Vizio seeks to spur SmartCast adoption with new watchlist feature

Smart TV maker Vizio is incorporating a watchlist feature into its streaming operating system, the company announced on Tuesday.

The feature, called "My Watchlist," will allow users of Vizio's SmartCast-enabled TV sets to save TV shows and movies from various supported streaming services in a central location. Content will appear in a special row on the home screen of SmartCast, where users can select a title that will immediately begin streaming.

At launch, around a dozen apps will be supported, including Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, Starz and Vizio's own free, ad-supported streaming (FAST) service WatchFree+. Notably missing from the list is Netflix, which has historically resisted efforts to integrate content into third-party watchlists beyond its own service.

Still, the new watchlist feature aims to take some of the friction out of keeping tabs on the TV shows and movies that streamers want to watch.

"My Watchlist gives our users the ability to customize their SmartCast experience to their tastes and make it easier to do what they come to Vizio to do: stream their favorite movies and shows," Steve Yum, vice president of product management at Vizio, said in a statement.

Adding a watchlist feature makes a lot of sense for Vizio, too: Last month, a company executive said the majority of its streaming TV users watched movies and shows from apps connected to SmartCast, as opposed to streaming content using a separate device like a Roku or Amazon Fire TV stick. This week, the company said My Watchlist and other streaming activity will help generate better personalized streaming recommendations across SmartCast.

"For example, if a user views Apple TV Plus frequently, they may see an Apple TV Plus row and a list of shows and movies recommended for that service," a spokesperson said.

Vizio says its recommendations will also learn the different genres of content that a viewer watches the most across supported SmartCast apps. If a user streams a significant amount of crime-themed movies and TV shows, SmartCast might eventually populate a content row called "True Crime" with movies and TV shows that are associated with that genre.

The improvements to SmartCast comes as Vizio looks more towards its streaming operating system as the future of its business. While hardware sales have been relatively flat, Vizio has seen a sharp increase in platform-related revenue over the last few financial quarters, most of which is from advertising within SmartCast and WatchFree+.

Vizio TV sets are already some of the most-affordable smart TVs on the market, but executives say they're open to reducing their profit margin on TV hardware sales even more if it spurs adoption of SmartCast.

"They're so valuable once we get those units in homes and generate recurring revenue streams that come from our ARPU (average revenue per user) model," Adam Townsen, Vizio's chief financial officer, said in August. "To have a low margin at the onset of selling a unit, then to drive a high margin from our platform business, that strategy works incredibly well, and we're now scaled up at a level where we want to lean into that approach."