Reelgood Is Real Middling at Finding Stuff to Watch

Reelgood, an app to help you find movies to stream, claims that the average American wastes an awful lot of time just finding things to watch on TV. But never fear, because the company says that its iOS app  “empowers you to choose something to watch in record time.” There’s just one problem: the app doesn’t do a particularly good job of finding content tailored to your interests.

Where’s the Magic?

Reelgood isn’t a particularly useful tool in your arsenal against boredom. First off, it’s available only on iOS. Even then, the app is optimized only for iPhones. Its user interface is functional but unattractive.

Reelgood has three main screens: Discover, Watchlist and Activity. Activity can theoretically be useful if you have a lot of friends who use the app, since you can see what movies they’ve recently watched and rated. You can rank movies on a 1-10 scale and leave short reviews, although this does not appear to influence recommendations in any way. Indeed, the program does not seem to have personalized recommendations at all, which puts it a step behind most streaming services the company critiques. You can also see Activity from the Reelgood community at large, although a bunch of strangers’ opinions on films is not likely to help you select one.

Discover is where you’ll spend most of your time. Here, you can either search for films to see which streaming services they’re on, or browse. The Coming Soon and Theaters tabs don’t do much good, since they refer to movies that are either still in theaters or not yet out; this won’t help you decide what to watch on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Video.

Streaming, on the other hand, is theoretically where the magic happens. In actuality, there’s nothing that interesting going on. The queue will show you a selection of popular movies that have recently come out on streaming services, along with their Rotten Tomatoes and Reelgood scores. (The former comes directly from the film criticism database Rotten Tomatoes, while the latter is determined by other Reelgood users’ ratings.) Click on one, and it will tell you where the movie is available, and how much it will cost. You can even launch the relevant app, like Netflix or iTunes, from within Reelgood.

Still, seeing a bunch of popular movies isn’t going to help you pick what to watch; you could do that just by opening any streaming service. Instead, the Sources, Genres and Sort by parameters are what might really come in handy. Here, you can select from 15 streaming sources such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and iTunes, then choose to sort by Rotten Tomatoes or Reelgood scores. You can also specify genres, such as Animation, Horror or Science-Fiction, but the functionality is somewhat arbitrary. Lots of movies show up under multiple categories, and some, like Science-Fiction, are totally empty.

Spoiled for Choice

That’s really all there is to the app, and it’s hard to think of a circumstance in which it would work better than the existing streaming search tools. Users already have access to much bigger multi-service searches through streaming players such as the Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast — and those searches cover TV shows as well. Almost every individual service already features individualized user recommendations. Sorting by Rotten Tomatoes ratings is useful, but Rotten Tomatoes already features something almost identical on its website.

The most questionable thing about Reelgood is whether it even addresses the core issue it claims to. The program gives you a workable set of tools to choose a movie. But between setting your parameters, scrolling through the available selections, and settling on a film to watch, how much time is that going to take you? It took me about five minutes, which is about how long it takes me to hunt something down using Netflix, or the Chromecast app, or asking for recommendations on Facebook.

What usually prevents you from making a streaming selection? Is it because there’s really nothing good to watch, or because there’s a glut of content? I’d bet it’s the latter, in which case, Reelgood can’t help you narrow down your choice any more than a good, hard think. If you have to compromise with your spouse or roommate, then it doesn’t help at all.

There are a ton of streaming services. It’s not always easy to find something you want to watch on them, or locate your favorite bit of content. But the last thing you want to do is clutter your phone with more apps that claim to be the solution to your streaming quandaries. Use your media player’s built-in search. Let your favorite service (or your friends and family!) make recommendations. Employ services like JustWatch to pinpoint hard-to-find content. And don’t forget that, in the grand scheme of things, seeing an unsatisfying movie now and then won’t kill you.