How to con­trol your TV with Alexa

Some­times your voice is the best re­mote in the room.

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When it works, con­trol­ling your TV with Ama­zon’s Alexa dig­i­tal as­sis­tant can feel like magic. Us­ing voice com­mands keeps you from hav­ing to thumb through menus and lets you get to what you want to watch much faster.

But us­ing Alexa as your TV re­mote re­quires a bit of know-how. Alexa won’t un­der­stand ev­ery­thing you might want to do, and con­trol­ling your ac­tual tele­vi­sion and sound sys­tem re­quires spe­cific equip­ment.

To avoid po­ten­tial frus­tra­tion, we’ll go through what you can and can’t do with Alexa on the Fire TV and other tele­vi­sion de­vices, and ex­plain how to set it all up.

FIRE TV AND ALEXA SETUP

With the ex­cep­tion of the first-gen­er­a­tion Fire TV Stick, all Fire TV de­vices in­clude an Alexa

re­mote, which lets you is­sue voice com­mands by hold­ing the mi­cro­phone but­ton at the top. But for hands-free voice com­mands, you’ll need ei­ther a sep­a­rate Alexa de­vice (one of Ama­zon’s Echo speak­ers [ go.pc­world.com/ae2g] or some­thing with Alexa on­board, such as the Sonos Beam sound­bar) or a Fire TV Cube ( go.pc­world. com/frcb), which has built-in mi­cro­phones for pick­ing up voice com­mands.

Pair­ing an Echo to a Fire TV is au­to­matic if you only have one Fire TV de­vice. Just use any Tv-re­lated voice com­mand (such as “Alexa, watch Mozart in the Jun­gle on Ama­zon Prime”) and you’ll be on your way. Set­ting up ad­di­tional Fire TV de­vices re­quires some ex­tra steps:

1. Open the Alexa app on your phone, hit the menu but­ton in the top left cor­ner, and se­lect Mu­sic, Video, and Books.

2. Se­lect Fire TV from the Video sec­tion.

3. Se­lect Man­age De­vices, and then Link An­other Fire TV.

4. Choose the Fire TV you want to con­trol. (You can only con­trol one Fire TV per Alexa de­vice.)

5. If you have more than one Alexa de­vice, choose which one should con­trol the tele­vi­sion.

VOICE COM­MANDS TO TRY

You’re now ready to start us­ing voice com­mands with your Fire TV, but keep in mind that Alexa doesn’t work with ev­ery app. Be­yond Ama­zon’s own Prime Video ser­vice, the apps that Alexa cur­rently sup­ports in­clude Net­flix, Hulu, Fox Now, NBC, NBC News, Bravo Now, CBS, Sony Crackle, Freeform,

Show­time, Show­time Any­time, STARZ Play, ESPN, and Playsta­tion Vue.

Within these apps, Alexa is at its best when you re­quest spe­cific shows, movies, or chan­nels. Here are some ex­am­ples:

• ”Alexa, watch Brook­lyn Nine-nine.” (If mul­ti­ple video sources are avail­able, Alexa will ask which one you want.)

• ”Alexa, watch Brook­lyn Nine-nine on Hulu.”

• ”Alexa, tune to ESPN on Playsta­tion Vue.”

Alexa can also han­dle play­back com­mands in sup­ported apps. Try these:

• ”Alexa, pause” and “Alexa, play.” • ”Alexa, rewind” or “Alexa, rewind two min­utes.”

• ”Alexa, next episode.” (Un­for­tu­nately, Alexa can’t skip to pre­vi­ous episodes or load spe­cific ones. You’ll need a reg­u­lar re­mote for that.)

The Fire TV also sup­ports search­ing for con­tent, but the re­sults here are mixed. Un­less you have a Fire TV Cube (more on that shortly), you can’t scroll through the re­sults with­out a proper re­mote, and some apps don’t sup­port search­ing at all. Here are some ex­am­ples of voice search com­mands that work well:

• ”Alexa, show me James Bond movies.” • ”Alexa, search for come­dies on Net­flix.” • ”Alexa, search for sci-fi shows on Hulu.”

