What Does the Future Hold for TV Authentication?

The television experience has become a chaotic mix of multiple video services, each with its own individual login. With so many different services to navigate, it is becoming increasingly challenging to ensure a good user experience for consumers. How should authentication change to give consumers a seamless experience across multiple apps and services?

The End Goal

 TV is all about the user experience. With more content and device choices, this is truer than ever before. If the user experience is poor, consumers will simply go elsewhere. At the same time, authentication is naturally extremely important, ensuring only subscribers get access to the service, or in some cases premium content within the service.

Balancing both those things can be a challenge, especially as consumers often have multiple services on one device and can often mix up passwords between each of those. The end goal has got to be to minimise those steps as much as possible and create a seamless experience for the consumer. That may involve making systems that are smart enough to understand what the consumer is trying to do to be able to offer prompts, such as if it realises they are using a password from a different video service.

The race to reduce the time it takes to get to the right content is one reason why voice assistants have become popular. Using a voice assistant with a video service is the quickest way to reach content without having to learn how to navigate an app, but only if the assistant and the service are smart enough. At the same time there is not a service provider out there to make voice authentication possible … yet.  

Following Apple’s Lead 

If we are talking about strong authentication examples, then we have to look at Apple and the way it has led the charge in the mobile space. If you had asked me five years ago whether biometrics would be used for authentication on a TV, I would have said that would never happen as people would be far too concerned about identity theft. Apple has changed all that by normalising the use of fingerprints and facial recognition.

Apple has also come a long way with that technology. When it first started using biometrics, people often complained that it didn’t work and they had to resort to typing in a code anyway. Now, they have it pretty much nailed—both fingerprint and facial recognition work most of the time. That also means that when it doesn't work, people are even more annoyed that they have to type in the code. And the more services people have, each with a different password (hopefully, at least), the more annoying it becomes to have to type those in each time. So it is easy to see the attractiveness of using the biometric approach for any type of authentication.

How Will TV Authentication of the Future Look? 

Ultimately, as an industry we need to make authentication as invisible to the user as possible, which means as few logins as possible. Therefore, the main thing I think we will see is login happening at the master level, rather than people having to log in to numerous different apps and services. In the short-term that probably means device login, but in the future we will see truly smart homes emerging with one device controlling access to everything, from the TV to the fridge. As artificial intelligence (AI) technology improves, these will also be able to learn on the fly, based on consumers’ actions and habits. This has massive potential to make that control and access even easier, which will undoubtedly improve the user experience. 

Currently everyone is operating within their own service. A consumer will have a TV with multiple competing services and multiple logins that are totally unconnected. For that to change, someone needs to take charge of driving that centralised system, and of course it will need to be extremely secure. It also means that competing services will have to allow consumers to link between them and those other services. It will be up to the platform operators to make that a requirement of being on the platform.


I also definitely see the potential for biometrics to play a part in future TV authentication, perhaps via a smartphone where the biometric authentication is already well established. While it is true that currently no TV manufacturers are supporting biometric authentication, the hardware is already available to make that happen, and the software will get better over time. 

The real barriers for evolution in this space come down to two main factors: cost and privacy.

Biometrics are currently expensive, and it would simply not be feasible for device manufacturers to implement across each device. However, as with everything, as the technology matures, the cost will come down and the software will get better and better. The extensive use of the technology in phones is likely to drive the cost down quickly, so we should be at a point where it is achievable in a relatively short timeframe.

When it comes to privacy concerns, the use of biometrics on phones has meant consumers are more accepting. However, recent high-profile privacy breaches have made consumers much more aware of what happens when things go wrong. It is all too easy to get a false negative where the facial recognition doesn’t recognise you, but it is equally possible to get a false positive where someone else can gain access. The threat of hacking is probably the biggest concern here, especially if consumers are expected to control more and more devices and passwords with one access point.

One of the most obvious ways to overcome that is with biometric layering. Rather than just using one biometric method, authentication can pair them together, such as using a fingerprint plus heartbeat. That makes it much more likely to get it right, and harder for hackers to overcome.

Shaping the Future of Video Experiences

Improving authentication will be just one way of shaping the future of video experiences. Consumers are looking for the quickest way to the content they want to watch on any device, and a “log in once” approach is just one way of enabling that.

[This is a contributed article from Accedo. Streaming Media accepts bylines from vendors based solely on their usefulness to our readers.]

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