Dreams TV Lineup Takes Aim at the Smartphone

WHY THIS MATTERS: Dreams increases its chance of success by focusing on a vertical viewing format.

With an eye fixed on on-the-go video viewing, a New York-based startup called Dreams has moved ahead with the commercial launch of a linear-style TV offering that optimizes its content for vertical smartphone screens.

Following an extended trial of the concept last year, Dreams last week launched a new, expanded channel lineup that features fare from key partners such as Discovery, Bloomberg Media Distribution and BBC. To help fund those efforts, Dreams has also locked down a $5 million Series A round of funding led by Capital Ventures.

The new, free Dreams app is initially available on iOS and Android devices and doesn’t require users to log in or register to gain access.

Dreams, founded in 2016, focuses on a vertical picture format and a swipe-based interface, looking to take advantage of a growing trend toward mobile viewing. In its Global Video Index for Q4 2017, online video publisher Ooyala found that 60.3% of all video plays were mobile, up from a previous high of 58.3% in the preceding quarter.

Last week, Dreams introduced smartphone-focused channels featuring shows and other content from Animal Planet (River Monsters, Too Cute! and Puppy Bowl); Bloomberg; Discovery Channel (Survivorman, Storm Chasers and Dual Survival); Food Network (Good Eats, Iron Chef America and Throwdown With Bobby Flay); Geo (long-form nature and animal documentaries licensed from BBC Studios); HGTV (My First Place, Extreme Homes and Tiny House Hunters); Newsflash (live news feeds); Slow (“minimalist,” soothing shots of landscapes, streams and rainfall); and VHS (full episodes from TV shows from the ’80s and ’90s, including The Joy of Painting, Inspector Gadget, Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego and Sonic the Hedgehog).

Also on the slate was Wedding Week, a “pop-up” channel featuring a live stream of the May 19 royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, as well as a long-form documentary on the subject. Dreams expects to offer other types of temporary, pop-up channels to its lineup on an ongoing basis to deliver other forms of live events.

For most of its channels, Dreams programs one full episode per day. When a user accesses a channel that features a library show, they begin to view that episode from the beginning, as with a video-on-demand asset. News channels on Dreams will be more akin to live, linear channels.

Tailored to Phones

What Dreams has tried to steer clear of is the notion of pasting a traditional skinny TV into a smartphone format.

“The idea of [adding] instant-on, mobile TV to your phone with swipeable channels in a simple app has always been our goal,” Tom Bender, CEO and co-founder of Dreams, said in an interview.

Bender, formerly of Google and a team focused on new ad formats at DoubleClick, added that Dreams in the past year has been investing R&D dollars to build up technology that delivers content optimized for the smartphone’s vertical screen.

Dreams will be pursuing an ad-based business model (its trial last year was offered without the advertising component turned on). Shows for its platform have been edited for the vertical screen, as have the ads that will be dynamically served into those linear-style feeds.

“We see this [service] as a complement to paid services like Netflix,” added Dreams co-founder Greg Hochmuth, a former Instagram and Google executive.

Dreams’ Series A round also included participation by NEA, SV Angel, Box Group, entrepreneur Scott Belsky and pro basketball star Kevin Durant.