While most updates improve the user experience, there are some that can make elements of the experience worse. If you were to ask Vizio about its OTA channels integration update from earlier in 2023, it would probably argue this is an example of an update that improves the experience for its users.
If you were to ask those users, however, we think you’d get a very different answer. In fact, this is not even something we feel the need to ask users about, as they have repeatedly reached out to us over the past few months to actively voice how much they dislike the update.
So much so that the frequency of complaints we received makes Vizio’s antenna update an easy pick for our 2023 Streaming Worse award for the worst update.
For those without a Vizio smart TV, midway through 2023, Vizio rolled out an update which removed the user’s ability to access local channels without using WatchFree+, Vizio’s free streaming service. According to Vizio, the update was designed to offer a more cohesive experience by providing a single app and interface to access all of the user’s over-the-air and streaming channels.
The problem, however, is that users were unable to opt out of the change. Instead, many Vizio smart TV owners woke up to find that they now had to open up the WatchFree+ app to access their OTA channels. Selecting the “Antenna” input, for example, automatically directs the user to WatchFree+.
Some might argue the move makes searching all channels on a Vizio smart TV easier and more convenient, and that’s largely Vizio’s intention in general. However, as many users pointed out to us, they had more fundamental concerns with Vizio’s plan. One of the most common complaints was the need to be connected to the internet just to access the OTA channels, seemingly defying the benefit of using an antenna to begin with.
As one reader comment on our original post explained.
“When your internet goes out now you have ZERO channels. Glad I bought a vizio I can’t watch now.”Angry consumer
In reality, this isn’t exactly how the change works. Vizio does explain that when no internet connection is available, users can still access their OTA channels through an offline version of WatchFree+. Still, the WatchFree+ requirement was what many took issue with.
A look back at how users responded to the update
To put the dislike of this update into perspective, we heard from some users who had decided to factory reset the TV and disable the Wi-Fi on startup just to ensure the TV remained in a state where their over-the-air channels could be accessed as originally intended.
While such a drastic move would effectively render the smart features of the TV useless, some found it the only option outside of buying a cheap streaming player to connect to the TV, or replacing the TV itself.
Speaking of which, and further highlighting just how disliked this update was, we heard from plenty of users who said they would never buy a Vizio smart TV again.
Below is a selection of comments we received in response to our original post from June 2023 covering the update.
“Thank you for explaining this messed up situation. I’ve been a loyal Vizio customer for a long time, but I’m very unhappy with this Watchfree+ thing. I want to control my tv, you took that away from me!!! Unless this changes, I will not purchase Vizio in the future.”Anonymous
“This is ridiculous! We should have the choice of how we want to view things on our tv! I will not be purchasing another Vizio tv in this house if this is how they make us view our channels. We are a family that only has Vizio TVs but that will change! I just spent the day thinking something was wrong with my tv and here it is all because of an update!! Give us the option of how we want to view!!“Kelly
“When my wi-fi goes down during severe weather, will I be able to see my local OTA channels for news and weather updates? The ability to have antenna channels is one reason I bought this brand. After your “update”, I don’t feel this is the same product I bought. This update could have tragic outcomes for some consumers. I had my Vizio TV set up the exact way I wanted and you have it up. Thank you.”William
“Vizio really screwed over my easy antenna access. I’ve been trying for a couple of hours to get just my antenna access back. I’ll never buy another one of their products or recommend them to anyone.”Allen
“I HATE these latest changes from Vizio. I have this TV for my 75 years old mother. Who is struggling with English language so I have to show her what button to press and where to go. With this change, I have to travel 30 minutes everyday to my mother and correct the issue for her. The channels are all buggies. One channel goes to the next channel, you’ll have to wait. I don’t freaking need to use my bandwidth for the local free channels. This was just WRONG. This will be my LAST Vizio TV, even if they are going to correct the issue. You took away our trust and freedom with the nonsense innovation.”Tony
“I’ve been with Vizio over 17 years now but I have bought my last one and it is for sale now both of them. Change it so you can opt out of this last update where I have to go through Vizio watch free + for any of my channels over the air. Good luck selling these tvs with this update installed. SO LONG VIZIO you have made big mistake with this update and just bought new SAMSUNG today it is excellent.”Norm
Once again, these represent just a small number of the complaints we received and heard over the past few months. However, they do perfectly illustrate how many users felt about Vizio’s antenna update and, for us, that’s enough to be credited with our Streaming Worse 2023 award for worst update.
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