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Taking the Search Out of Discovery, Rheo Is Serving Up Curated TV

App from ex-Apple exec duo lets viewers ‘watch, discover and react’ 6/05/2017 8:00 AM Eastern
Rheo founder Alan Cannistraro

Rheo, a new app serving up shareable, curated short videos and letting users react and share them with friends, launched May 31 with founder Alan Cannistraro’s aim of recreating the feeling of watching TV back when there weren’t so many channels to choose from.

“To me it was magical,” Cannistraro, 40, described the experience of turning on the TV to see what was on and flipping the dial, back before grids and grids of show titles and too many decisions got in the way.

Rheo — which has been available in beta mode for Apple TV viewers for about a year — offers up videos selected from content partners such as Vimeo and Refinery29 or streamed from open sources on the web.

Firing up the app, the first video might be a clip from last night’s The Daily Show or a breaking news item. Don’t like it? Skip to the next video (the skipping is instantaneous) or pick a “mood” and see what’s there.

There are seven moods: Laugh for comedy, Inform for news, Taste for food and culture, Chill for music, Spark for short films, Learn for interesting facts about “everyday things” and Move for action videos (like GoPro clips).

Another key feature lets Rheo users record a reaction to a video and then share it and the video with friends. “Watch, discover and react to great videos,” is the marketing tagline.

“The experience is you always get something good,” Cannistraro, a former Apple executive who worked on several iOS media apps, including News Feed features, said. “It may not be exactly what you like, which is why you can skip or why you can tune to a different mood. But it’s fast and it’s great.”

Over time, based on what you watch or skip past and other factors such as time of day, the Rheo stream gets more personalized.

Cannistraro, the CEO, and co-founder Charles Migos, the chief product officer and a fellow former Apple executive, are focused now on making the user experience great, building a consumer brand and forging more partnerships with media companies. The app and service are free to users and Rheo isn’t trying to monetize at this point. Ads, if they can be done well, and subscriptions are two future options.

“I know there’s a business there,” Cannistraro said. With video consumption, “if the time is spent the dollars will flow later.”

Mobile devices represent the biggest platform but “the TV device” is very much in the picture. In fact he hopes hopes Rheo will encourage users to leave the TV on longer. People who’ve been using Rheo on Apple TV have shown “very high engagement,” watching for almost 50 minutes per day on average.

Apple and the web are the first platforms, but Roku, Android and possibly smart TVs are planned to come later, after a Series A funding round in the next six months or so, as will more media partners. “We’ve got some good ones ready to go,” he said.

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