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This company is reformatting TV for the smartphone screen

This startup is reformatting TV for the smartphone screen


NEW YORK (Circa) - Dreams is a new iPhone and Android smartphone video streaming app that wants to turn traditional TV on its head. Well, on the side of it’s head.

"We were looking at everything that’s out there when you think about TV on the phone today. At best, they are kind of a shrunk down version of the full-screen, desktop experience of how you watch TV," Dreams co-founder Greg Hochmuth said. "I think every major category has been reinvented for the phone. OK Cupid vs Tinder, perfect example."

So what does the Tinder-fication of television look like? Cable and broadcast TV programming that's reformatted to watch in vertical, or the "natural" way to hold your phone, the company says.

Dreams launched a few weeks ago, and so far it's packing channels by HGTV, Discover, Food Network, Animal Planet, Bloomberg and some custom-built video feeds – like a channel for watching slow-motion footage of nature and one called VHS, which plays classic 80s and 90s shows.

The entertainment channels, right now, show one episode a day that a crew of editors have panned and scanned for optimum smartphone presentation. The news channels, however, are live and use the company’s custom technology for automatically reformatting it into vertical on the fly.

"We find the faces, we find the graphics, understand who’s talking. And if you look at it, it really looks like it was made for the phone," Hochmuth said.

But that video content is consumed in vertical on the app is only part of the way Dreams is trying to make TV on your phone a better, faster and more intuitive experience. It’s free, and it doesn’t require any login -- both things akin to how over-the-air broadcast television works. You just tap the app, and then you’re instantly inside of TV channels you can thumb through, which looks and feels not unlike a social media app Story feed.

Hochmuth and Bender give credit to Snapchat and Instagram for taking a bit of a pioneering role in rethinking smartphone exclusive video content. Instagram, this week, even launched its own IGTV app that will now let content creator on the platform post vertical videos that are up to an hour long.

But Dreams’ goal is to bring the best of the programming you’d typically find on cable and broadcast TV over to that same style. And though at its launch it’s not offering anything close to the content treasure trove you can get on the big screen in your living room, Hochmuth says more channels, more content, and ads, which is how Dreams plans to keep its service free, will be coming in the future.

"We’ve had broadcast free TV for 70 years, and there’s no reason why we can’t have it on the five billion phones that are in the world."

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