Amid the ever-increasing battle for audience eyeballs, Mark Phillip – founder and CEO of Are You Watching This?! – is doubling down on the gritty play of sports, courtesy of his service, serving up the motto “We watch sports. Every game. Every channel. And alert you when to tune in” in a move to sort through thousands of sporting events carried across the television spectrum, even as viewers cut the cord. Partnering with the likes of Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Comcast, Golf Digest and Sportsradar, the company is able to pinpoint the overtime game, no-hitter, upset, etc. so subscribers can plan ahead and/or be alerted immediately when they need to tune in and catch an “epic” moment. Cynopsis Sports asked Phillip about the company and how businesses are leveraging its data.
Phillip on launching the company: I always joke that it was born of selfishness! RUWT?! started from a very personal wish–there are few things I hate more than missing a great sporting event because I didn’t know it was on, and I was young and naive enough to leave a wonderful job in Advertising to jump head first into building it. I had always been a fan of sites like slickdeals.net, woot.com, and digg.com, and thought if I could have an army of people searching for deals on anything from computer parts to airfare, why not an army of people searching for great games? I left my 9-5 (and wonderful health care) behind in September 2006, realized I could automate the searching, and our first alert went out just a few months later: Boise State vs. Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
On how it works: We monitor real-time, play-by-play feeds for games around the globe, searching for instant classics in the making. Every time there’s a pitch in baseball, every time there’s a shot in Basketball, our patented algorithms re-examine the game and are able to determine how exciting it is in just a fraction of a second. My favorite way to describe it? “Our systems can pick out all of the events that make you scream at your TV”. Some game excitement characteristics like a “Close Finish” or a “Comeback” are common across all sports, but ones like a “No-Hitter” or “Penalty Kicks” are specific to certain sports or leagues. It’s important to know which games are exciting, but it’s meaningless if you can’t help fans watch the game live–Sports has a shelf life. So we pick apart TV listings each day and match games to airings information, working around typos, the dreaded “Teams TBD”, and even non-English content so when we find the game worth watching, we know how to get your customers right to it.
On its evolution: We’re continually adding new leagues and sports whenever we get access to quality, real-time data. And new products are also being added to the suite like our Automatically Generated Headlines and DVR Extender functionality. But the evolution I get the most fun out of watching is the system’s rivalry ratings. Rivalries (along with our strength ratings) are a big a part of predicting game excitement before they even start. Sure, the Yankees and the Red Sox is a well-known rivalry, but is it as strong now as it was 10 years ago? Our automated system definitely doesn’t think so, and I find it fascinating to watch it evolve and change its opinion as it continues to watch games. (For those curious, right now Sox/Orioles and Yankees/Orioles have higher rivalry ratings than Yankees/Sox.)
On other applications: Real-Time, Sports-Aware Social is terribly underutilized. We’ve run tests this year for an overseas sports league after they noticed that end of quarter messages on Twitter were tentpole content that fans gravitated to. Instead of having their social team free to roam around the stadium interacting with fans, they were latched to a computer at the end of every quarter so they could select a game image, incorporate logos, verify stats, craft some prose, and assemble it all into one tweet. Using our software, we’re able to do all of that in a fraction of a second after receiving data from the official provider, and make sure all of the fans are interacting with the league’s content. Whether it’s a generic tweet or the end of a quarter, a “FedEx Good Delivery” tweet for an NBA player with 20 assists, or a “Grab Some Buds” tweet for a game going into Extra Innings, our intelligent curation creates new possibilities for brands and sports properties to authentically co-brand thrilling moments for die-hard and casual fans alike.