ScreenHits TV is not vaporware after all.
The mysterious UK startup, which aims to become a Holy Grail video streaming app that unifies search and discovery experience for multiple subscription services, has launched a working beta accessible via desktop computers.
What the beta delivers is a long way from the broad scale disaggregation of major streaming apps that ScreenHits TV ambitiously promised over the summer. But it does work. (More details below.)
The emergence of the ScreenHits TV beta comes after its UK startup creator, founded and led by American entrepreneur Rose Adkins Hulse, announced yet another round of funding from her private angel backers, upping the company’s total investment to $6 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Meanwhile, the broader flurry of recent news comes after the company’s strange launch flameout over the summer.
In late July, ScreenHit’s glitzy Manhattan PR company, LJ Public Relations—a boutique firm with notable fashion clients including Chanel, Vogue and Capri—boldly announced that the free-to-consumer ScreenHits TV platform would be available for consumer use “starting on August 3!”
ScreenHits TV, the PR company announced, had “partnered with all the key streaming services including Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Peacock and HBO, meaning customers can sync up all their services and watch all their programming directly within ScreenHits TV—without ever needing to switch between platforms.
“With just a click of a button, ScreenHits TV highlights trending programs [and] in-progress shows, and recommended viewing options access ALL of a consumer’s existing subscriptions and content channels, making it easier to find what you want to watch and to take full advantage of the subscriptions you are paying for,” the announcement added.
The app would support “Samsung Smart TVs, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple Store, Google Chrome, Android and desktop," its backers promised.
Users would be able to sign up for streaming services through the ScreenHits TV app, a spokesperson told Next TV. And they’d be billed monthly through the app. (Editor’s note: This seemed like a lofty promise to us, given that subscription streaming services have been pushing back against the disaggregation practices of the respective Roku and Amazon “channels” services.)
Aug. 3 came and went, and the app never launched. LJ PR said a beta product would emerge in the coming weeks. We asked Amazon, WarnerMedia and Disney if they’d ever heard of ScreenHits TV. Nobody ever got back to us.
Meanwhile, an executive at a Silicon Valley technology company also seeking to aggregate streaming services said she’d never heard of ScreenHits. Onward we moved.
For her part, Adkins Hulse continued to gather high-profile media attention, adding a profile in Glamour Magazine UK to a list of glitzy showcases billing her notable background as a Black, female media-tech entrepreneur. Adkins Hulse’s sizable tally of media coverage over the last several years also includes a Tatler writeup of the former Hollywood Reporter sales rep’s 2017 wedding to London shipping magnate George Hulse.
Two weeks ago, the Hollywood Reporter noted that Adkins Hulse’s financial backers—an angel investor list that includes "Edward Mackay, Rory Flemming, LordReay, Jonathan Marshall, and Paul Atkinson of Par Equity”—put another $2 million into ScreenHits TV.
And late last week, Next TV got invited back to the ScreenHIts TV beta, which the company said is limited to 100,000 users at this point.
This time, there is an actual beta to look at, but it appears to only work on desktop—Next TV couldn’t access it from Roku or Android TV. The list of services we could add to the app was limited to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus.
When we configured the app for the latest version of Chrome running on a recent MacBook Pro, we set it to include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus. ScreenHits, which claims to algorithmically make better selections across user profiles once it has a chance to study user's taste over time, immediately surfaced the 2012 David O’ Russell film Silver Linings Playbook on Netflix as the featured content selection, listing a selection of thumbnails from Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video below that.
We took the bait and clicked on Silver Linings Playbook … which resulted in Chrome opening a new browser, one that took us directly to Netflix and Silver Linings Playbook.
The app also re-directed for Amazon and Disney Plus in new browsers.
Notably, the beta won’t let us manage subscriptions or handle billing, either, so it’s hard to say if ScreenHits will live up to any of its bold promises of disaggregation.
UX-wise, the app lets users filter between “TV Series,” “Films,” “Kids” and “Other Genres.” There’s also “Homepage” and “TV Guide” UX options that break down the search selections in slightly different ways.
It’s hard to tell how intuitive ScreenHits is at this point, given it hasn’t had time to learn our patterns.
For now, we'll keep checking in and using the app to see where it goes. Like its founder, ScreenHits TV is interesting.
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