The Death of Channel Surfing? Peel Hopes So | Cult of Mac

The Death of Channel Surfing? Peel Hopes So

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On Monday, we mentioned the launch of Peel, a new app that uses an algorithm similar to the one used by Netflix to try and figure out what its user should watch. Here’s the second half: A peek under the hood, excerpts from a chat with Peel’s (née Zelfy) VP of marketing, and a look at an accompanying piece of hardware that’s (maybe) coming next.

The app makes viewing suggestions based off two basic activities: The first is a short series of questions when the app is first set up; the second involves the user tagging shows that he likes. Eventually, the app learns what the user likes, and suggests shows the user should watch. Seems simple enough, right?

But there’s much more to it than that.

“it’s kind of interesting, we’ve got these two giant supercomputers crunching these numbers,” Peel’s VP of marketing, Alec Marshall, told us in a recent interview, while discussing the tech behind the app. Then there’s the fact that the company snapped up part of the team who worked on the iTunes interface to help design Peel’s, and lured finalists from the Netflix Prize to help create the predictive engine that feeds the app.

If that sounds like overkill just for a free  TV app — albeit one with a slick interface — well, yeah, it is. That’s because the final piece of the puzzle is a hardware component that Peel is zipped up pretty tight about, due to restrictions by the FCC, which has yet to approve the device — although some details were widely leaked in early September.

If we understand right, when the hardware component eventually becomes available, it’ll interact with both the controller app on the iPhone, essentially turning the iPhone into a TV remote, and with those supercomputers crunching numbers back at Peel, to automatically make suggestions based on viewing habits, and viola — no more channel surfing. “When you take a look at what’s been put out there in the past, and what’s been put in front of it as competition …it’s still by far the best kind of offering

“Our view is that channels have become irrelevant, networks are becoming irrelevant,” Marshall said. With the on-demand abilities of Apple TV, and now the (maybe) imminent introduction of the Peel system, maybe he’s right.