Apple to help viewers discover TV shows through an app

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Apple to help viewers discover TV shows through an app

Described to network executives as “the Watch List,” the app will recommend shows based on content viewers already access through their Apple TVs.

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Apple to help viewers discover TV shows through an app

Dawn Chmielewski, Special for USA TODAY 10:21 a.m. EDT October 26, 2016
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The Apple TV box shown at an Apple event in September 2015(Photo: Eric Risberg, Associated Press)

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LOS ANGELES — Apple plans to announce this week a new way for viewers to discover TV shows through an app, people with knowledge of the project told USA TODAY.

The people could not be named because of the confidential nature of the negotiations.

Described to network executives as “the Watch List,” the app will recommend shows based on the content viewers access through their Apple TVs. For example, a subscriber to FX Networks might be encouraged to check out the new dramatic series Atlanta.

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the announcement slated for Thursday.

This new approach of distilling recommendations into a single app builds on the improvements in search and discovery that Apple introduced last year, with the fourth update to its Apple TV streaming box.

Last year’s major overhaul of Apple TV turned the living room TV into a giant iPhone, with games and network TV offerings displayed in colorful apps across the screen. An updated remote control lets viewers fetch TV shows on command, using Apple’s digital assistant, Siri, to call up the latest installment of the NBC’s The Voice.

But too much of a good thing can be overwhelming. "The Watch List" — which will be known by a different name when it’s available to consumers — is designed to aid in discovery.

For network programmers, it provides a central hub for promoting new shows — a helpful tool at a time when old programming tricks for launching a new series, such as wedging a freshman show next to a hit program, don’t work in the digital world.

Apple laid the technological groundwork for improvements to Apple TV at its Worldwide Developer Conference in June when it announced a “single sign-on” plan designed to allow cable subscribers to furnish their login information once, and automatically unlock all the channels they pay for.

Wall Street analysts pressed Apple CEO Tim Cook for an update on the company’s television ambitions Tuesday, during its fourth quarter earnings call. This update falls short of Apple’s earlier ambitions to provide a package of TV programming, including live broadcasts.

Dawn Chmielewski is a journalist covering technology and media. In the past she’s written for Recode and the Los Angeles Times. You can follow her on Twitter @DawnC331

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