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A Video Startup Teaches Apple TV Some New Tricks

Video aggregator N3twork has found a way to do something new with Apple's Web TV box.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Remember when AirPlay was going to be a big deal?

AirPlay is Apple’s system for beaming stuff from users’ phones, tablets and laptops to Apple TVs, and then onto actual TV sets. A couple of years ago, some smart people predicted that lots of app makers would incorporate AirPlay to create all kinds of interesting TV experiences by melding multiple screens together.

Nothing much seemed to come of that, though. Instead, we’ve seen a series of deals that allow content companies to bring their video apps onto the Apple TV itself. That works just fine, but it’s not that interesting: All the apps do the same thing, and work the same way, and even look the same.*

But here’s a reminder of what AirPlay can let you do, courtesy of N3twork, a new video app launching today.

N3twork is a video aggregation/discovery app, and it’s a semi-pivot from a previous version, which launched late last year as a general-purpose media discovery app. You can download it for iOS here.

I’m not that excited about the prospects for video discovery services and apps in general, because I don’t think they solve real problems for video watchers. That said, N3twork is quite attractive, and if you’re looking for something to help you find video from multiple free services, you might like it.

The thing that really interests me is the way N3twork’s devs have used AirPlay to create an entirely different experience when you want to watch stuff on your TV instead of your phone. Instead of just creating a replica of your iPhone’s screen on your TV, N3twork has dreamed up an entirely different layout and a different navigation system for the big screen. With its Tinder-like swipes, it doesn’t behave anything like your standard Apple TV app — and it turns your phone into a remote in the process.

It’s tough for me to describe with words, so I asked N3twork to create a video that shows what happens when you connect your iPhone to your Apple TV with their app. You’re probably still best off trying this for yourself, but in the meantime you can watch CEO Neil Young put the app through its paces.

I’m assuming that Apple TV is due for a refresh this fall — Apple’s last update for the box was a year ago — but I’m also assuming that Apple isn’t planning to radically change the box or its software anytime soon. Instead, they seem to be hoping to convince the TV Industrial Complex to work with it on Apple’s terms, and they don’t seem to have made much progress for several years.

So in the meantime, it would be interesting if more app developers took advantage of AirPlay to create new stuff on their own.

* Which is what Apple wants, by the way: Content company developers tell me the company is quite rigid about the way their interfaces can look and work.

This article originally appeared on

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