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Bill Gates-backed Likewise Puts Apps on Android, Amazon Apple

Nathan Auer, director of user experience at Likewise, show how to use the app. (Image credit: Likewise)

Likewise TV, a recommendation app backed by Bill Gates’ private office, has been added to the Android TV, Amazon Fire and Apple TV platforms.

The app gives users recommendations based on things they’ve watched, things they’ve expressed interest in and from social media. Now users can click directly from the app on the TV to shows on various streaming services.

Likewise was started in 2018 by former Microsoft exec Larry Cohen, managing partner of Gates’ private office. The idea was that TV recommendations should not just be based on the preferences of strangers and should instead include what friends and other humans think the user would want to see. 

So Likewise factors in personal recommendations, recommendations from social-media friends, as well as an algorithm that looks at what you’ve watched in the past. It accommodates personal lists of things to watch, alerts viewers about new and noteworthy new shows coming to TV.

Ian Morris, a former Microsoft exec, who was named CEO of Likewise, said that while Gates’ book picks are well known, he’s also keen on TV and movies. 

“I would say he has some passion for it, but let’s face it, I hope he’s spending more time on other matters,” said Morris, who said Gates meets with management a couple of times a year. How much Gates invested in Likewise is undisclosed.

The new apps close the gap between getting recommendations and having the shows available to watch on TV. When you open the app on the TV screen and you choose a recommended show, it tells you which streaming services it is available on and it’s just a click away.

“I’ve been using the Apple TV App for a while now and I can tell you it’s completely changed the way I watch TV,” Morris. Said. “Now I have a homepage for my TV experience. I turn on the TV via my Apple TV and I go to the Likewise screen and everything I’ve saved to my watch list is there.”

Starting a social-based service takes time, but the pandemic has sped up Likewise’s growth. Morris said the company has 10 times the number of users it had 12 months ago and has tripled its users in just the past four months. 

It took the company 300 days to get to a million recommendations and now we’re getting another million every three or four days. “We were on a growth trajectory and that certainly accelerated”, Morris said.

Likewise is in a “pre-revenue” mode for now and has not determined its best business model.

But Morris notes that with TV networks and streaming services spending about $18 billion to promote themselves. 

“They’re all fighting for audience and there are a lot of newer ones that really need to let you know about their content. As we build a base, we believe those companies will be very interested in advertising and letting people know what’s coming out and what’s available on their system,” he said. “Monetizing this is a very user-friendly way is going to be one of the earlier problems we face as a company.”