Web Site Alerts Sports Fans of Game Progress
SCOTT SIMON, host:
Have you ever headed out to dinner or a movie because your team had a game all wrapped up only to be smacked in the face with an ESPN update when you got home, announcing some kind of heartbreaking loss? Well, one man and his robot wanted to save you from this humiliation. Mark Phillip has founded and operates the Web site areyouwatchingthis.com to save you from yourself or for you up to socialize with others. It assures you that, quote, "you'll never be the loser that missed the big game."
Mr. Phillip joins us now from the Studios of KUT in Austin. Thanks so much for being with us.
Mr. MARK PHILLIP (Founder, Areyouwatchingthis.com): My pleasure, Scott. Thanks for having me.
SIMON: So what happens? How to you alert…
Mr. PHILLIP: Right.
SIMON: And how do you know what to alert them to?
Mr. PHILLIP: The key thing is that we check every zip code, every postal code in the United States and Canada, every cable provider, every satellite provider and know exactly what games are on each person's TV. And then RUWTbot, our game-watching, slightly militant robot that you mentioned earlier, watches every single game, from Mexican soccer to professional football to women's college basketball and is able to rate them by looking for certain patterns in the statistics and box scores that determines if the game is exciting or not.
SIMON: Now, I'm guessing, for example, let's talk about the New England Patriots versus the Miami Dolphins game.
Mr. PHILLIP: Sure.
SIMON: This would not seem to be of a lot of obvious interest because, obviously, the Patriots haven't lost a game and the Dolphins have one, I believe, one game, if I'm not mistaken.
Mr. PHILLIP: Just one.
SIMON: But on the other, what? If it gets to the third quarter and the Dolphins are ahead, you start alerting people?
Mr. PHILLIP: I would think so. RUWTbot will probably start giving its roots because it would be an upset. Once you get to the third and fourth quarter, that somewhat surprising, and therefore, most likely, it's going to be an exciting game. It's been almost an interesting philosophical problem with sports, which I haven't really run into before in trying to train RUWTbot to find the exciting games. So let's say there's an NBA game that's tied with 30 seconds to go and there's a WNBA game that's tied with 30 seconds to go, should those be rated the same level because more people watch the NBA versus the WNBA?
SIMON: Oh, you're opening a door there.
Mr. PHILLIP: Exactly. It's very tricky. So the poll plan with RUWTbot is to make sure that he stayed objective. And so a game in the beginning of the season versus the end of the season, NBA versus WNBA is all treated the same, but that's where the fans come in. RUWTbot's job is to be objective, but the fans are able to root for games as well and they're extremely subjective. RUWTbot doesn't understand Yankee's Red Sox or Texas-OU. And that way with the objective RUWTbot plus the subject of fans, we usually get a pretty good signal.
SIMON: How do fans affect it?
Mr. PHILLIP: So RUWTbot is trained to look for different patterns and statistics and so he'll add a certain amount of points if he finds a perfect game or an upset, things like that. Because it's objective, we want fans to come in and be subjective to identify those things that RUWTbot can't see, like a big brawl or big rivalry. So fans, if they're watching a game that they think is exciting - and actually, a lot of times we'll do this before a game even starts - they will be able to root for game as well so they can contribute five roots to a game or 10 roots a game that way RUWTbot can have his opinion put but so can sports fans as well who are being a lot more subjective than he is.
SIMON: Mr. Phillip, people pay for this service.
Mr. PHILLIP: It's solely free.
SIMON: How do you make any money?
Mr. PHILLIP: My funding so far has been from American Express, Chase, Capital One, and pretty much anyone else who feels like giving me a credit card. But the Holy Grail is getting this onto TVs, DVRs and TiVos. If I could be watching "Braveheart" for the umpteenth time and get a little alert that says, hey, there's a no-hitter on ESPN right now, hit select to change that channel now -or even better, if I'm out and I can tell my TiVo I like ACC basketball, SCC's football, the Yankees, the Colts and the Red Wings start recording anytime, anything interesting happens. In my fantasy world, I hope that it will be on the TiVo one day where you can pay 99 cents, $1.99 a month and make your TiVo or DVR truly smart and understands sports.
SIMON: Mr. Phillip, been a pleasure talking to you.
Mr. PHILLIP: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
SIMON: I think you've just unveiled your business plan on our program so thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.