How universal search can organically increase OTT app installs

App discovery isn’t only a challenge on mobile. Each of the top three CTV platforms in the U.S. (Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV) boast 5,000+ apps in their stores and it’s way too easy to get lost in the noise.

On mobile, you can implement app store optimization to drive app downloads, but it’s not as straightforward on CTV. First, the search algorithms are not consistent across platforms and are far simpler than their mobile app store counterparts. Next, and although possible, there’s really no great way to install a CTV app from another device, such as a computer or mobile device.

Finally, Roku and Apple TV are joining Amazon by becoming OTT aggregators. These companies, and others are all fighting for the direct customer relationship and are putting their own services at the forefront of the user experience. This will only increase the difficulty of maintaining your apps’ organic visibility.

The Future of TV is Customer Relationships

Over the last couple of years, your wholesale distribution partners have slowly become your direct-to-consumer competitors. You can read my thoughts about that and what I see in common between OTT programmers and Toys “R” Us. (Hint: Amazon). And surprise surprise, Amazon now wants to squeeze more money from its video streaming partners.

But don’t you want to own the customer relationship or are you okay with perpetual revenue splits with companies that own both your customer and their data?

If you want to help users discover your owned-and-operated apps on CTV, you need support Universal Search. Especially in an ecosystem that will soon be dominated by The Roku Channel, Amazon Prime Channels, and Apple’s forthcoming streaming TV service. These companies new strategies will put content first and place less emphasis on third-party apps.

What is Universal Search?

Universal search leverages voice or built-in search functionality and allows a CTV user to easily find movies and TV shows by title, actor, genre, director, and more from across multiple apps simultaneously.

Once a user performs a search, a results page is displayed, listing the app providers containing the search query. They are then able to launch the app of their choice. If they haven’t previously installed the app, they will be prompted to do so.

According to USAND, universal search boosts streaming video app engagement by an average of 25%.

How Universal Search Works

Via text or voice search, a user can search for a movie or TV show by name. If the content exists on the platform, and has been cataloged, the apps containing the content will be displayed.

Roku App Installs - Universal Search

Also, within any screen or app, a user can press the voice search button and say the name of an actor/actress or director and the results will be displayed without any additional navigation.

Apple TV App Installs - Universal Search

How to Implement Universal Search

Each CTV platform has their own specific requirements, integrations, and catalog ingestion processes you’ll need to follow. Below are some details to get you started.


  • Only movies and TV shows can be indexed in Roku’s content database
  • Supports text-based and voice search
  • More info Roku Universal Search: Roku SDK Documentation

Apple TV

Amazon Fire TV

  • Restricted to apps that have movies and TV shows that are integrated in IMDb
  • Requires an Amazon Web Services (AWS) account
  • Supports text and voice search. Can also be integrated into Alexa
  • More info about Fire TV Universal Search and Browse: Amazon Appstore Documentation

To increase CTV installs, you need to boost your app’s visibility. Universal search makes it easier for viewers to find your content which can lead to an increase in installs, new customer acquisition, and customer retention.

Speaking about why Universal Search matters, Apple CEO, Tim Cook told Buzzfeed News: “Think about your experience today. Even if you’re fortunate enough to have the content you want to watch in an app, you sometimes don’t remember exactly where that show is, so you’re going to Netflix or Hulu or Showtime. You shouldn’t have to do that. It should be very simple,” he explained.


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