Thursday, September 22, 2016, 9:56 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
We are in the era of “Peak TV,” where hundreds of original programs are spread across many different free and paid video services and TV networks. For those who no longer want to spring for pay-TV, assembling the right mix of OTT, SVOD and skinny bundles to cost-effectively access desired programs is very confusing.
Now a startup named CobbleCord is aiming to address this, using a 4-part set of user-provided information about viewing preferences to return a list of custom recommendations. CobbleCord was started by Virginia Juliano, a 10-year Showtime marketing executive, who walked me through how CobbleCord helps users “cobble” together the most appropriate video services for them.
First users provide their top 3 priorities of programming from among 12 choices (e.g. “Family First,” “TV & Movie Maven,” “Sports Fanatic,” “Reality Junkie,” etc.). The next step is ranking the top 3 preferred viewing devices from 4 choices (computer, phone, tablet, TV). Next is ranking the importance of broadband/WiFi vs. mobile/wireless. The last step is choosing a preferred monthly budget for video spending.
A couple moments later a list of 18 recommended services is presented. These might include PlayStation Vue, YouTube, Netflix, Starz, Amazon Instant Video, etc. Virginia said there are approximately 100 services in CobbleCord’s database. The choices display the monthly price (if applicable) and the content model. It’s possible to drill down and see details like device compatibility, specific features and TV programs that are included.
I tried CobbleCord a number of times, prioritizing a variety of different combinations of desired programming, devices and budgets. The recommendations varied each time, though Sling TV seemed to surface frequently in a top position, while Netflix was much lower. Virginia explained that there’s a proprietary algorithm powering the recommendations, informed by her own background in relational databases.
Given the sheer breadth of video choices, CobbleCord seems like it could be a good starting point for cord-cutters to survey their options. One thing that I think would really enhance its utility is a program-level search. So if a cord-cutter wanted to find out how to watch a particular show that’s on cable or broadcast without having to subscribe to pay-TV, CobbleCord would say which video service is also carrying it (even if it’s just prior seasons). This is what TiVo’s universal search offers which I’ve found very useful.
CobbleCord is free and ad-supported, though after entering your information, it requires an email address to display the recommendations. A number of different business models are also being considered.