Amazon’s Fire TV is getting an update that will help viewers better discover live TV programming, and even be able to tune into live channels with Alexa. The voice integration builds on the recently added “On Now” row on the Fire TV homepage, where you’ll find the live streams from channels like HBO, Showtime, Starz and Cinemax, if you’re signed up through Amazon Channels.
This row will display what’s currently airing on those channels, so you can tune in to the current program with either your remote, or now, your voice.
To access the channel you want, you can just tell Alexa to “watch HBO,” “go to Showtime,” or “tune to Cinemax,” for example, by pressing the Alexa button on the Fire TV remote.
In addition, Fire TV is rolling out a new Channel Guide that lets you browse the channels’ full lineup, starting with what’s on right now and going out two weeks. You can access this guide via the remote, as well, by pressing the Options button, or asking Alexa to “go to the Channel Guide.”
Plus, the “Recent” row now captures the last “Live” channel and video on demand titles viewed, Amazon says, which makes it easier to get to your favorite content. A preview of the live channel is also presented while customers browse.
The new features make Fire TV feel more like the front-end to a live TV service – an interesting change, given that Amazon reportedly cancelled its plans to launch its own “skinny bundle” of programming to rival services like Sling TV, Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV, and others. Instead, it’s been focusing on building out its a la carte service for Prime members, Amazon Channels.
The company previously worked with select channels, including Netflix and HBO, to better integrate their content into Fire TV’s main interface by way of partner rows. These rows – which are not sold to channels for a fee – have included personalized recommendations pulled in from the streaming services themselves.
This new Live TV experience arriving now to Fire TV is only available with this handful of premium subscriptions offered through Amazon Channels for the time being, the company says. Obviously, it doesn’t make sense for other services like Netflix – which is on-demand only, and not a TV channel with live programming.
However, Amazon says it plans to bring more channels to the Live TV service in the near future, which could effectively turn the Fire TV into a live TV-like service, without forcing users to buy a skinny bundle of content they don’t want.