Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

How to Get Music Videos on Your Apple TV, Courtesy of The Awl

Apple TV — the one that exists, not the one Apple may or may not end up building — is interesting. It would get a lot more interesting if Tim Cook opened up his platform to let any outside developer build their own apps for the box.

Who knows — perhaps next week!

Meantime, though, developers can do some interesting stuff with AirPlay, Apple’s system for beaming media between different devices.

Here’s a new example, courtesy of The Awl, Choire Sicha’s clever blog network: An Awl-branded music video app for the iPad.

This is basically the next iteration of The Awl’s music video Tumblr, and it does just what you think it does — it lets you play songs, lifted from YouTube and Tumblr, that various Awl editors and their pals enjoy hearing/watching.

So — fun, but not a big deal. But things do get more interesting once you use the app in conjunction with AirPlay and an Apple TV — all of a sudden you can, um, watch cool music videos on your TV. Just like the ’80s, with Ray-Bans and everything.

This is the kind of thing that should be commonplace on Apple TV, and competitors like Roku are already letting developers build directly for the boxes. For now, at least, consider this a preview of what things could look like.

Here’s a quick Q&A with Eric Spiegelman, who built the app and has been doing some interesting thinking about the Web and video for a while:

Peter Kafka: This is cool. Who built it?

Eric Spiegelman: My company. Throw Your Media. I guess we’re out of stealth mode.

How long did it take to build?

It’s a native iPad app, written in Objective-C. It took a couple months to build.

And what’s the point here? Is this a demo project for you? A novelty for The Awl? Any way to make money here?

We launched Awl Music because we missed the days of curated music videos, the MTV we grew up with. The Awl has a very specific cultural voice, and we thought people would like to see that applied to music. There’s a lot of work going on these days on algorithmic video-”discovery” technology. We think that’s a role best served by human beings with good taste.

Awl Music is also the first channel built on a platform we’re calling Tomahawk. Once Tomahawk is fully built out, channels like this one will be able to reach all connected television sets. It will serve ads very soon.

Would you do something differently if Apple TV opened up its SDK?

That’s a really good question. Right now, the app was designed with AirPlay in mind. If it were native to the Apple TV, we’d probably change the menu system somewhat to work better with a handheld remote control. We’ll have to see what’s possible.

And what happens when YouTube changes its API rules and forces you to run ads?

Then we’ll run YouTube’s ads! I hope they allow some flexibility as to how and where the ads show up, though, because this has a massive effect on the user experience. If you have to watch one ad before every single video, that would diminish your enjoyment of a channel like this.


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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”