Written by Internet, Technology, TV

Why is Discovery So Poor in Amazon and Netflix?

Over on The Medium is Not Enough, Rob Buckley notes that Amazon has quietly launched a number of new US series onto the service with hardly any publicity.

And I find it particularly interesting because I really hadn’t noticed despite spending quite a few hours on Amazon over the weekend. While a lot of this time was spent binge watching Mozart in the Jungle, I did watch a couple of films as well.

And at no point did I see any sight of Halt and Catch Fire, Klondike, The Red Road or any of the other series he mentions. None of them are “massive”, but all to a lesser or greater extent worthy of checking out.

It might be that Amazon just chooses to use its marketing budget on other shows, although precisely none of these series got a mention in The Guardian’s list of upcoming series which one would assume was compiled with help from Netflix and Amazon’s PR teams.

But I also think it’s problem of surfacing programming on both Amazon and Netflix. Indeed it’s been a broader problem with the like of Amazon and iTunes for years. I’ve always strongly argued that they’re great if you know what you’re looking for, but they’re terrible for discovery if you’re just browsing.

Before Christmas Netflix launched its big new series, Marco Polo. I turned on the Netflix app on my smart TV, and was amazed to find precisely no promotion for it. It was in none of the various lists that Netflix generates based on my viewing. It didn’t feature in the “new” lists either. I had to use search to find it. Even this past weekend, it was hidden away and not near the top of the screen.

Now perhaps it’s because my TV’s app is bit aging. My TV is two years’ old after all. It doesn’t have any kind of carousel that you might get on Netflix’s website. Amazon can be even worse. The Amazon app on Blu Ray player doesn’t even highlight the programme you were last watching so that you can pick up if you didn’t finish it. If I search for it, I can resume. But the clunky layout doesn’t present you with

The trouble is that there’s no slick, fast and detailed interface that can easily be navigated with a TV remote control. Or if there is, I’ve yet to see it. Even using a laptop or tablet offers only a marginal improvement in navigation. Surfacing catalogue programming is hard.

In the meantime, it can be a better bet to discover new programming via social media or blogs than using the sites’ own navigation and menu systems. Which is where I came in!