OPINION: Reviews of both the Fire TV Cube (2022) and Sky Stream are on this very site by the time you read this, and both devices take differing visions as to how they want you to find content.
Amazon wants to point you in the direction of its own content which is fair enough. It is a major player in video and audio streaming so why wouldn’t the emphasis be placed on its services first?
As I’ve said in previous reviews of Fire TV devices, it’s not called Amazon Fire TV for nothing, acting as a trojan horse to get you into Amazon’s interconnected circle of services and devices. You can’t really complain if you’ve signed up for multiple Amazon services and have bought a device that puts them front and centre.
However, I feel the ‘All-new’ Fire TV interface that arrived a few years ago has gone too far in one direction. The advertisements don’t bother me, and perhaps there’s a difference in how Amazon serves up ads in the UK and US, but they are fairly unintrusive.
What bothers me more is that it’s too weighted towards Prime Video and Freevee. Is that a massive surprise? No, but if you’re someone with multiple subscriptions then it makes discovering new titles more difficult. The first two-thirds of the home screen are virtually devoted to Prime Video and Freevee programming, you must scroll down six times to find the iPlayer row (not too bad), 11 for Netflix, 20 for ITVX and that’s it – those are all the services the Fire TV has a dedicated row for out of 50 rows.
Programming for the likes of Apple TV+, Paramount+ and other services are ferreted away in genre-specific rows such as Thrillers, Military & War films, and Action. It’s not always easy to distinguish which titles are on which service unless you click on them. It’s a muddled interface with rent, buy, free to watch and subscriptions blended together when, at least to me, it’d be simpler for each one to have its own section on the home screen.
It’s in stark contrast to Sky’s Entertainment OS which makes it abundantly clear which platform the content is hosted on. Yes, it’ll push content from Sky, but you’ll see content from Paramount+, Apple TV+, Netflix and Disney+ among the options too.
You shouldn’t have to work as hard as you do to find something to watch on the Fire TV interface, and Sky’s interpretation of content discovery puts it at your fingertips, taking a more democratic, non-biased view where it simply wants to get you watching and engaged. It’s a much simpler and more accessible interface, one where you’re not left constantly scrolling looking for something to watch.
There are instances where it could be improved. Sky’s interface doesn’t necessarily make it as clear if there’s a title on multiple services. The example I mentioned in my Sky Stream review was This Is Us, which is available on Prime Video and Disney+, but the latter option is hidden away unless you scroll down to the episodes on the programme’s landing page.
With streaming devices offering similar levels of performance in picture and audio fidelity, it’s the interfaces that are having the biggest impact on user engagement.
Do you want to spend your time whittling through a selection of titles to watch, or do you want something that grabs your attention straight away? I don’t want to waste time and idle about and the Fire TV interface has too many options which make discovering new titles a more daunting task.