The smart TV experience is poised to get a lot smarter this year.
That’s thanks to the increased use of artificial intelligence, which will transform the home theater experience, according to Joshua Danovitz, director of Fire TV experience at Amazon.
“In 2024, we’ll begin to see the impact that generative AI can have in the home entertainment space, and where generative AI will improve content discovery and personalization,” Danovitz said. “Content discovery in particular will become more intuitive, relevant, and conversational through AI-driven assistants, like Alexa.”
AI blew up in early 2023 thanks to ChatGPT, a generative system that could create a trip itinerary or write our book reports with a stunningly human voice. It expanded the way we thought AI could benefit us, even as it sparked fears that the technology could replace our jobs.
That didn’t stop virtually every company from apply AI to their respective businesses, and Amazon wasn’t an exception. The company has teased a smart Alexa to come at some point, but Danovitz broke down how it’ll be used on Fire TV.
In addition, Danovitz touched on other topics like the rise of free, ad-supported services and whether consumers will be paying more this year. The following is a transcript of our e-mail conversation.
Cord Cutters News: You talked about what AI can do. Is there any way of predicting how much of an influence AI systems will have on the whole experience? Is AI driving the whole thing at some point?
Danovitz: At Fire TV, we’ve been steadfast in our vision to transform technology in the smart home, and that includes combining advanced AI technology with real world inputs to create valuable experiences that simplify our customers’ everyday lives. We’ve been applying advanced AI techniques to Alexa since the beginning, and AI has long been an integral part of Fire TV—it’s how we make it easier for customers to discover and enjoy the shows, games, and movies they love. There is enormous potential in these technologies. With real applications like our upcoming LLM (Large Language Model) -powered Fire TV search functionality and AI Art features, this is just the start, and I’m excited to see what we can do for customers in the months and years ahead.
Even with the technological advancements of AI, and the improvements they will make around recommendations, search and discovery on Fire TV, I still believe there is an inherent human aspect around how we consume and share TV and movies as a collective pop culture. For the foreseeable future, we still need experienced teams of human designers and product leaders driving these human experiences. What AI is going to allow us to do is move much faster to deliver personalized experiences with better recommendations and enable natural interactions.
Cord Cutters News: On the flip side to all the AI enthusiasm, are folks worried about the technology, whether it’s replacing human workers or other unforeseen consequences. How is Fire TV implementing AI with care and to avoid issues like privacy concerns?
Danovitz: Customer privacy is at the heart of all of our device and software feature planning. We have been focused on privacy as we have deployed features with AI for years, and that dedication to protecting customers will continue with our current and future AI innovations.
The use of generative AI in home entertainment is in its early days, and is a new and evolving technology. Thus, instead of replacing the human workforce, it allows us to improve recommendations, deploy features faster, and enable natural interactions. In short, we have many exciting new capabilities that we want to provide for customers. With AI, we will be able to do this faster.
Cord Cutters News: 2023 saw the rise of free, ad-supported services, also known as FAST. How will they evolve in 2024 and do they complicate consumer choice?
Danovitz: Fire TV helps customers discover content, because we know that streaming entertainment choices can be vast and confusing. Our goal is to help customers get access to content selection, then help them choose how they want to watch the content. In many instances, FAST content is what they are looking for. We’ll continue to help customers discover and enjoy free content as we see it continue to see customers streaming it more often. For example, since launching the Fire TV Channels FAST experience, we have seen positive momentum, and monthly hours streamed of this content has grown by 726% to date. We’ve seen customers continue to gravitate toward this content, and I predict we’ll see continued growth in this space next year.
Since launching the Fire TV Channels FAST experience, we have seen positive momentum, and monthly hours streamed of this content has grown by 726% to date.Josh Danovitz
In addition to our own Fire TV Channels, we help customers discover content from all FAST providers with apps on Fire TV. Pluto, Tubi, and Amazon FreeVee are examples of rich FAST content that our customers love. In addition, our Fire TV Channels app – which we introduced in August – created an easy to navigate destination for thousands of live and on-demand videos from 400+ providers organized thematically across news, sports, entertainment, cooking, travel, gaming, and more. It’s also easy to discover the free content both within the new app and where we feature it throughout the Fire TV home screen and other pages like the Free tab.
The FAST content available on Fire TV Channels is diverse and appeals to a broad range of interests, giving customers more ways to personalize their experiences without paying more, and providing more qualified viewer opportunities for advertisers. For example, we just added NBA to our lineup of dynamic sports content providers, and introduced a new Favorites feature to help customers organize their favorite channels and sports teams for easier navigation and personalization. We’ll see these types of experiences continue to improve as we see adoption continue to rise.
Cord Cutters News: FAST services offer “live” channels similar to your traditional cable set up. Are we just headed back to the cable experience in some ways?
Danovitz: Let’s separate a traditional cable pricing package and popular content consumption. On the pricing, we see that customers want to create their own bundles, subscribe to content via apps on their terms, and have control over those subscriptions. On this front, Fire TV gives customers the control they need to subscribe to each service on devices with the fewest clicks possible. FAST content gives customers the ability to watch this content for free, with ads. Based on the engagement we are seeing with FAST content, customers love it. That is why we are leaning in to help them discover the content throughout our UI, including with the creation of our Free icon on our top navigation bar. It is also the reason we created Fire TV Channels, to fill a gap in content.
On the consumption side, we actually don’t see a material change. There is a shift in viewing more content via streaming, but the type of content is similar. Customers expect to get streaming content, and they want it on all of their devices. The challenge has been finding a way to find this content easily. The Fire TV UI makes this easy. Our global catalog has integrated all key content so that we can help customers browse and search for this content. We then offer transparent ways to understand if the content is part of a subscription or free with ads. Some of our customers start with the desire to watch content that is “free to me” where shows and movies are either part of their subscriptions or free with ads. These customers often start in our Free tab or go to the Fire Channels app. When a customer is browsing for something interesting or searching for something specific, we show them all of the choices to watch the content. When there is a FAST option, we clearly help the customer understand that they can watch it for free with ads.
Cord Cutters News: With this mix of services, do you think consumers will be paying more or less for streaming services in 2024?Danovitz: I see this playing out more as a trend of customer choice. The exciting thing is that the customer has more control, so it’s really up to them on what they want. There are so many ways they can personalize their selections now. Between bundle deals, ad-supported tiers, and FAST content, there will be plenty of ways for customers to get access to content they’ll love at a price they feel good about.