Addressing the frustrations of streaming fragmentation, the latest Fetch TV UI overhaul aims to put Aussie viewers in the driver’s seat.
Update 28 April 2023: It seems that the update has not gone over well with users, flooding Fetch’s social media channels with negative feedback. Fetch has since responded, with future developments on the way. The original article continues below.
These days, Australians are spoiled for choice when it comes to both great content to watch and great home entertainment devices on which to watch it. Unfortunately, all those choices come at a price when it comes time to flop down on the couch and quickly find something to watch.
The makers of smart TVs and other streaming devices have made various attempts at breaking down the worlds between Australia’s content silos. Beyond simply displaying a wall of streaming and catch-up apps, they’ve embraced cross-platform search and now cross-platform content discovery in an effort to be your go-to entertainment portal.
Playing the role of content aggregator and curator is key for any device that wants to take pride of place in Australian lounge rooms. Unfortunately, some otherwise impressive devices have been hampered by the fact that their masters have skin in the game.
Apple and Foxtel’s cross-platform approaches still have a tendency to favour their own content. Meanwhile, Freeview Australia’s ill-fated personal video recorder sank without a trace because of its stubborn determination to dictate the viewing experience and keep free-to-air television front and centre.
It’s an approach Australian broadcasters are now trying to force onto smart TV makers, by proposing new laws which force hardware markers to give local services prominence in the menus over streaming giants like Netflix and Disney+.
This is where Fetch TV has managed to walk a fine line in offering a relatively service-agnostic entertainment device, despite the fact it also has skin in the game in the form of its own streaming pay TV channels, as well as selling and renting movies and TV shows.
Fetch TV Cross-platform content discovery puts viewers first
The latest Fetch TV overhaul focuses on helping viewers to find their favourite shows, and discover new ones, with as little friction as possible – regardless of the content’s source. The interface also runs on the Lightning open-source rendering engine rather than HTML, to offer a slicker user experience.
The 3.30 Acacia update has already rolled out to around 5,000 Fetch TV boxes and is set to be pushed out across the country during April. It is available to all Fetch TV boxes except Gen 2.
The most obvious change is that the main menus now extend across the bottom of the screen instead of the top.
Each top-level menu option now automatically offers up a range of viewing options from different sources, to improve cross-platform content discovery. These menus can also tap into recently watched data from the various services, although some streaming services insist on only displaying this content in their own dedicated row of the menus.
Content suggestions draw on a combination of automated recommendations based on your viewing habits and Fetch TV’s curated collections, in an effort to offer a better balance than services that rely heavily on algorithms.
One of the key improvements with the latest Fetch TV update is the ability to find content more easily, without the need to trawl through individual streaming services. As part of this, Fetch TV’s own movie rental store has been integrated into the wider movie search options.
After clicking on a movie or TV show, the “Ways to Watch” menu now lists all available sources, including free-to-air and pay TV recordings as well as catch-up services. This list is prioritised based on cost (allowing for your existing subscriptions), resolution and whether the service includes advertisements.
This ensures the menus aren’t constantly offering up content for which you need to pay extra in order to watch, beyond your current subscriptions, even if it comes at the expense of Fetch TV’s own movie rental service.
Fetch TV’s efforts to standardise its Electronic Program Guide and metadata behind the scenes also pay off, with Ways to Watch indicating whether different seasons of a television series are available across different services.
Fetch TV has also added a “Keep Watching” menu along with “New Seasons and Episodes” which keeps track of what you’ve been watching and ensures you don’t miss the season return (although again, some streaming services limit access to this data).
For households that still watch a lot of free-to-air television, the EPG option in the main menu now offers quick links to shows that you tend to watch at this time of day, to reduce the number of clicks required to start watching. The “Featured TV” option under the Shows menu also tells you what’s on during the next few days so it’s easier to schedule recordings.