Is this social start-up the future of TV?
A London tech start-up is aiming to make the TV viewing experience more social and interactive after launching in the UK.
At present, people who want to share the experience of watching sport or entertainment on TV with friends and family do so through social media or messaging platforms such as WhatsApp.
However the broadcasts may not be aligned, depending on the viewing devices used, while the need to use a different device to communicate can prove distracting.
Reactoo is looking to change that. The company’s white-labelled tech has already been incorporated into Eleven Sports’ coverage of Spanish football's La Liga, enabling friends or family to see and hear each other on the same screen as the broadcast.
“It’s essentially a Facetime or Skype call while you’re watching the sport which keeps everyone synchronised to the same moments. We see the goal at the same time, wherever we are,” CEO and co-founder Marc Williams told BusinessCloud.
“Compared with a ‘watch party’ on Facebook, ours is a more intimate, personal experience: I can see you and talk to you whilst we're watching.”
Williams, a former chief product officer at recruitment tech company RAMP, cited the example of broadcast journalist Max Rushden in explaining the extent to which we crave social interaction while viewing sport.
“Max Rushden woke up on the morning of the Champions League final in Madrid as a Tottenham fan, but flew home to watch it with his dad!”
Among the company’s backers are Marc Watson, the former CEO of BT Sport; and Dave Kerr, the ex-MD of Eurosport, who originally commissioned Hawkeye for Channel 4 cricket.
A major benefit of Reactoo for broadcasters such as Eleven Sports is customer acquisition.
“As we choose to watch the game, I can then invite my friends and they will pop up on camera around the stream,” explained Williams. “I'm much more likely to be pulled in to watch something by a friend than by someone just hitting me with the event [via advertising].”
Chairman Adam Kulick, also speaking to BusinessCloud at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium for the City Startup Challenge, added: “We’ve typically had 10 per cent engagement of Eleven's audience.
“The customer acquisition costs for a lot of these OTT [dedicated online] subscribers is very high: it’s $60 in Europe and more than $200 in the US.
“That is staggering. You have to reduce the churn and come up with effective ways to lower your customer acquisition costs.”
There is also heavy competition in the OTT market and in broadcasting in general. “Reactoo is a social experience but also Gogglebox-style fly-on-the-wall... the big challenge for all of the content owners at the moment is how to engage the millennials because their attention span is so small,” said Williams.
“They're everywhere across every different device. If I can be chatting with my friend whilst I’m watching, it gives that entertainment which keeps me stuck for longer.”
Following its UK January launch, the company also went live in Portugal towards the end of the football season while its NFL Game Pass broadcast of the NFL draft was watched in 61 countries.
The tech also allows for fans to record the reactions of the group to key moments, allowing for highly shareable content on social media.
“At the moment you hit a button to capture the last few seconds, but we'll be working with ways to trigger it automatically,” said Williams. “Can we pick it up from mass audience movement, for example? Or leverage sound amplitude?
“We also think we'll be able to automate highlights. But the nice bit is it's all about personalisation – if we get to the end of a game and say 'these are your personal highlights', that's amazing.
“The key is that the whole thing has to just happen for you with no effort.”
Another avenue of monetisation could be the option of watching with influencers such as football pundits. The applications also extend far beyond sport.
“We’ve focused on sports, but there is other potential for this type of technology,” said Kulick. “There’s eSports, obviously, but also music: imagine people watching newly released videos together.
“Ed Sheeran might tweet out 'my new video is coming out at 7pm, watch with your friends... I'll pop into 20 rooms. See you there!' The tech then records the reactions, which can be chopped into a video.
“Bingo companies want to bring the hall experience online, selling the feeling of excitement when you win. Bingo is about the chat: you don't have to do very much.
“Then as you get closer or win, Kerry Katona – who is apparently the face of bingo – could pop into your room!”