HBO Max Launches Alexa Voice Discovery Feature

HBO Max has launched the “HBO Max Recommends” skill for Amazon Alexa, an interactive voice discovery feature allowing users to quickly browse titles from the HBO Max catalog.

Available on Alexa-enabled devices, “HBO Max Recommends” is “a solution for users looking for something great to watch and who would like a little guidance from HBO Max and Alexa,” according to HBO Max.

To build personalized watchlists, users begin by saying, “Alexa, open HBO Max Recommends” followed by answering a series of verbal yes or no questions. They can filter recommendations by genre or ask for show descriptions, character lists and other information for hundreds of select titles.

“HBO Max Recommends” also has a multiplayer mode that interacts with up to three co-viewers, curating a list of recommendations that satisfy all members of the group. Once a session is complete, HBO Max Recommends will text them their list with links to stream the content on HBO Max.

“HBO Max continues to build on its mission of providing fun and interactive experiences to fans with their skill ‘HBO Max Recommends,’” Jason Mulderig, SVP of brand marketing for HBO Max and HBO, said in a statement. “Working with Amazon and adding this additional avenue of content discovery is another way we’re enhancing our customers’ overall viewing experience.”

The “HBO Max Recommends” skill for Alexa will also include “Spotlight Sessions,” a human-curated list of 10 titles related to current and upcoming holidays, events, anniversaries and premieres. The feature will launch in June.

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“We are so proud to work with HBO Max to launch the ‘HBO Max Recommends’ skill for Alexa and reach HBO Max users — and their family and friends — with a simplified, fun and satisfying journey as they decide what to stream from HBO Max’s premier catalog,” Steve Bernstein, director of Alexa Skills at Amazon, said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing how fans respond to and engage with this new offering with HBO Max Recommends as their guide.”

“HBO Max Recommends” was developed in partnership with Skilled Creative.

HBO Max is scheduled to launch an ad-supported subscription tier and to begin its global expansion across 39 territories in Latin America next month.

IHS: Video/TV Content Recommendation Technology Still Wanting

Over-the-top video platforms and pay-TV operators have long sought to incorporate content recommendation technology to enhance their subscribers’ viewing experience. Now, new data from IHS Markit suggests just 7% of all survey respondents across five markets surveyed – the U.S., U.K., Japan, Brazil and Germany – rely primarily on content recommendations by their TV or video providers.

Not surprisingly, respondents who chose not to use content recommendations viewed the technology less favorably compared to those who used it. For example, among respondents who rated the user experience at least one video service as “very poor,” 18% still prefer to find content by clicking through channels. Just 12% of those who rated a user experience as “very good” use the same method.

IHS said the finding underscore the importance of encouraging users to utilize newer forms of content discovery on video platforms, in order to improve overall satisfaction video services.

Content recommendation satisfaction varies greatly by distribution format. Just 25% of TV viewers of Fox, ABC and NBC rated these networks as “very good” for finding content to watch. Another 25% rated the overall user experience as “very good.”

By comparison, Netflix’s ongoing appeal globally is amplified by the fact 52% of its subs rated the service “very good” for finding content they want to watch and 55% also rated their user experience “very good.” Not only does this finding highlight the value of the Netflix content recommendation software, it also underscores the connection between content discovery and an easy-to-navigate user experience.

IHS said video providers trying to match Netflix on content discovery must also contend with big discrepancies among various consumer age groups. About 23% of consumers age 17 to 34 prefer to discover content using their search functionality provided by their video services; however, this number falls to just 10% for consumers age 55 and older, 49% of whom preferred using a TV guide. 

Content recommendations from friends and social media is another key area to better understand and leverage competitive differences among TV and video providers. This type of content recommendation fell from a peak of 10% in 17- to 24- year-olds to a low of 3% among consumers age 65 and older.

IHS said the finding reveals that targeting key groups in the lower age range can potentially help proliferate knowledge of content availability.