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UPDATE: Mysterious OTT App Aggregator ScreenHits TV MIA

(Image credit: ScreenHits TV)

Updated 8/5/2020: ScreenHits TV now says it's open to select users only in beta mode. "A select group of early adopters can now access ScreenHits TV's BETA version in the UK and the US. For those with access, you would have received an email on Friday, 31st of July notifying you of this," reads a message obtained when you click on the "sign up" tab on the ScreenHits TV landing page

"For new subscribers, don't fret, you'll gain access to the fully launched platform soon enough," the site adds. 

Updated 8/3/2020: UK startup ScreenHits TV said it would publicly launch on Monday a new free software product that will unify everything from playback to search/recommendation to billing for multiple major SVOD services. 

Given that the big-media-backed streaming services are currently fighting the giant OTT OS platform operators, Roku and Amazon, to keep control of their own apps, the idea that they'd let a small international startup disaggegate their content and control their customer relationships and data seemed liked a reach. But we've played along so far, because it'd quite the feat if the claim is legit. 

As of 5:30 p.m. EST Monday, however, the ScreenHits TV app isn't available in either the Google Play or Apple App Store.

Next TV tried to sign up for the service directly on the web via Google Chrome. We punched in our personal email address. And we checked off which SVOD services we subscribe to (seeing the now extinct "HBO Go" brand listed as an option was another red flag).

A window surfaced saying we'd be notified shortly about the app and that we should "stay safe" until then.

A rep at ScreenHits's New York PR agency said the site is still in "pre-launch" mode. 

"We will pass along the link to the launch homepage as soon as it’s up, so you know when you’ll be able to sign in and start using the service," the rep added. 

Original story starts here:

UK-based startup ScreenHits TV says it has achieved a Holy Grail in the video streaming business, combining multiple major OTT services into one app, giving consumers a centralized, searchable location for all their programming, complete with AI-powered recommendation and consolidated billing. 

Launching Monday, ScreenHits TV  claims to consolidate billing and play shows from major SVOD services including HBO Max, Peacock, Disney Plus, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video through its own app. ScreenHits seeks to provide users the convenience of having all of their programming consolidated into one linear program guide, or Netflix-style recommendation UI, depending on their preference. 

Use of the ScreenHits platform is free. Users pay a base fee of $1.99 to bundle streaming services through the app, however.

In an age in which major SVOD services like Peacock and HBO Max have been kept off the biggest connected TV devices, Roku and Amazon, with the various stakeholders battling over whose app delivers the content, handles the customer relationship and collects the precious data, ScreenHits’s claim—well, we’ll just say—seems a little suspect. 

But for the notable exception of Netflix, a ScreenHits rep told Next TV that “the majority” of OTT apps on its platform make their content streamable directly via the StreamHits app via “deep links.” 

“Netflix in particular does not currently provide deep links. So while those who integrate Netflix within the ScreenHits TV app will be able to integrate the Netflix content within the app and be able to click on a video that they find and immediately start to stream that video, the video will be played from within the Netflix‘s video player. This is how Netflix operates will all aggregators, even Roku,” the rep said. “But from a consumer standpoint, they will not notice the difference as when they click on a title the video will begin to automatically play.”

ScreenHits didn’t specify which services allowed their content to be disaggregated through its app. But Disney Plus is known to have also resisted disaggregation on platforms including Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Prime Video Channels—streaming of Disney Plus shows on those platforms always goes through the Disney Plus app. 

According to CrunchBase data, ScreenHits was founded in 2012 by Rose Adkins, a former Hollywood Reporter and NBCUniversal executive. The company is angel funded to the tune of $1.2 million.

In addition to disaggregation, ScreenHits TV also claims to control the customer relationship for a number of its OTT partners. 

“All bundles offered on their platform are billed through ScreenHits TV. The subscriber doesn’t have to pay for each individual bundle separately,” a company rep said. Indeed, ScreenHits is advertising a 25% discount on select bundles of services signed up for through its platform. Users who have existing subscriptions that were signed up for outside ScreenHits can still disaggregate these subscriptions through the ScreenHits app. 

As for device support, ScreenHits said its app is compatible with Apple and Google devices, Amazon Fire TV Stick, and Samsung smart TVs. No, it didn't mention Roku. 

Updated on 8/3/2020: An earlier version of this report included a ScreenHits TV YouTube product video. But the company took it down Monday.