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Apple TV app curates Facebook videos just for you

A lot of videos are published on Facebook. But finding videos to watch is a lot more difficult.

Which is why it's notable that the best solution I’ve seen for finding great videos on Facebook comes by way of Rheo, a new app for Apple TV.

Rheo is the brainchild of Copper Studios, a startup founded by Alan Cannistraro. Before going out on his own, Cannistraro spent 12 years at Apple, where he built the very first iPhone app and was involved with the original Apple TV at its earliest stages. He joined Facebook in 2012 and led the team that built its AutoPlay video feature.

The goal with Rheo is to bring back the channel surfing experience that existed in the pre-cord cutting days, but with the types of content people consume now: videos on the web.

When you open the app – which is free (just search “Rheo” on your Apple TV, unfortunately, Apple doesn’t give developers a way to share URLs to apps) – video starts playing instantly.

If you like a clip, you can continue watching it, or you can press a button and go to another clip. You can even use the a spin gesture on the Siri remote to fast forward or rewind. When one clip ends, another one immediately starts.

What’s noteworthy about Rheo – at least to me – is that most of the video is sourced from Facebook. To my knowledge, this is the first time Facebook’s video API has been used in this way.

And there is tons of video from Facebook from media companies, web series and even individuals. Rheo ingests the clips from Facebook’s API and then serves them to users.

You can just start watching – which is akin to channel surfing – or you can go to various “channels” which include “laugh” (humor), “spark” (art) “learn” (think TED talks), “inform” (news) and “chill” (music).

The more you use the app, the better it gets at knowing what you want to watch. You can also give a video you really like (like John Oliver’s latest HBO rant) a “boost” which will also post the clip to Facebook, if you’ve hooked it up to your account.

The age of the video clips in Rheo depends on the channel. Laugh clips might include funnier bits that you haven’t seen or that stay evergreen, while news clips for “inform” are all capped at about 24 hours. The idea is that you can go to a channel – or just go to the app – and watch video.

Given his history at both Apple and Facebook, it’s interesting to see Cannistraro target a problem that both companies are facing in different ways: video discovery.

There are a number of video discovery apps for Apple TV, but none have Rheo’s sit-back-and-click-play appeal. And for Facebook, so much of the video published to the platform isn’t even visible to users.

Rheo is available now for Apple TV.

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