Getting a Grip on OTT’s Bounty

Apple CEO Tim Cook famously said last fall, “We believe the future of TV is apps.”

He’s reportedly following up on that declaration with a plan to build an all-knowing, all-seeing digital guide that helps consumers sift through the sea of video apps to find something they want to watch.

Apple’s revised plans for the TV (it reportedly favors this new guide idea and has shelved a plan to build its own pay TV service after its negotiations with broacasters hit a wall) apparently aim to solve a big problem: there are simply too many apps.

That plethora presents consumers with a paradox of choice. Discerning what’s available from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or even a cable operator’s video-on-demand platform is difficult enough without the time-consuming chore of toggling between those individual apps.

Reelgood, a startup that’s obviously much smaller than Apple, is already taking on this big challenge with an app for iOS smartphones that helps its users sort through almost two dozen OTT apps and services, including Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu. Reelgood will typically list titles that are offered as part of a subscription service ahead of options in which the user must pay extra.

Reelgood, founded last year and run by former executives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and Popcorn Time, has developed a basic algorithm that looks at the popularity of titles across those apps to list TV shows and movies that a user might be interested in. Once selected, the Reelgood app (a link to the iPhone version is at automatically directs the user to the appropriate app and starts it up.

“Instead of having to flip across all of those apps at once, Reelgood [presents] all of the content that’s available to you,” David Sanderson, Reelgood’s founder and CEO and a former Facebook executive, said.

Users can also put titles on a watch list, and are alerted when those titles are made available on one of Reelgood’s supported sources. The app also keeps users apprised of movies and shows that are popular among friends who also use and share data with Reelgood.

Reelgood launched its iOS app about four months ago, and has plans underway to expand access to Apple TV boxes, Android devices and Web browsers. The company is still weighing when to move to platforms such as the Amazon Fire TV and Roku players.

The Apple TV version, due out in a matter of weeks, will start out as a “stripped down” version of the iOS app that will support eight to 10 apps. A preview of that app integrated access to content from Hulu, Netflix, HBO Now and Showtime.

“We will show what’s popular and what’s trending in their [the user’s] network, and they can just quickly select from that,” Sanderson said, noting that connected-TV platforms are a more passive experience than mobile platforms.

A website version will also launch in a few weeks. Sanderson said Reelgood was surprised to learn that many users still stream video on laptops connected to big-screen TVs.

Reelgood declined to say how many people have downloaded and are using its iOS app so far, but Sanderson there was a spike of a “few thousand users” the day it launched; it has grown by about 10% per week ever since. Among other early observations, he noted that Reelgood is helping consumers unearth content from Amazon Prime they didn’t realize was available. Amazon “has great content, but they haven’t done a great job of letting people know what’s available,” he said.

Reelgood is also developing an ad-based business model, as it’s the desire of the company to continue to offer the app for free. Some “large streaming providers” have inquired about advertising opportunities on Reelgood, Sanderson said, but that the plan is to launch an ad component within a year.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Reelgood received a $1 million angel investment from Michael Dearing, founder of Harrison Metal, and is the process of raising a $2 million convertible note. Social Capital, Storm Ventures and Correlation Ventures are among those participating, Sanderson noted.