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Comcast’s faith in voice-driven TV experience misplaced?

Access and attitude to TV voice search Q2 2017

Comcast continues to boost the capabilities of its X1 voice control. However, the jury is still out as to whether consumers are ready to use voice to interact with their television.

Comcast adds voice control

Comcast has been investing heavily in the voice capabilities of its X1 video service. Subscribers can easily speak into their remote to hunt for something to watch by title, actor, sports team and many other parameters. Now they can control playback using their voice. In a blog post, Keith Vachris, Executive Director, Product Management, Comcast Cable in TV said that customers can now use commands like fast-forward, jump forward 5 minutes, or go back 30 seconds. They can also play, stop, pause, and restart playback all by speaking to the remote control.

The company says that X1 is now in 55% of its video customer’s homes and is promising 60% by the end of the year. Since this represents over 10 million homes, is Comcast X1 voice push moving the needle on adoption of the technology?

Voice search adoption moving slowly

According to TiVo Q2 2017 data, about 22% of U.S. consumers have access to voice search capabilities. daily users of voice video search Q2 2017The number with access is up from 18% in Q2 2016. Half of the people with access say they use it. Normally with a new technology that works well for consumers, you would expect the percentage of users with access to it to increase over time. People normally tell their friends when something new is working well for them. Voice search does not seem to be generating much positive “buzz.” In Q2 2016, 51% of people with access to voice search used it.

Users of voice search do seem to be using it a little more than a year ago. 28% say they used voice search daily in Q2 2017, versus 20% one year earlier. That said, last quarter TiVo found no difference between daily users between Q1 2017 and Q1 2016.

What can we conclude from this data? It looks like voice search is taking a long time to catch on with consumers. A good proportion of people do occasionally use it, but few make it a part of their daily TV lives.

Voice assistants a big area of growth

Home assistant device ownership Q2 2017One device consumers are increasingly turning to for help with finding something to watch is the voice assistant. Usage of devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home has grown strongly over the last year or so. TiVo says that in Q2 2017, 14.5% of consumers owned a home assistant. 7.5% own a Google Home, 6.2% own an Amazon Echo, and 3.1% own an Amazon Dot.

Half of those with a home assistant device use it to search for video to watch on another device, such as a television. Last quarter, only 30% of people reported using their voice assistant in this way. Alas, TiVo does not tell us if searching for content in this way is very useful.

I have both an Amazon Echo and Google Home. Neither device has been particularly helpful in making it easier for me to find something to watch.

Why it matters

Companies such as Comcast are investing a lot in voice capabilities that are meant to make search, discovery, and control in the TV experience easier.

So far, the data is inconclusive as to whether consumers are ready to integrate the technology into their TV experience.

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