One of the most highly touted features of the fourth-generation Apple TV was the set-top box’s universal search feature. With universal search, you can ask Siri content queries, and get results back from various media sources that, at launch, included iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Now, and Showtime. True to its promises, Apple has opened up this functionality to other app developers, and searches can now produce results from PBS and PBS Kids.
The universal search feature within tvOS is much like iOS 9’s Spotlight Search, exposing content from third-party video-streaming apps and services to Siri. This allows you to search for movies and television programs using your voice, rather than switching back and forth between multiple apps.
For example, if you perform a Siri query for “Curious George,” the Apple TV will now present you with an option to open the show in the PBS Kids app for your set-top box. Similarly, I searched for “Antiques Roadshow,” and saw an option to open the television series in the PBS app. If you don’t have one of the apps already installed, clicking the option will prompt you to install it. If you do have the free app, you can go straight to it for your viewing pleasure.
Universal search in tvOS might not be unique to the Apple TV, since set-top boxes like Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV have offered it for some time. However, the deep integration with Siri will allow for the experience to be much more seamless and similar to what you’re accustomed to on your iPhone. It’s great to see developers beginning to integrate the functionality, and I hope more apps come to universal search results quickly.