Introducing the Video Skill API

Help Your Customers Find and Consume Video Content Through Alexa

Extend Alexa’s smart home capabilities

The Video Skill API is a new addition to the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) that enables developers to add capabilities, or skills, to Alexa. Alexa provides a set of built-in video content search and control capabilities. Examples of these skills include the ability to search for a TV show, play a movie or change a channel, among others. Companies can now teach Alexa how to interface with their video content and services. This means you can build experiences that allow your customers to easily find and consume video content without invoking a specific skill. For example, a customer could say, “Alexa, play Manchester by the Sea” without specifying a provider or device.

Customers are increasingly using voice interfaces as a hands-free way to manage their lives. By using Alexa’s built-in video content controls, customers on millions of Alexa devices only have to "ask" for your content and it's at their command, often becoming a daily habit. Delight customers by making it easy for them to engage with your video content in their home—without lifting a finger.

How It Works

The Video Skill API is available at the same top level that Alexa uses to build video experiences on Fire TV. This means your customers can open their favorite app and then use their Amazon Echo or other Alexa device to issue commands like “Alexa, find comedies,” “Alexa, tune to HBO,” or “Alexa, play episodes of Modern Family.” Customers can see the commands fulfilled instantly on their preferred streaming video devices.

The Video Skill API also includes a mechanism to enable catalog ingestion for improved accuracy and session management for request targeting based on real usage. The API offers simplified logic to handle requests to any one of potentially multiple video skills that a customer has set up, so your customers can make simple requests like ‘Alexa, Play Manchester by the Sea,’ and Alexa will know what to do.

Getting Started

You can integrate your video content with Alexa by following these steps:

  1. Register or log in to the Amazon Developer Portal for Alexa.
  2. Create and name your skill in the Alexa Skills Kit by selecting the Video Skill API.
  3. Configure your AWS Lambda function to use the Alexa Smart Home trigger. Then add code that processes messages from Alexa to communicate with your video services. Learn more.
  4. Finish registering your skill in the Amazon Developer Portal by providing skill descriptions, images and account linking information.
  5. Enable the skill on an Alexa device and test it thoroughly.
  6. Submit for certification.

Video Skill API versus Custom Skills with Screen Displays

The Video Skill API is intended for video providers whose catalog content is often in IMDb (or for device manufacturers making their devices voice interactive). The implementation involves handling directives from Alexa with Lambda and your own video service, so that you can support requests such as “Alexa, play Interstellar.”

In contrast, if you just want to provide accompanying visuals for your Alexa skill (e.g., some images, short video clips, or text displayed on a screen), you create a custom skill (rather than a video skill) and render the visual experiences on display templates using the Alexa Presentation Language (APL). For example, you might want to show text or images related to a quiz skill on an Echo Show screen. If that’s what you’re trying to build (instead of the more involved interactive voice experience with your video content that leverages the Video Skill API), then see Create Skills for Alexa-Enabled Devices with a Screen. The implementation process for custom skills with screen displays is simpler and not as time intensive.