Yahoo today is hoping to capitalize on the cord-cutting trend and consumers’ growing attachment to streaming video services with the launch of a new app called Yahoo Video Guide. The app, available now on iOS and Android, will help you find new movies and TV shows to watch on HBO, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other services, then allow you to launch titles directly in the video apps you already have installed on your smartphone.
The larger problem Video Guide is trying to solve is one of discovery. While in the cable TV era, consumers had on-screen guides that would tell them what shows were on which channels and when, modern-day streaming services often fall short on their recommendations. Though Netflix has steadily tried to improve its recommendation algorithm over the years, the user interface on its service – and on many of its competitors – still tends to push its featured and exclusive content instead of more personalized suggestions.
Yahoo, to its credit, seems to be trying something a little new with its Video Guide app. It’s introducing a “mood picker” that can help you decide what to watch based on how you’re feeling at the time. However, the implementation is a little gimmicky – you browse through GIFs that match your mood and the app will make recommendations based on fit, the company says. So, for example, a GIF of two people kissing might point you to romances, while things on fire points to action titles. In other words, it’s just a different way of browsing genres.
Where the app actually offers an advantage over some of the other streaming “TV guides” is that it analyzes which streaming video apps you already have installed on your phone before customizing its guide during the app’s setup process. That means you won’t run into content suggestions that you can’t actually watch.
Outside of the big-name streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, HBO and Hulu, Yahoo Video Guide also supports services like Showtime, YouTube, and dozens of TV networks.
On the app’s homescreen you can browse through featured suggestions (i.e., new and popular titles), or tab over to “Movies” or “Shows” to filter your options by content type. In these latter sections, content is broken down further by genre like “documentary,” “science fiction,” “romance,” “animated,” etc.
On each title’s page, you can see how much it costs when available to rent or buy, as well as where you can stream it for free. The app also integrates Rotten Tomatoes ratings, and includes standard details like a text description, release year, industry rating, length, and details on cast, directors, writers, and more. A “similar” section beneath each title helpfully points you to more movies or shows you might like, too, based on the current selection.
When you want to watch something, you just tap a playback button that redirects you automatically to the right app on your phone, says Yahoo.
Where the Video Guide app falls short, at least for now, is on integrating the long tail of streaming video services. In fact, this is a problem that many of its rivals also face, including apps like Yidio, TVShow Time, Fan TV, JustWatch, and others. There are now a variety of smaller services where TV shows, movies and other original videos can be found – like Watchable, go90, Stream, Sling TV, Noggin, Feeln, Tubi TV, Vimeo, Pluto TV, Vessel, SeeSo, and more – but not all these apps include these niche services.
That said, the user interface on Yahoo Video Guide is appealing with simple navigation and an emphasis on thumbnail imagery. But the real challenge for the app is getting people to change their behavior – meaning, launching a third-party app instead of just hitting up their top video services directly.