Finding streaming TV shows or movies is a mess. No service or app has a complete collection, and getting what you want often feels like rummaging at the Internet's garage sale.
Some services have risen up to try to help; the Xbox 360 offers excellent Bing-based search of Xbox media apps, while Fanhattan does the same on iOS, although you have to enter the app to begin searching.
Fanhattan lacks one important feature, though: a listing of shows on actual, live TV.
Bridging the cord-cutting and cable/antenna TV landscape is TV Guide, which tries to implement streaming-media hooks into its existing tradition TV listings service.
How does that work, exactly? TV Guide does it by offering a separate Watchlist area where searched-for shows will show every instance on TV listings, streaming services, and even on-demand cable channels. When you click the "streaming services" area, listings from other apps appear. Currently, the connected video apps are limited to ABC, ABC Family, CW, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, MAX GO, Crackle, and iTunes. Notably missing are Netflix and Amazon, although TV Guide's executives say that more services will be available in the coming weeks.
Searching for streaming videos can be done in several ways: through a discovery-type curated grid of shows not unlike what Netflix and Amazon Prime already offer up, or via a search for shows or even artists/celebrities. Adding these shows to your watchlist creates a tracker for your interests.
The feature, however, is currently far from perfect. I added David Lynch (always my favorite test) and found a number of episodes of "Twin Peaks" scattered hodgepodge, with links to iTunes and Hulu Plus, along with movies like "Eraserhead" and "Blue Velvet," but TV shows weren't collected into a single "Twin Peaks" show icon. Clicking the Hulu Plus link on these shows didn't successfully launch the episode in Hulu Plus, either: I received the Hulu Plus message "an error has occurred." Also, for some odd reason, my David Lynch page has dozens of episodes of "The Cleveland Show."
The TV Guide app update just launched this morning, and it's free via ad support. Some of these kinks will hopefully be ironed out soon. If an app designed to be a media hub doesn't work perfectly, then I won't use it until it does.
The spirit behind TV Guide's app is smart and necessary; standard TV listings and a search directory for an ever-growing rat's nest of TV and movie-streaming apps both need to be integrated in the future landscape of television. Apple's likely to crack the nut best whenever the
TV Guide's universal app works on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.