Haystack TV Delivers Personalized News Play Lists to Web-Connected TV Sets

There are three reasons to watch live, linear TV: sports, weather and local news.

All three are becoming more and more widely available to watch online. News video aggregator Haystack TV is one of a growing pool of online video services luring viewers away from traditional TV fare.

“We were looking for options outside cable to watch the news,” said Ish Harshawat, who along with Daniel Barreto co-founded Haystack TV. “Websites were hard to use because they intersperse videos with text, they don’t make for a really good experience to lean back and watch the news, like we would if we were watching it on TV. We wanted something video-only.”

YouTube, the online video go-to for viewers today, has created an entire new video format for nearly all types of entertainment, from scripted series to sports coverage to DIY videos – but news, Harshawat said, isn’t one of the benefactors.

“YouTube is really not well-suited for news,” he said. “It’s hard to find trending video. It’s fine if you want to find music videos, or viral videos, but if you want to find news, it’s very difficult to navigate.”

Part of the problem, no doubt, is that YouTube will surface recommended videos based on topic, but not necessarily filtered for time – meaning that YouTube’s recommendations mix around new and old news. It will also throw in videos that it thinks you’ll like, making it hard to stay on topic.

“We started to research the market a little bit more and saw that a typical news video on YouTube doesn’t do very well, it doesn’t get a lot of views,” Harshawat said.

A cursory search of the Associated Press’s YouTube channel corroborates this: the top video under the “Breaking News” section had almost 2,000 views, after 17 hours of being posted, a paltry showing by YouTube standards.

There are a few personalized online news aggregators, though those services often rely on text only. There are a handful of video-only products available on Roku, too, but often these are single-source apps, such as the Wall Street Journal app. “It does feel like there’s an appetite for a video-only news product, especially one that works across devices,” said Harshawat, “especially for consumers who are used to a Netflix or Hulu diet, as opposed to a traditional cable delivery system.”

An important piece of the Haystack TV app is that it seeks to replicate the lean-back experience of traditional news, and Harshawat said its users engage in the longest session times using the app on TV sets. Viewers can access the video play lists on a TV set with a Chromecast or an Apple TV via Airplay. The app is also available on Google’s smart TV platform, Android TV. “We’re pretty happy to be a launch partner with Android TV,” Harshawat said.

“We’re very bullish on TV consumption,” Harshawat said. “We think it’s a very good match for what we’re doing.”

Haystack TV delivers a personalized feed of news videos, across a range of topics determined by the user. The videos are curated into a play list that plays automatically, though viewers can skip videos or replay videos if they missed something. “When you turn on the TV, you want to spend a lot less time fiddling around with the remote control, and trying to pick and choose what to watch,” Harshawat said. “That’s what is powerful about our product, because we are personalized; we’re curating the stuff you want to watch.”

 

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Haystack TV app offers personalized feeds of news videos

 

The app is currently only aggregating videos published to YouTube, using YouTube’s embed feature and policies. “It’s nice for the publishers because we’re helping drive more traffic to them,” Harshawat said.

The next step for the company is to begin discussions with publishers and content sources to publish news videos directly to the platform, while splitting the advertising revenue. Harshawat said the company is also exploring opportunities to publish local station content news to the platform, which would give viewers a further level of personalization – local news and weather, say – while offering local stations opportunities to reach new audiences online that aren’t likely to be watching traditional linear news programs. “We’re currently exploring…

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