Younify is a streaming TV guide that really works

By Microsoft 8 Min Read
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Many companies have tried to create a universal TV guide for streaming, but they all suffer from the same fundamental problem: they don’t fully understand what you’re watching.

you can use Reelgood or Plex to discover new shows and create watchlists, for example, but those apps can’t see your viewing history and can’t help you pick up where you left off. Alternatively, Apple TV and Google TV devices have their own streaming guide features, but they don’t work with all major streaming services. The hope of a truly universal watchlist, uniting all your programs in one menu, has so far remained unfulfilled.

Younify may have finally cracked the code: this new app for iOS and Android, from the makers of Play on, automatically combines your title lists and viewing history from 10 major streaming services, then lets you start watching with just one tap. While still approximate, no other universal guide is as comprehensive for keeping track of what to watch.

Put it all together

Younify is based on the same platform as PlayOn, a streaming DVR service that has been around for the last few years.

In both cases, the company figured out the folder structure that streaming services use to arrange their content. If you log into Netflix in PlayOn’s app, for example, you’ll see folders for things like “Continue Watching” and “My List,” which reflect what you’d normally see on the Netflix home screen.

Younify is using that same knowledge to create a streaming TV guide.

When you launch the app, you’re prompted to sign in to each service you’re subscribed to. Younify then presents several rows of video thumbnails, including a “Watchlist” row, a “Continue Watching,” and “Recommended for you” row. Each thumbnail shows the source of the content, whether it’s Netflix, Hulu or elsewhere.

origin 1Younify’s “Continue Watching” and “Watchlist” lines pull your activity from each app.

Jared Newman / Foundry

All of this content is auto-populated based on your activity on each service. If you watch something on Netflix, it will show up in Younify’s “Continue Watching” line. If you add a movie to your list of titles in the Amazon Prime app, it will appear in the “List of titles” row of Younify.

Once you choose a movie or show, Younify will open it in the corresponding app on your phone. You can then use Chromecast or AirPlay to send the video to your TV. PlayOn COO Tracy Burman said a direct TV casting feature, similar to the one available in Reelgood’s mobile app—it’s coming, and there may be big-screen Younify apps for TV platforms like Android TV and Apple TV in the future.

origin 1Selecting a movie or show in Younify opens it in the corresponding app.

Jared Newman / Foundry

In the preview build I tested, Younify worked with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Max, Peacock, Paramount+, Disney+, Discovery+, and Showtime. Burman said Apple TV+ should be available at launch, and other streaming services could follow.

Younify compared to other streaming guides

origin 1Unlike Apple TV and Google TV, Younify’s streaming guide works with Netflix.

Jared Newman / Foundry

With other guide apps, such as reelgood AND Look, managing your stock list is more of a chore. If you start watching a TV episode on Netflix, you need to remember to mark that episode as watched in the Reelgood or Justwatch apps; otherwise, apps will lose track of where you are. They don’t have visibility into what you’re doing in each streaming app, so they can’t automatically update your viewing history.

Universal guides built into streaming platforms have their blind spots. Some examples:

On Google TV, the “Continue Watching” row integrates with Netflix, but watchlists and recommendations don’t. In contrast, Peacock supports the Google TV watchlist feature, but not the “Continue Watching” line. On Apple TV, the TV app doesn’t integrate with Netflix at all. It is also overly aggressive in promoting Apple TV+ content. The “Resume” line on Fire TV only covers content from Amazon’s streaming services. Roku’s “Continue Watching” line remains a work in progress with only a handful of supported services, and its “What to Watch” section doesn’t let you filter out services you’re not paying for.

Those limitations are usually due to platform policy and a need to play nice with streaming providers. This has never been a stumbling block for PlayOn, whose recording capabilities are clearly at odds with the streaming companies’ terms of service, even if they have some legal precedent.

PlayOn plans to continue offering its DVR service and sees Younify as a new business opportunity. He plans to make money from the service by selling aggregate viewing data, similar to what Reelgood is doing, and Burman said individual viewing data will not be sold.

What Younify is missing

As of now, Younify still has some rough spots. When you refresh the home screen, it takes about 10 seconds to fully populate recent activity, and I’ve been having some issues with the app not reflecting changes to my Netflix watchlist. Even the Continue Watching isn’t completely chronological, as shows you’ve most recently watched sometimes appear further down the list.

origin 1Younify’s ability to recommend new things to watch is somewhat limited.

Jared Newman / Foundry

Younify is also not a complete replacement for individual apps. There’s no way to directly manage your watchlist and recently watched rows, so you’ll need to log into each individual app to add or remove watchlist items or hide items from the Continue Watching row. Browsing options, meanwhile, are limited beyond Younify’s “Recommended,” “Trending,” and “Critically Acclaimed” lines, with no ability to view genres from different streaming catalogues.

Overall, though, Younify’s app is a brilliant endgame around the limitations of other streaming guides, and a reminder of how streaming TV could work if the platform’s petty politics didn’t get in the way.

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