[Series] Regarding Television (Part 2)

Part 2. An Anecdote

The following anecdote, in my opinion, paints a picture of how the UX for live television broadcasts (especially sports) could play out within the next few years…

Last week I was watching the League of Legends World Championship series which is streamed online for free. Now, it’s about 90 degrees upstairs in my home, while downstairs is at least 10 degrees cooler and has a 65” screen in the living room. So I headed downstairs and picked up my brother’s iPad and downloaded the Twitch TV app. (Twitch.tv is a popular website for live streaming video game content. For those of you who think eSports are silly, just consider that there is no technical reason why the same system would not work for any live video content. Scripted or Reality TV. Talk shows. “Real” sports.)

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When I opened the Twitch TV app and immediately it suggested a grid of videos streaming live, ordered by the real-time count of how many people were watching at that moment. At that time there were a half a million people watching the same thing I was looking for so it was at the top of the grid. I tapped on the stream and after a 17 second advert it started playing the live stream of the game. I tapped the screen sharing button and selected the Apple TV hooked up to the big screen and the video and audio moved from my iPad to the television screen. Meanwhile the iPad’s screen was replaced with Twitch TV’s live chat interface, featuring a real time discussion of the game. After further investigation I found that I could use the iPad as normal, opening other apps and browsing Safari while the game still played out on my television screen.

There are three major components that I think are key here. Firstly, the television is just acting as a screen, interfacing with a tablet or smartphone that has the real interface. Theoretically there is no set top box required since most modern televisions have built in networking functionality.

Secondly, the screen real estate on the tablet is still used for complementary content. In this case, a real time text-based chat screen shared by everyone watching the live broadcast. But consider some other ways this screen could be used. (Microsoft is already experimenting with this technology in the Xbox One.) If American Idol or other reality competitions used this setup, audience voting could be done live in real-time. For major sporting events think live statistics!

And thirdly, there is no channel associated with a broadcast. The most popular broadcasts being watched float to the top to make major events visible, and a search interface allows anything else to be found by name- a great example of the old UX mantra: “common case fast, uncommon case possible”.

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