Roku recently updated its search feature. The update transformed the expansive search that had previously produced a long list of results into a group of visual suggestions akin to a movie app like Netflix.
Instead of simply presenting a chronological list of movies and or TV show choices there are titles broken down into categories like Free, Available via subscriptions and so on. This new setup has strengths and weaknesses. The biggest strength of the setup is that users can find free content quickly. As well they can also tell immediately if a title is only available via a paid service. Having a rent or buy section clarifies things further. In the past users would find a title and have to tap through a few menus before they found out a selection was on a service they maybe did not have.
But the new format actually makes the whole content discovery process take longer. Why? Because instead of just toggling down a list chronologically now users are sort of sifting through multiple bins of movies like diving into a big box at Walmart. Oh, I wonder which Robert Downey Jr. movies are free today? This can be fixed without reinventing the wheel though.
All Roku has to do is provide one more choice in the results. A choice that presents everything in a list. The visuals are great because honestly people might only remember the look of the poster for a title like “I remember there was a giraffe or some animal on it but I can’t think the name of it.”
Its strengths and weaknesses are on full display when searching for an actor like Tom Hanks, a performer who has been on TV and the movies since the early 1980s. The first row of selections in the Tom Hanks results is Movies and TV shows. There are 20 selections from across various apps whether free, paid or VOD. There is a row of free content with 11 titles. There are 9 rows of selections based on different services that I have subscribed to or that Roku has connected me to through TV everywhere apps and such.
If you add up all of the titles listed in the free section and the various rows of subscription collections and buy/rentthere are 98 titles available. That pretty much pulls together his career outside of a few guest appearances on TV shows. But by breaking things into services that you subscribe to it means now a user can find themselves scrolling through row after row to see something that stands out. While this is easier then jumping into 8 individual services and navigating multiple searches it can still be arduous.
What would fix it would be one listing of everything. Like an A-Z listing that can use the real estate of the TV screen and give users a full career perspective with a click. A choice to view by year would also be a wonderful tool. This way users could browse via the 1980’s or other periods of his career.
One other touch would be to allow titles that are not available anywhere on the platform to be displayed so that users could add them to the feed. There users could add them for future reference. This would require some further integrations that might be outside of Roku’s capabilities. But it would be a nice touch.
I don’t know how much engineering prowess these sorts of changes would require. But I have a feeling Roku can pull it off. The search by date or A-Z would be similar to how Plex and other media servers handle the content stored on them. Roku is a powerful tool and pulls together information quickly. Such a tweak to the search would again make the platform’s search the best in the business.