A growing number of Vizio TV users are unhappy with a recent update that removed their ability to access local channels without using WatchFree Plus. Even though Vizio seemingly introduced this update as a means to offer more of a cohesive experience, the issue antenna users have is the lack of an ability to opt-out.
WatchFree Plus is Vizio’s own streaming service and app. Like many other apps of today, WatchFree Plus is free to use and offers access to a variety of FAST channels and on-demand content. An update in late May also added local antenna channels to WatchFree Plus.
The idea here is to offer users a single location where they can access all of their TV channels, whether they are local, over-the-air channels or FAST channels, through the single app and interface.
This change not only made switching between local and FAST channels easier, but it also integrated local channels in the Program Guide, making it easier for users to see what’s on now, later today, and in the days to come.
The problem many users are finding out, however, is that these local channels have actually moved to WatchFree Plus. Instead of simply integrating them and making access to them within WatchFree Plus optional, any TV users that were using an antenna to access their local channels are now forced to use WatchFree Plus.
While the update was officially announced on May 23, it has been rolling out in stages since then, and each week, it seems more users have voiced their disappointment with the update.
For some, the update has directly impacted the user experience in a negative way. For example, some of the replies to the original announcement highlight how users have found the new experience to be buggy and switching between channels to be slower.
Other complaints include no ability to see which channel they are on without going into the Program Guide first, and the whole process of watching local channels to be more difficult for older family members.
For others, the issue is simply a matter of choice. They would prefer to have the option to watch their local channels without having to open and use the WatchFree Plus app, just like they did before the update. As Vizio explains in a help post, “the “Antenna” input will always direct to WatchFree+ once you receive this update,” confirming that pressing the Input button and selecting Antenna now forces the user to WatchFree Plus, and seemingly without any way to opt-out.
According to some users, they have resorted to factory resetting the TV, disabling the Wi-Fi on startup, and using the TV in a reduced state just to access their local channels.
Of course, the downside with this approach is that the smart element of the TV has been totally disabled, removing its ability to be used to access any other streaming apps and services. As one Reddit user described the situation, “Nothing like lobotomizing your smart TV to get it to function normally again.”
With the update now seemingly rolling out broadly, it doesn’t look like there’s much choice for users. While it is possible Vizio may re-add the removed functionality as an optional feature in the future, that might not happen, and especially if other users do see the value in integrating local channels with WatchFree Plus.