Matcha and the Failure of Consumer Movie Discovery Startups

Matcha.TV just got bought by Apple for $1.5m. Never heard of them? Not surprising. It is (was) one of the many TV and movie discovery startups which planned to secretly take over the second screen by offering personalized recommendations to consumers only to find out no one needs such a thing.

matcha-mintMatcha founders’ favorite dessert (see recipe here)

Many others have tried that before. All failed. Some like, Clerk Dogs or simply ended up closing the business, others like TV Genius, Philo or Miso sold their IP and talent to a bigger player, whereas the smart ones (like Jinni) pivoted to a b2b model (more about that later) or got friendly with the Hollywood oligarchy (Zeebox example).

Still dozens of new startups each year come up with a variation of the same idea, recent players include Foundd,, Lettterboxd.Their problem? It’s damn hard to disrupt TV if you have no content, only algorithms and a database of links to Netflix. Personalized recommendations and social discovery are not products, but features. People don’t search for sites that recommend them what to watch. I mean normal people, not geeks or programmers. They search for good content on video sites they know like Youtube, Hulu or Netflix. They also expect cable TV and smart TV players to deliver them content they’ll love with fewest clicks possible and they are prepared to cut the cord if the TV industry fails to deliver that promise.

A content provider without a decent discovery solution will soon be as obsolete as the one without a search feature. Google is a living proof–a company that became a verb for search now moves to personalized discovery as an obvious next stage. If you haven’t noticed that, you should quickly look up Google Now, the new personalized interface to your life which makes your searches before you even think about a keyword.

Apple bought Matcha, a failed startup on mission impossible, because with the right content deals it suddenly becomes mission possible or actually mission obvious. Others will follow soon either by buying recommendation technology through acqui-hires like Apple, building it by themselves like Netflix and Samsung or by using a third party service like our Filmaster (the rest of the world), which by the way also originated as a consumer app that recommends movies to watch based on your taste and mood (gotta learn it the hard way).

And what about consumer movie discovery startups? Nothing. They will continue to get funded, get hyped in SV and die quietly until enough VCs read this blog post, that is.

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