Fi­nally, to re­turn to the Fire TV home screen from any app, say “Alexa, go home.”

FIRE TV CUBE CON­TROLS

Un­like other Fire TV de­vices, the Cube is op­ti­mized for con­trol­ling your TV with Alexa. When you search for videos with hands-free com­mands, you’ll see a spe­cial re­sults page with num­bers that cor­re­spond to each re­sult. Say “Alexa, pick [item num­ber]” to se­lect a re­sult, or “Alexa, show

more” to scroll through the list.

The Fire TV Cube can also act like a giant Echo Show ( go.pc­world.com/ ames), pro­vid­ing cover art when you ask for mu­sic, and dis­play­ing sup­ple­men­tal in­for­ma­tion for gen­eral queries, such as weather re­ports and sports scores.

The Fire TV Cube even has a built-in in­frared blaster, which can di­rectly con­trol your tele­vi­sion, sound sys­tem, and cer­tain ca­ble boxes. The ini­tial setup process should han­dle the pair­ing, but you can set up equip­ment again through Set­tings > Equip­ment Con­trol > Set Up Equip­ment. Then, try some of these com­mands:

• ”Alexa, volume up” or “Alexa, volume down.”

• ”Alexa, turn the TV on” or “Alexa, turn the TV off.”

• ”Alexa, switch in­puts” or “Alexa, switch to HDMI one.” (The lat­ter com­mand might not work with all tele­vi­sions.)

If you have tra­di­tional TV ser­vice from Com­cast, AT&T U-verse, Directv, Dish, Spec­trum, Cox, Ver­i­zon Fios, Cen­tu­rylink Prism, Fron­tier Fios, or Me­di­a­com, the Fire TV Cube can tune in to live chan­nels as well. To set this up, head to Set­tings > Equip­ment Con­trol > Man­age Equip­ment > Add Equip­ment, and then se­lect Ca­ble or Satel­lite. Once it’s set up, try these com­mands:

• ”Alexa, switch to [ca­ble or satel­lite].” • ”Alexa, watch [chan­nel name] on [ca­ble or satel­lite].”

• ”Alexa, tune to [chan­nel num­ber] on [ca­ble or satel­lite].”

Un­for­tu­nately for cord-cut­ters, Alexa can’t switch to live chan­nels from an an­tenna. At best, you can switch to the an­tenna in­put, then reach for the TV re­mote if you need to change chan­nels.

DVR CON­TROLS

Even with­out a Fire TV Cube, you can still use Alexa to con­trol TV boxes from a hand­ful of providers. Here’s a list of sup­ported providers and the ca­pa­bil­i­ties they of­fer as of July 2018:

Tivo: Sup­ports play­back con­trols (pause, fast for­ward, rewind); tun­ing to live chan­nels; open­ing the guide, home, or set­tings pages; and launch­ing spe­cific apps. You can also by­pass com­mer­cials on Skip Mode–en­abled shows by say­ing “Alexa, skip” or “Alexa, next.” Alexa cur­rently works with ( go. pc­world.com/tiwk) the Tivo Bolt, Roamio, Pre­miere, and Mini se­ries.

Ver­i­zon Fios: Sup­ports play­back con­trols, tun­ing to live chan­nels, and search­ing for show ti­tles, movie ti­tles, or ac­tors. This cur­rently works with ( go.pc­world.com/vzwk) VMS 1100 and IPC 1100 set-top boxes.

Fron­tier: Sup­ports play­back con­trols, tun­ing to live chan­nels, and search­ing for show ti­tles, movie ti­tles, or ac­tors. This cur­rently works with ( go.pc­world.com/frwk) VMS1100 (Quan­tum DVR), IPC1100, and IPC815W set-top boxes.

Dish Net­work: Sup­ports play­back con­trols, tun­ing to live chan­nels, and search­ing for show ti­tles, movie ti­tles, or ac­tors. You can also say “Alexa, go to my DVR” to view record­ings and “Alexa, record this” to be­gin a record­ing. This cur­rently works with ( go. pc­world.com/dswk) Hopper 3, Hopper with Sling, Hopper Duo, Hopper, Joey Re­ceivers, and Wally.

