested changes before they were made.”

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