Are you watching RUWT?!: The sports app that wants to power better content consumption

ruwtSports has been trying to wrap its head around social data for awhile. Until recently, attempts were tentative to say the least. Leveraging this content to connect fans to chat and sharing integrations with online fantasy leagues have been popular, but for the most part these efforts make it look like the industry is uncertain what exactly to rally its social efforts around.

RUWT might have the answer. The five and a half year old startup (currently available for Android or on the Web) is a one man show run by Mark Phillip who describes himself as a “life-long geek and Yankees fan.” RUWT (which stands for “Are you watching this?!”) is an application built on an algorithm that determines when games get exciting and personalizes this content to its users. You then get alerts to your phone or email when a game gets exciting. Sports addicts (myself included) understand the need to deal with the sheer amount of games that deserve our attention, and that’s what RUWT wants to do.

In the age of the algorithm, it’s important to clarify how it works – which is exactly what I asked Phillip at SXSW this week. “We have this objective engine that treats all the games the same, but we have subjective fans that complement it,” he says. Everything that powers this engine is done manually; games are voted up on Reddit or Digg or similar sites. He explains that an upset is something a user would get notified about – and the degree of that upset is always taken into consideration. Philip offers me a for-instance that NBA fans everywhere can appreciate: a few years ago the Clippers were beating the Lakers after the former team hadn’t had a win in a month. “That went huge on RUWT,” he says.

Phenomena like Jeremy Lin’s breakout and Lebron James’ move to Miami are also the types of news that RUWT alerts its users about. The curation process is built on the backs of RUWT’s “super fans,” as Phillip refers to his users.

“I take this objective engine, these subjective fans, package it up and try to sell it to companies like Time Warner and Comcast,” he says. “This might sound crazy coming from a startup, but I don’t want RUWT to be a household name.”

Sound crazy it does. After a week of being inundated with the next-big-everythings, it’s startling and refreshing to hear how Phillip plans to make RUWT a success: by not making a play for platform status. The company recently released its data services API and wants to be woven into other brands for their own applications. “The goal of RUWT is to take the technology and help other properties put it into their own application,” he says. It’s something of a novel idea when the startup app ecosystem is hell-bent on always being an application and never being a feature.  

“People want to be the Myspace of sports, the Twitter of sports, the Foursquare of sports… but if you don’t have the signal underneath to power it then it gets too noisy,” Phillip explains. RUWT’s first customer was Sporting News, and Philip says his company’s second customer (so far unannounced) is “very large and will be using the technology in their app wrapped in their own branding.”

Perhaps part of the remaining disconnect between social and sports is TV. Sports is the reason so many of us have had withdrawals from cable, or can’t bring ourselves to cut the cord entirely. Cable has a stranglehold on sports broadcasting, and we’re victims to it. We’re also held captive by live television. “To quote Mark Cuban, ‘sports is the most DVR-resistant genre on TV,’” says Phillip.

“I hope it’s a win-win for cable companies and for users: They keep more users and users can feel like they have what they when they turn on the TV thanks to better curation.”

ruwtRUWT currently integrates with TiVo, Direct TV, and Google TV receivers. The app connects to the box and then you can remotely change the channel to the games you’ve been notified about. And he isn’t only talking about partnering for sports notifications: Phillip sees RUWT moving beyond sports into other genres. Of course, all of the holdup in the Internet TV market has make things sort of muddled for where RUWT’s integration with the devices goes from here.

“The question is how many platforms are we going to have?” says Phillip. “Everyone’s making their own. I worry there will be fragmentation. And I thought Google would run the show but they’ve sort of stumbled out of the gate and now other companies are nervous.” But he says as the connected living room improves and smartphones get better at connecting to them, content providers will continue to notice that we have so much content that needs to be curated. 

Product Review

Amazon’s child-friendly tablet is the complete package

Kids are tough on electronics and it’s difficult to police screen time and manage what they’re doing. The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition could be the affordable answer to your prayers, with a rugged case and worry-free warranty.
Home Theater

Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra: Everything you need to know

Google's Chromecast plugs into your TV's HDMI port, allowing you to stream content from your tablet, laptop, or smartphone directly to your TV. Here's what you need to know about all iterations, including the 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.
Movies & TV

Never miss a moment of the NBA season with our streaming guide

The NBA season is in full swing, and if you want to watch games online, you've got plenty of options. Here's our guide to the best ways to watch NBA games online, as well as some additional resources.
Home Theater

They’re not just for gaming: Watch Blu-rays on the Xbox One S and Xbox One X

While the Xbox One S and Xbox One X boost the visuals of your games, they also can pull double-duty as Blu-ray players, but there's a bit of set up needed. Need help? Here's our guide on how to watch Blu-rays on the Xbox One S and X.
Movies & TV

You can ditch cable but still get your 'SportsCenter' fix with ESPN+

ESPN's streaming service, ESPN+, is finally here. Despite appearances, ESPN+ isn't a replacement for your ESPN cable channels, and it differs from other streaming apps in a few key ways.
Product Review

Google’s third HD Chromecast is still a good streamer, but its value is slipping

At Google’s October event, we saw a slew of new products, but the new third-generation Chromecast didn’t even make it onstage. We spent some time with the incrementally upgraded, third-generation HD Chromecast to see if it’s worth…
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Smart Home

SiriusXM, Amazon team up for two Echo Dot deals with freebies

Amazon and SiriusXM partnered on two joint promotions. New SiriusXM subscribers can receive a free Amazon Echo Dot. People who already own an Echo device can sign up for new SiriusXM subscription with the first three months free.

Bolster your HD music catalog with the best high-res audio sites

Music connoisseurs relish HD audio, but scouring the web for all the best streaming and downloading sites can be a pain. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Check out our list, and let the high-resolution good times roll.
Home Theater

Lynxsonic’s 4:33 headphones offer premium features at a not-so-premium price

If you're looking for a set of wireless headphones that has a similar feature set to Bose's QuietComfort 35 but with a lower price, the Lynxsonic 4:33 is an intriguing new contender on Kickstarter.
Home Theater

Demystify home audio with our ultimate A/V receiver buying guide

Today's A/V receivers are packed with lots of advanced technology and just plain cool features. From understanding watt ratings to Wi-Fi, we explain how to buy one that will last you for years in our ultimate A/V receiver buying guide.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best noise-canceling headphones paint your music on a cleaner canvas

Drowning out the sound of babies, jet engines, and the outside world isn't as hard as it seems. Here are the best noise-canceling headphones, whether you're concerned with style, comfort, or sound.