Knowing how to control your TV with Alexa feels a little like living in the future. Yes, remote controls have been commonly bundled with TVs since the 1970s, but being able to control your TV purely by the power of your voice is not only a neat party trick, but something that can add a whole layer of extra convenience to your smart home.
You may be used to interacting with Amazon's voice assistant because you have one of the best Alexa speakers. Day-to-day tasks like checking the weather, playing music and setting timers might already be fully automated for you But adding voice commands to your TV is certainly worth doing especially if you frequently misplace the remote.
We’ll outline six ways you can control your TV with Alexa in a moment, but first a few words on compatibility, and how to add voice controls to ageing television sets.
How to control your TV with Alexa
Is my TV compatible with Alexa?
Whether you can control your TV with Alexa depends on more than just your knowledge of the best Alexa skills. For Alexa voice controls in most cases you need two things: a device with Alexa built in (most likely an Amazon Echo) and a smart TV that supports Amazon’s virtual assistant.
With so many television models out there, it would be impossible to list every one with Alexa support, but here are a few pointers.
LG TVs with Web OS 4.0 and higher are supported, as are all TCL Roku TVs. Panasonic, meanwhile, has been helpful enough to include a full list of models from 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 with Alexa support. HiSense also has a list, as does Samsung, where the functionality was introduced to high-end 2020 sets, before being rolled out to all new TVs in 2021.
Some companies suggest you check for the presence of a built-in app to confirm support either way. Compatible Sony sets can be identified by the presence of the “TV Control with Smart Speakers” or “TV Control Setup with Amazon Alexa” apps, while Philips owners should look for the Amazon Alexa client app on their home screen.
How to add Alexa to a non-compatible TV
But even if your TV isn’t compatible with Alexa out of the box, all isn’t lost. And if you know how to set up Alexa you can easily do this too.
The Amazon Fire Stick can turn even old ‘dumb’ TVs into smart ones, as long as they have an available HDMI port. And if you buy one of the more recent Fire TV Sticks with Alexa built in — or even better, the $120 Fire TV Cube — then you’ll be able to control your TV with Alexa even if you don’t have any smart speakers within earshot.
How can I control my TV with Alexa?
The specific supported voice commands and phrasing may depend on your setup, so consult relevant Alexa skill for more details. But below are some of the things that you might be able to do if you can control your TV with Alexa.
Just remember that Alexa can only respond to what it hears, and that means you’ll probably want to move your smart speaker away from the TV, so it can pick up your voice commands over the top of whatever show you’re trying to enjoy.
Can Alexa turn on my TV?
This is a basic function that seems to be in pretty much every integration on the best TV brands. It’s delivered by saying something like “Alexa, turn TV on” or “Alexa turn on [TV name]” if you have more than one connected.
Naturally, this also works in reverse, and you can turn off the TV by subbing in the word “off.”
Can Alexa change TV channels?
As long as you’re using the TV’s built-in tuner, you can use Alexa to change TV channels. Just say something like “Alexa, channel 7 on TV” or “Alexa, change channel to [channel name] on [TV name].”
If you’re using a cable/set-top box for your TV, this is a little different, but more on that later.
Can Alexa adjust the TV volume?
As long as your TV is controlling the volume (either through internal speakers or a synced soundbar) then you should be able to control it with Alexa. This could be done via “Alexa turn up volume on TV” or “Alexa, set volume to 10 on [TV name]” commands.
This also works for muting and unmuting. Try “Alexa, mute TV” or “Alexa, unmute [TV name]”.
Can Alexa find TV shows to watch?
Getting into more complex operations now, some Alexa integrations work with connected apps. Not just starting them up (“Alexa, open Netflix”) but the ability to search for genres, actors or specific shows too.
A few examples of this include “Alexa, play The Man in the High Castle”, “Alexa, search for cooking videos on YouTube” and “Alexa, show me action movies on Hulu.” You may even be able to say something as specific as “Alexa, show me Tom Hanks movies on Prime Video.”
Can Alexa control TV playback?
Once you’re viewing a show or movie with playback controls, you should be able to get Alexa to perform the most common functions. Try saying “Alexa, play/pause” to stop and start playback, or even “Alexa go back 30 seconds” if you missed something important.
If you’re watching a series on a streaming platform, you may be able to skip entire shows by saying “Alexa, play the next episode.” Unfortunately, you can’t pick out a specific episode by name or ask Alexa to play the previous instalment, but it’s still some decent functionality.
Can Alexa tell you about the show you’re watching?
Only indirectly, as far as we can tell, and it isn’t supported in every Alexa integration. The LG Alexa support page has a specific instruction for its TVs where you can ask a slightly convoluted question like “Alexa, ask LG what is the soundtrack of this program on TV” or “Alexa, ask LG to give me a summary of this program on TV.”
Sadly, this functionality doesn’t yet appear to be replicated by other brands — not even via Amazon’s own Fire TV Stick.
What can’t I do with Alexa on my TV?
While that’s quite a comprehensive list, the main thing to remember is that it’s working with your TV (or Fire TV input) and not with any device connected via HDMI. That’s great if you watch shows via the aerial and the set’s own interface, but means that if you use a cable box (or set-top box if you’re not in America), then Alexa won’t have direct control over it.
It is possible that your connected device will have its own Alexa integration. Devices including Fios, Frontier and Xbox are all compatible, but they each require a separate setup, so check to see if the product you want to control is supported, and enable it through the Alexa app.
Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. He often writes for T3 and Tom's Guide. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.
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