Dreams is TV for your phone. Our free app makes it easy to watch live news and entertainment: tap the icon and swipe through channels. No login, no menus, no search. Just fun, free TV.
Why Dreams Exists
TV is the most engaging medium. The smartphone is the most important device in our lives. But the two still don’t work well together. Dreams exists to answer one question: what would TV look like if it was designed for your phone?
The idea came from a dinner conversation we had in 2016, when the Presidential primary debates were underway. We were complaining about how hard it was to watch the debates on our phones. We don’t have cable (and neither do any of our friends). Why can’t we just tap an icon and see the debate on channel 1? We’ve had simple, instant, free broadcast channels on traditional television screens for many decades. Why is there no experience like that on our phones?
We started prototyping to explore what a modern, mobile-only, broadcast-like TV service might look like. In late 2016, convinced that this was a deep and interesting problem, we started working on Dreams full time.
The Medium of TV
TV is a special medium. It’s instant, it flows continuously, it surrounds us with people. The simplicity of a TV channel stands in contrast to the endless buttons, menus, search bars, loading spinners, comments, and spam of digital media.
When we talk about TV, we don’t mean the subscription (“my parents have a login”), the narrative format (“TV shows are better than movies now”), or the hardware that’s hanging on your wall (“I bought a new TV”).
Instead we think of shared moments (“I woke up early to watch the Royal Wedding”), cultural power (“the first TV president”), and comfort (“I unwind with TV before bed”).
TV is communal. Whether you’re watching the evening news, Sesame Street, or a sports broadcast, you’re with other people – others who are laughing, worrying, asking questions alongside you. We miss this shared experience in digital media.
“Whenever I feel alone I watch live television. Something about it being okay on their end makes it okay on mine.” — Frank Ocean
TV is powerful because it’s simple. When we turn it on, it starts moving instantly and carries us along like a river. Why can’t we enjoy that experience on our phones?
TV is a medium, not a feature. It can’t be bolted onto something else. It’s not a tab. It deserves an icon on the home screen.
The Business of TV
The last big idea in TV was on-demand. Netflix and Hulu began streaming TV episodes on-demand in 2007. A decade later, it’s hard to imagine watching big, serialized dramas any other way.
But there is a vast spectrum of TV that, we believe, is better suited to broadcast-like programming than on-demand. Live news. Sports. Food. Home. Awards shows. Morning shows. Late-night shows. Game shows. Nostalgia. Comedy. Cartoons. Documentaries. Music. These genres thrive in a zero-effort, channel surfing context.
There is also a vast set of use cases for watching TV when you’re not sitting in front of a traditional television screen (for most people, most of the day). Waiting for the subway. Lying in bed with your phone. On your lunch break. Why can’t you just “turn on the TV” on your phone in these moments, the way you can simply and instantly turn on the TV in your living room?
We love on-demand and believe it will continue to grow. We also want a home screen icon we can tap for an instant TV experience. Just as paid cable TV and free broadcast TV have coexisted happily for decades, we believe that paid, on-demand services like Netflix can be complemented by a simple, free, broadly accessible, mobile TV service like Dreams.
There are about five billion active mobile phone subscriptions globally. Why can’t a billion people watch the Olympics together on their phones? Why can’t a billion people watch a Rihanna concert together on their phones? The only reason is that the right mobile TV platform doesn’t exist yet.
Our Story So Far
In 2017, we
- spent a lot of time building, testing, and iterating on our app and a custom mobile video delivery system;
- experimented with many different types of programming – from short-form video to ultra-long-form “slow TV” – and learned that you can’t fake real television;
- talked to TV distributors, and learned that they were excited about the potential for a new mobile distribution channel;
- raised our first round of financing from a great group of investors;
- filed some patents;
- and began to plan for today’s launch in collaboration with our media partners.
Redesigning TV for phones is a hard problem that may take many years to solve. It might be naive to think that a new company can attack it. But there are a few special factors that give us hope:
- The TV industry – which until now has largely resisted the disruption experienced by newspapers, magazines, and music – is undergoing rapid change. Media companies are open to new ideas as never before. The creators and programmers of TV must find new ways to reach audiences.
- All of today’s digital TV products are multi-platform services. They work across Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, your laptop, your desktop, your tablet, your game console, and your phone. But mobile is not a side project. Mobile-first products always feel different from services built for every possible device.
- We don’t have to (and can’t) reinvent all of TV at once. We can start with a few channels that some people enjoy. Because Dreams is mobile-only and not on-demand, consumption of TV on Dreams is likely to be incremental to other TV services. Dreams doesn’t need to replace anything. It just needs to be a fun app to use on your phone.
- A good channel surfing experience requires aggregation. People don’t think, “I want to watch content licensed by Company X,” or, “I like to browse content created by Studio Y.” This is especially true on mobile: no one wants to hunt through a dozen different apps on a small screen. People just want to turn on the TV. We think a mobile TV aggregator can be a positive, symbiotic partner to media companies.
In short, mobile TV is the most interesting problem in media, and pretty much everyone is ignoring it. We felt obligated to take a stab at it.
What We’re Launching Today
Today we’re launching our first wave of new mobile TV channels in the U.S. We started with categories that feel natural for mobile: live news and comforting shows.
Tune in on your phone and let us know what you think.