This medium series presents the process of creating my digital design Thesis, done during my MFA at Parsons’ Design and Technology department, 2013–2014.
My thesis concept
What I wish to accomplish through this thesis
My goal is to make the online TV experience streamlined, easier and friendly, providing the viewers with an effortless interaction that allows for full control over the content they choose to watch.
I propose to facilitate this experience by creating one interface that displays information from all available content providers in one place. The main goal of the product is to provide the viewers with all the information they need in order to watch online TV. The viewers will have access to contents of all the free content providers like Hulu and various network sites, and that of paid services like Netflix and Amazon.
The end product will effectively aggregate all the information in one place, allowing the viewers to search once for the content they want, and get all links to the available sources.
It will also deliver one unified interface instead of forcing the viewers to deal with multiple variable interfaces, which tend to be lacking.
Another goal of the product is to help the viewers to organize their personal TV consumption information. The product will provide some helpful optional tools such as watchlists, tagging features and playing queues.
One more optional aspect of the product will allow users to share their viewing information: shows they are watching, what episode they are on, movies they intend to watch, and more. This social aspect of the service will encourage discovery of new content through friends and will give the viewers a means to interact over joint interests and create joint watchlists.
The effect it’ll have
I believe that a well designed product that allows for an effortless interaction with online TV sources will help more viewers make the switch over from traditional TV while making the experience easier for existing online viewers.
Online TV gives the viewers full control over content, instantly and at a small cost if any. It is clear that the future of TV lies in online instant content, yet the fragmented services and devices currently make this experience extremely frustrating.
Today, viewers fall on the wide spectrum of traditional TV versus online TV due to their level of comfort with technology and/or their willingness to put in some effort.
An example closer to the traditional end of the spectrum would be a family that owns an AppleTV device, is registered to Netflix and has cable TV. They might find it intimidating to search online for another streaming source, hooking up the computer to the television and so on. On the other end, a young user might not want to pay for any service and will watch all shows online, through various sources on various devices.
I would like my product to make it easier for both types of users to discover and enjoy the endless content that online TV has to offer without any struggle or difficulty.
Similar products in the market
It is important to note that many services online already supply information about TV shows and movies. Some supply information about the content itself, some are the content providers and some try to aggregate resources, similarly to the idea that I am pursuing. These are some of the notable ones:
IMDb (Internet Movie Database, by Amazon) is the biggest online information source for movies and TV shows. It supplies reliable information on each title, including the full cast and links to trailers, previews, and photos. It has a dependable crowd-sourced rating system and a social function that allows viewers to “check in” to movies through social networks when watching them. IMDb has a highly useful built-in watchlist feature which allows viewers to add items with one click. With only a couple of clicks, users can also create more lists to which they can add items. Although IMDb does not supply all the resources for watching online, it does link to available content on Amazon — its owner.
Other notable web based and native watchlist applications allow the users to create their own watchlist and keep their episodes up to date. In these apps the viewers must update manually once they have watched an episode, in order to keep the list up to date. The noteworthy ones are iTV, My Episodes, Episode Calendar, and Twee.
Important Features include: stats of how many hours you’ve watched, a platform for custom viewing links, recaps and images, up to date info and database, suggestions based on interests. None of these services links to resources online, but all of them provide the information necessary for the viewers to keep track of their episodes progress.
On the other hand there are source aggregating services that actually link to many resources online. There are two notable services that currently present this service: GuideBox and Can I Stream It?. Both services supply a dynamic up to date database that includes all the main streaming services. It allows the users to search once, and see if the content they want is available for streaming online. While Can I Stream It? focuses mainly on movies, GuideBox solely deals with TV shows and presents information pulled from all major services in addition to a few unofficial ones. Once the viewers pick the desired resource, Hulu for example, it is opened in a new tab. The service is merely the connection to the resource.
Other online services focus on the social aspect of TV watching. Web and native applications like GetGlue, ConnecTV, TunerFish, Miso, and others allow users to interact with each other over entertainment content within the app and through social networks.
Some noteworthy features include sharing of specific scenes and moments, discovering what friends are watching and getting live data of who’s watching what. These services allow for interactions with actual friends and not just public users.
Netflix and Hulu have also been trying to get into the social game by connecting their feed to Facebook. The services automatically share contents watched by the user with his/her friends, inviting them to watch together. Once clicking the link, and if the content is not conditioned by payment, the user is able to watch it. However, there is no indication that friends are watching the same, so the interaction is one sided and focused on getting more viewers as opposed to facilitating a social interaction.
IntoNow takes the social stream a step further; The app uses audio-tagging in order to automatically share with friends what the user is currently watching on TV. This is a great feature for encouraging on the spot conversations among friends over anything they have been watching simultaneously.
Prior projects that dealt with social TV watching
These are two projects that I’ve worked on in the past year. Both deal with the subject of social TV watching from different aspects.
Done in collaboration with Lola Ye, Jean Zhao and Norma Chan. Cinemate is a social streaming cross platform application, allowing friends to watch TV shows and movies together, incorporating video and text chat. The application uses all available screens to create a wholesome experience. A big screen TV can be hooked up to the laptop and will show the program, while the laptop will be used to show the other viewers via video. The mobile phone can be used as a remote, and to text the other viewers during the show.
A social watchlist and media hub, cross platform application. It lets you see what your friends are watching and what episode they are on. WatchThis v1.0 encourages you to interact on and off the screen over content you love.