This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of WiFi HiFi Magazine
It's ironic that while our TV consumption habits are shifting to streaming, we still inherently desire that traditional television experience. You know the one when you sit on the couch, remote in hand, aggressively flipping (or, as it's more commonly known, surfing) through channels until you find something worth watching? With Channel Plus, LG is hoping to combine the growing love of streaming with the comforting familiarity of linear TV.
Available in the U.S. since last year, Channel Plus is coming to Canada with a number of local partners, like Cineplex and The Zone. Essentially, it marries the traditional television search experience with that of streaming services, allowing you to flip through what's available to watch online just as if these videos were "channels" within a traditional television service guide.
"Apps and linear television still live in two separate sandboxes," LG's Senior Manager of Content Business Development Cassey Tan told us during a private demo. "Channel Plus gives consumers the opportunity to access the best of both worlds."
Channel Plus aggregates content from partner streaming services and serves them up in a guide similar to what you'd get with broadcast television. Each "channel" is preceded by "IP," so you know it's an Internet-based channel from an app like Time Magazine. This allows you to easily distinguish between Internet content and traditional linear television channels. If you're a cord-cutter, or a new generation of cord-never, your entire "channel" guide will be filled with Internet-based content, yet you'll still get a traditional television experience as you flip through everything from over-the-air (OTA) channels, to news bits, short five-minute Funny or Die skits, or one-minute viral videos.
Access Channel Plus content integrated within the regular linear TV guide if you have a subscription to a cable/satellite TV service, or access OTA channels, or tap the Channel Plus icon in the apps menu to pull up the available IP content. Channel Plus is powered by Xumo, which seamlessly integrates the channels, organizing them in an easily navigable fashion. Other popular streaming apps like Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video will continue to operate as standalone apps within the LG Smart TV interface.
More than 90% of Canadians who have purchased a smart TV have connected them to the Internet, says Tan. And since the end of 2015, there has been more than 50% growth in TV connectivity, and 31% increase in streaming activity. "TV," says Tan, "drives the highest engagement for users."
Scheduled to launch at the end of October, Channel Plus will work with all 2017 LG Ultra HD model Smart TVs that use webOS 3.5. It will debut with over 50 channels, including Time Magazine, Funny or Die, TMZ, and Wired. New channels will be added automatically, and tagged as "new" for easy identification.
As someone who (gulp) does not yet own a smart TV, but is an avid viewer of both HD linear and streaming TV content, I've never felt like I was missing out. I watch streaming content on the big screen by using third-party devices like an Apple TV and Google Chromecast, and access services like Netflix through the app that's integrated into my Bell Fibe service. But seeing how smoothly Channel Plus presents interesting content alongside traditional TV channels, with very little lag time as you switch among services, is enticing. Content I probably never would have watched otherwise, or would have only consumed on the small screen of a mobile device, might end up on my radar. I can enjoy it on the big screen through a simple search and click, all within the same interface. For cord-cutters and cord-nevers especially, it's a great way to immerse oneself in the joys of channel surfing. I can certainly get with this program, pun intended.
See Channel Plus in action in our video.