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New Amazon update for Fire TV devices is a boon for Netflix and HBO customers

Amazon might be in competition with companies like Netflix and HBO when it comes to digital video, but it also sells hardware, so the companies end up cooperating a fair amount of the time. That willingness to work together is paying off for customers, as Amazon on Tuesday rolled out updates to its Fire TV and Fire TV Stick to make the devices even better for Netflix, HBO Go, and HBO Now users.

“Customers have told us they love having access to the wide selection of apps, games, and Alexa skills on Amazon Fire TV, and they love how easy it is to find their favorite shows with universal voice search,” Amazon Fire TV President Marc Whitten said in a statement. “Now, we’re making it easier than ever for customers to find their favorite content with universal voice search across 75 apps and channels, and a new, simple way to see recommendations from Netflix, HBO Go, and HBO Now right on the home screen.”

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Amazon’s voice search might be more powerful than ever with the new expansion, but that isn’t much help if you’re not sure what to watch. Now Netflix and HBO subscribers will see personalized recommendations without having to open the app. If you happen to know what you want to watch but aren’t sure where to watch it, Fire TV devices will now show if a movie or TV show is available on multiple apps, not just Amazon.

“At Netflix, we are always seeking new ways to help connect people with stories they’ll love,” Scott Mirer, Netflix device partner ecosystem vice president, said. “Now, Fire TV customers have more ways to discover great TV shows and movies on Netflix through personalized recommendations available in a custom row right on the home page or through universal voice search — making it more convenient for them to find their favorite show on Netflix.”

Amazon didn’t save the new features exclusively for other content providers, as Alexa now has improved functionality for Amazon Video as well. Users can now move through TV shows and movies by using phrases like “skip ahead 2 minutes” and “rewind 30 seconds.” If you can’t find the remote and desperately need to start the next episode of Mozart in the Jungle, you can now play the next episode by simply saying “next.”

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Certain features similar to what Amazon Echo users have had for some time have also been added. Users can gain quick access to the latest news and stats for their favorite teams by telling Alexa, “give me my sports update.” These teams can be set in the Fire TV settings, or on an iOS or Android device.

The new features are being rolled out in a free over-the-air update, so if your devices haven’t already been updated, they should receive the update over the course of the next few days.