Directv: Sup­ports play­back con­trols, tun­ing to live chan­nels, and search­ing for show ti­tles, movie ti­tles, or ac­tors. You can also say “Alexa, record this” or “Alexa, record TNT” to be­gin a new record­ing. This cur­rently works with Ge­nie (HR44 and HR54) and Ge­nie Mini (C31, C41, C41W, C51, C61, C61K, and C61W). HS17 users can’t con­trol that de­vice with Alexa, but they can con­trol any as­so­ci­ated Ge­nie boxes.

Op­tic Hub: Sup­ports play­back con­trols, tun­ing to live chan­nels, and search­ing for pro­grams.

To con­nect your TV box, open the Alexa app, hit the menu but­ton in the top-left cor­ner, se­lect Mu­sic, Video & Books, and then choose your provider from the list. Se­lect En­able Skill, and fol­low the on-screen in­struc­tions.

For play­back con­trols, you might need to add the name of the ser­vice (“Alexa, play on Tivo” or “Alexa, pause Directv”) for voice com­mands to reg­is­ter when you first sit down to watch TV. After do­ing this once, you shouldn’t have to do it again for at least an hour.

TELE­VI­SION AND SPEAKER CON­TROLS

Cer­tain tele­vi­sions have their own built-in Alexa sup­port, let­ting you con­trol volume, power, and in­puts us­ing voice com­mands, even with­out a Fire TV.

As of July 2017, Alexa works with cer­tain 2016 and 2017 Sony TVS ( go.pc­world.com/ snsp), 2018 LG TVS with “AI Thinq” ca­pa­bil­i­ties, Vizio Smart­cast TVS (all 2017 mod­els, and 4K 2016 mod­els), se­lect Hisense TVS ( go.pc­world.com/hisp), and se­lect Sharp TVS ( go.pc­world.com/shsp).

To get started, fol­low the in­struc­tions on the Ama­zon Alexa skill page for your TV man­u­fac­turer, linked be­low:

Hisense ( go.pc­world.com/hism) LG ( go.pc­world.com/lgsm) Sharp ( go.pc­world.com/shsm) Sony ( go.pc­world.com/snsm) Vizio ( go.pc­world.com/vzsm)

Once en­abled, try some of these com­mands:

• ”Alexa, turn the volume up on [TV name].”

• ”Alexa, mute [TV name]” or “Alexa, un­mute [TV name].”

• ”Alexa, next chan­nel on [TV name].”

• ”Alexa, switch in­put to HDMI 1 on [TV name].”

• ”Alexa, play/pause/fast for­ward/rewind on [TV name].”

Keep in mind that for these fea­tures to work, your smart TV must be con­nected to the in­ter­net. And with Vizio TVS, you must en­able Quick Start in­stead of Eco

Mode for the TV to turn on with voice com­mands.

Alexa can also con­trol the volume on se­lect A/V re­ceivers ( go.pc­world.com/avrc). Head to the Alexa skill page for Yamaha ( go.pc­world.com/ymsm) or HEOS ( go.pc­world.com/hesm, for Denon and Marantz sys­tems) for in­struc­tions.

For other TVS and speak­ers, you can add Alexa con­trols with a Log­itech Har­mony Hub ( go.pc­world.com/lghh). The hub re­ceives in­struc­tions from Alexa, then re­lays them to your TV or A/V sys­tem through its built-in in­frared blaster. Head to Log­itech’s Har­mony web­site ( go.pc­world.com/hmwb) for de­tailed in­struc­tions on set­ting this up.

Although Alexa can’t fully stand in for a stan­dard re­mote to­day, it should get smarter and add more de­vice sup­port over time. Check back here for updates as Alexa’s re­mote con­trol skills progress.

Head to the Alexa mo­bile app if you want to set up mul­ti­ple Fire TV de­vices.

You can’t scroll through search re­sults by voice in apps like Hulu, but if you see some­thing in the re­sults you like, you can ask Alexa to play it.

The Fire TV Cube adds more voice con­trols through its built-in IR blaster.

Some set-top boxes, such as the Tivo Roamio shown here, can be con­trolled with Alexa voice com­mands.

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