SBJ/February 27-March 5, 2017/Media

Tech entrepreneur builds data business around sports fans’ fear of missing out, especially that epic game

Mark Phillip, founder and chief executive of Austin-based Are You Watching This, has staked his professional life around the concept of FOMO.

Fear of missing out is the underbelly of the technology company, which has quietly built over the past decade a growing business developing excitement ratings that rank in real time how compelling a live sporting event is and then licensing data around those rankings.

“One of out every four days has more than 100 sporting events going on, and some of your busy fall Saturdays have more than 500,” Phillip said. “That presents a real challenge for a fan to know what’s on, what’s available, and what’s getting good. So what we’ve developed is sort of a FOMO insurance that places an objective measure on each game with just a garnish of subjectivity.”

Are You Watching This founder and CEO Mark Phillip was involved in the development and release of Turner’s Catch Sports mobile app.
Photo by: ARE YOU WATCHING THIS
Phillip and Are You Watching This most recently was involved in Turner Sports’ development and release last month of its new Catch Sports mobile application, and after a long period in a self-described “stealth mode,” has started an aggressive expansion effort as demand for real-time data services and analytics mushrooms around the industry.

The company works with cable and satellite distributors such as Comcast, data companies
including Sportradar, and sports media outlets such as Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, and Telstra Communications. Are You Watching This licenses its data out to its clients, often at a rate of a penny per user or subscriber per month.

The company ranks each game on four primary levels: OK, good, hot, and epic, with the latter representing a must-see event such as the completion of a perfect game in baseball or major upset in college basketball. Those rankings fluctuate in real time based on ongoing events, are customized to each individual ZIP code, and are designed to get smarter as more data feed the company’s algorithms. Users then receive a series of notifications and alerts highlighting the best games and where to find them.

The rankings and data have shown up on Are You Watching This’ own website, and in a variety of consumer-facing applications such as the Catch Sports app and Telstra’s SportsFan mobile app in Australia. The company is working on a deeper integration into Comcast’s X1 platform.

Are You Watching This excitement ratings are somewhat similar to those created by California-based rival Thuuz, and Phillip acknowledges the role the company has played in helping build a market for such data and services, and the concept of real-time sports discovery more broadly. But Phillip and his clients say that Are You Watching This has created a more refined model, while still operating on a white-label basis.

“OneTwoSee has had a productive relationship with Mark and his team for some time now,” said Chris Reynolds, chief executive and co-founder of the Comcast-owned sports technology outfit that works heavily in the visualization of real-time data on both TV and digital platforms. “We look forward to the continued collaboration with them to bring innovative sports products and services to millions of Xfinity X1 customers.”

Unlike many tech startups, Phillip has refused to take on venture capital and has self-funded the operation, which has been profitable for the past three years. But to get to that profitability, Phillip initially maxed out several credit cards and had several moments of near-ruin financially.

“My Series A was a credit card,” Phillip said. “But this is my life’s work and I’m not really wanting to turn a piece of that over to somebody else.”

Phillip is also developing a hardware-based version of his excitement ratings, carrying a working title of the “Ring of Fire.” The device, a lighted ring that changes colors based on the incoming excitement level data, is designed to work foremost in sports bars and other busy, multiscreen environments and help direct viewer attention to the best games in progress.

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