Mark Zuckerberg is asking me to redesign the TV experience. So I'm assuming the product is going to be built by Facebook.
There are three components in the question:
- The television itself.
- Facebook as a platform.
- End user (or group of users) who is/are watching TV.
- Television: To enable people to watch content like news, music, movies, TV shows, etc.
- Facebook: To help people connect with friends and family.
- Television channels: To make money via advertisements and upselling movies or other premium content.
- Facebook: To collect data on what people are watching, to engage people more on the Facebook platform, to make more money via ads.
- To watch the content that's most relevant to them and make TV watching a social experience.
User pain points:
- Deciding what to watch. This is hard if you are watching alone and harder if you are watching as a group (2 or more people).
- TVs don't allow people separated by geography to watch together.
- TV ads are irrelevant / not immediately actionable.
- Something important maybe happening when I'm watching TV and I would be oblivious to it.
Solutions to solve these problems:
- Recommendation System (Solves problem 1): Use user data on what movies and TV shows user has watched, what s/he generally likes and display recommendations on what to watch when a user turns on the TV. If a group of people are watching together, allow the user to specify that and generate recommendations that is common ground for everybody (or at least as much as possible). There are two ways to do this:
a) user posts on Facebook via the TV asking friends what to watch (more suitable for movies that can be bought on-demand from TV channels or other online service providers), or
b) Facebook mines through available programs when the user is turning on the TV and generates a set of programs that match the user's interests or what other users similar to that of the user have watched.
In case 1a, the user's friends could select from a set of choices generated by Facebook based on what's available and vote (crowdsourced opinions) or they could provide new options that the user could purchase/watch (if available). Case 1b is rather straightforward and I don't think it requires any explanation.
- Group Watching: A set of users could decide to watch from the same place (or different places), at the same time. Facebook could facilitate this by syncing the video runs across TVs. Users could interact with each other via comments that show up on everybody's TV screens or they could send quick voice notes that are heard by everybody over the TV. People could even *react* to certain scenes, send GIFs that their friends could see on their screens on a sidebar, perhaps. Of course, if someone prefers an uninterrupted watching experience, they could turn this off for themselves
- TV ads are irrelevant / not immediately actionable: TV ads haven't grown much since decades and so, the ability of TV channels to collaborate with Facebook (and potentially even let Facebook *run* their advertising for them) may lead to more contextual and relevant ads for users, which would translate into more revenue for TV channels as well as Facebook. FB could use its treasure trove of data to determine which ad to show from its or the TV channel's inventory, for a specific user.
- Push important notifications (Breaking News, especially Local Breaking News): Facebook has the ability to determine if a news event (such as a terrorist attack or a local news) is important to a specific user or not. In the case of such an event, Facebook could send a push notification (like a notification growl) which could prompt the user to switch to a relevant news channel to learn more.
- Facebook Live on TV: Though this does not solve any current user problems, if Facebook were to build a TV experience, it could choose to push Live content from a user's news feed to the TV. Users may watch, react to, or comment on Live videos right from their television.
Solution 1: High impact to user and medium cost to build: FB needs a real-time stream of what's playing or what's available to buy/rent in order to generate these recommendations. FB already has interest data; it would just be a question of mapping interests to what's playing.
Solution 2: Medium impact to user and high cost to build: Though FB has the basic infrastructure in place to allow realtime commenting, etc. I'm not too sure if all TVs would be able to support this capability. If it becomes a network effects problem (I have a telephone but my friends don't), then this idea maybe useless.
Solution 3: Medium impact to user, high impact to Facebook, but high cost to build: Users don't specifically like advertisements, and TV ads much less. So, if we can make an unavoidable, unpleasant experience slightly more bearable, it's good. But the impact of this feature on Facebook's revenues would be significant despite the high amount of engineering effort to build.
Solution 4: Medium impact to user, medium cost to build: Users would appreciate being in the know about something really important breaking, when they are watching TV, but this is already being solved by mobile push notifications. Plus there is the question of who pushes the notification to the TV screen - if left in the hands of news orgs, they may spam people and Facebook may need humans to vet news stories to be pushed out, which is less than optimal.
Solution 5: Low impact to user, medium cost to build: Live has really not taken off all that much, at least as much as Facebook wanted it to. Users may find low quality live content intrusive to their UX.
In order of priority:
High Priority: 1,3,2.
Medium Priority: 4.
Low Priority: 5.