Opinion – I’ve Lost All Excitement For Controlling Cable TV With Gaming Consoles

by Kyle Hilliard on Jan 19, 2014 at 12:12 PM

Nintendo recently issued an apology for its delayed TVii services in Europe, and my first thought was, “Oh yeah, I forgot about TVii.”

When the Wii U launched in 2012, one of the first things I did after updating the console was set it up to control my TV. The TVii services weren’t up and running, but I was impressed how easy it was to make the Wii U control my television’s simple commands like changing the channel, volume, and inputs.

When the TVii services went live, I updated my console and made a concerted effort to use it to its full potential. I wrote about my experience with TVii speaking positively about it, despite missing its full suite of features. I was excited for the future of TVii and using the Wii U as my universal remote.

My young daughter took a strange interest in the Wii U’s GamePad shortly after writing that feature. She was too young to understand anything she was doing, but she loved to press the TVii button and tap all the keys appearing on the screen. I disabled the feature so she could still press the buttons, but it wouldn’t actually turn on the television or change the channels.

I bring this up only because as she has gotten older and less interested in the GamePad (she’s over it for the time being), it didn’t occur to me I could re-enable the TVii functions until today. I had completely forgotten about it.

The Xbox One offers similar functionality, and during the first two weeks of owning the console, I went out of my way to use the Xbox One to watch television. The main draw of using the Xbox One to watch cable TV is using its voice commands. They work remarkably well, but as my time with the Xbox One moves forward, I have become less excited about using the console to control my cable TV’s assorted functions. I was looking forward to combining all of my entertainment electronics and filtering them through a singular video game console, but as I spend more time with the Xbox One and Wii U, I am finding it is a feature I am no longer compelled to take advantage of.

When I sit down to play video games, I am ready to invest in an active experience. I don’t mind learning systems or trying to figure out how to do things in new ways, or getting up off the couch to change router settings to play online.

When I watch TV, I am in the mindset to take part in a passive experience. I am prepared to melt into the couch and absorb what is happening on screen whether it is intellectually stimulating or a sitcom rerun. I don’t want to learn a new way to change channels or go through the process of turning on a video game console and then the cable box. I want to stick with what is familiar and what I know works, which is the universal remote I have been using for years.

Neither the Wii U or the Xbox One offer a better alternative to what I am already using. I’ve lost the excitement I had for TVii, and for using the Xbox One to control cable television exclusively. In the case of the latter, I do still have the cable box running through the Xbox One and enjoy snapping in TV and the ability to switch to the television app while waiting for a download. When it comes to changing channels, volume, or similar functions when watching TV through the Xbox One, I still grab the remote I am familiar with. I no longer see myself using the Xbox One as the main route for watching television anymore.

At the launch of the Wii U and the Xbox One, I was excited about its cable TV functionality. I went out of my way to use both of them when watching TV, but as the excitement of owning new hardware comes to a close and they turn into just another pair of electronics in my TV cabinet, I am finding I am using them exclusively for their original intended purposes – playing video games.