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The Minnow app wants to guide you to what you want to watch in the vast sea of streaming video

Discovering what you want to watch—and whether it’s playing on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon—has never been easier.

The Minnow app wants to guide you to what you want to watch in the vast sea of streaming video
[Photo: tommaso79/iStock]

“We all love really great movies and series, but it becomes frustrating when you can’t figure out where something is streaming,” says Jes Bickhart. “You end up renting it—and then you realize that you had already been paying for it for free on Amazon Prime Video.”

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Don’t you hate when that happens?

With the holiday break—also informally known as binge-watching season—about to begin, Bickhart hopes that his new Minnow app is right on time.

Minnow, which launched in November, offers several ways to help users discover which service has the things they’d like to watch as well as help them solve the increasing challenge of finding something to watch when you don’t know what you want. One casualty of the streaming wars—aside from the costs per service adding up—is consumer fatigue. Keeping up with what to watch, especially if you’re interested in non-mainstream entertainment (which lacks big promotional budgets), can be overwhelming, and the battle is only just getting started. With more streaming services preparing to debut in the spring of 2020, and with the newly launched streaming services like Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus revving up their content offerings in the year ahead, it’s easy to drown in the massive sea of programming.

The app relies on both algorithms and human interaction to create a more intuitive experience as viewers discover content they like and can also share. The app’s main interface features top content pulled into one place and separated by popular and new, but users can also search for movies and TV shows by topic—take World War I, for example—by title, or by actor. There are also customizable buttons to browse trending movies and TV (or recently added programs), and Minnow also brings the concept of playlists to streaming video.

Everyone’s a critic

There are Minnow-created lists (Non-Holiday Holiday, Most Quotable), but users can also create their own, which can then be shared, and with one click, people will be directed to wherever that content lives (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and so forth).

The concept of what’s actually considered good is subjective, and that is what Bickhart hopes will be part of Minnow’s appeal.

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“We’re really focused on the ‘everyone’s a critic’ concept, and everyone should be. Everyone has different tastes, and when you ask someone to vocalize exactly why they like [something], it’s really difficult,” says Bickhart, who’s a former indie film executive. “So rather than ask someone to type out a reasoning behind their endorsement, just recommend [a playlist] and people will watch and start to see your taste, and they’ll either trust it or they’ll hate it or fall somewhere in between. We’re not focused on reviews. We’re focused on just endorsements and recommendations.”

Imagine being able to search for Civil War documentaries, or curate a list of the best zombie flicks ever. You don’t have to write a film review, you don’t have to be an intellectual, and you don’t have to be a professional film critic. Your taste is your taste and there is someone in the world who will either agree with you or enjoy debating you. Even professional film critics and pop culture content producers can put Minnow to good use.

“When you write a piece on the top 20 Christmas movies or holiday movies, or you’re selecting New Year’s movies to watch with your best friends, you can just build that playlist on Minnow, and you don’t have to worry about searching for everything streaming because we’ve already done that work for you,” says Bickhart. “You include the link and then people will be able to just click on it.”

Spotify for cinephiles

Minnow is free to download, and there will always be a version of Minnow that is free, but there are also plans for expansion that could set it up to be something similar to a Spotify for cinephiles.

“It’s hard for me to say where we go, but there will always be a version that’s free because aggregation and discoverability is something that should be available to all people,” Bickhart says. “Something that I really like looking at is what Spotify was able to to do with brands bringing their brand story to a playlist. For example, Lexus sponsoring the Rap Caviar playlist on Spotify. The Lexus brand marketing team understood something about their audience and said the demographic that they were trying to reach also likes that music. Similarly for us, we’re able to go to brands and say, ‘Hey you’re reaching that demographic of people on audio, but how about bringing that reach to connect to televisions and also to mobile?’ That same audience is viewing different things and you can target that interest. For example, you could say, ‘I want to reach a demographic of people in the U.S. that likes spaghetti westerns.’ And for whatever reason, whatever product you’re trying to sell, you’ve determined that’s the demographic of people that you want to go after. It’s very difficult to do that right now with other products that are out there. Roku’s probably the leader in the targeted advertising space right now, but we’re in a unique opportunity to get into that as well, which will be very exciting.”

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