Friday, August 22, 2014

Televisionary: The best TV show tracking experience in Smartphone

Following is a speech I recently delivered on our app Televisionary. I post it here with the hope that it'd provide a general understanding on the app, it's business model and architecture.

Thanks for this opportunity for us to demonstrate a highly successful product that we developed recently. In fact we are not a product company, so we usually do not develop products under our name. What we do as an outsourcing company is to help other product companies to add value to their products. But this is a product we developed under our name still not deviating from the company business model. Accordingly the target was to get more projects to the company; not to make profits by directly selling the product, which is not our business.

The product is a pretty simple one at first sight; a mobile application that brings in information about TV shows. However, like any other great mobile app, it does lot of valuable things behind its simplicity. The app is currently available for Windows Phone and Android. iPhone version is under development.

Any sensible developer will do a thorough analysis on market before typing a line of code. Our market research showed that the domain is full of impressive opportunities for an app which is built with a strong business model and right technical skills. It is projected to be a $750 billion business in 2020 where over 50 TV networks operating in US alone. Average American spends over 5 hours a day watching TV. In the left we see the trends in the medium people use for watching video. Obviously the television dominated this for the past few decades. What should be noted is that it still does in an era where computers and mobile phone are ubiquitous. Well, not without changes. The way people connect with TV has changed dramatically. People tend to use mobile a lot while watching TV. They call it the ‘second screen phenomena’. Most out of that time they access social media. People love to shout about their TV show watching in social media may be even more than the very act of TV watching. It is going to be a ubiquitous, more customer focused, contextual and integrated experience. Because of that, fine grained information on how people watch TV shows is going to be crucial than ever before for TV networks and show producers.

With this understanding on the market we formulated a bunch of goals that shaped the way we developed the product throughout the 3 years since we started it. The goals evolved with experience and new understandings. First and foremost, we wanted to develop an app which is loved by all smartphone users. If they rejected it that’s the end of the story for us. For some time we had an idea to sell a pro version of the app, but we gave it up as selling products is not our strength. We also wanted to collect vast amounts of data through the app which can be vital for TV networks and show producers. Another goal was to collect types of data that the other app developers wouldn’t even imagine. Building a generic TV show data platform was in our agenda, but we gave it up after realizing that it’s not going to be a viable model. We successfully built a generic middleware for messaging related to TV shows which helps us to develop apps in multiple platforms without worrying about the specifics of the backend.

In order to make the app a success, it is crucial to address the general requirements of TV show fans. Knowing the current trends, search for shows, see details of shows, get a reminder when the show is about to be aired, voice opinions on shows, checkout what other people say about shows, maintain an identity as a fan, view the cast details, view show calendar and shout in social media.

Televisionary delivers all these features, but doesn’t stop there. It provides features a typical TV show fan wouldn’t expect. One can check what his neighbors are watching (through the foursquare integration), provide feedback to TV networks and record facial expressions while watching TV.

Gesture recognition is our latest experiment with Televisionary. It aims to capture a viewer’s expressions while he / she is watching the TV show. In a typical set up, a viewer would check-in to the show in Televisionary and mount the phone so that it can see his / her face while watching the show. Utilizing ‘Gesture Recognition’ technology, Televisionary will try to capture the user’s mood in every second (laughing, bored, etc). This will result in the entire show being annotated with respect to how viewers responded to each part of the show. If successful, this will provide details far beyond the metrics currently being used to rate TV shows.

We released the first version of Televisionary in October 2012. Since then it is downloaded by more than 35,000 people. There has been consistent download rate around 50 per day throughout the 22 months. Current version is 3.0. It is available in 5 languages. The slide shows how the downloads are spread across countries and age groups.

App has received fabulous user reviews. Most ratings are 5 stars for both apps.

Televisionary was praised by the web site which is the top review site in Norway for gadgets and technologies. We received very encouraging reviews by too.

This is a feature level comparison of Televisionary with other TV show tracking apps. Televisionary is clearly ahead with a rich bunch of features, delivering everything today’s TV show fans expect. All of them come absolutely free!

This is briefly our business model. We have identified 3 user segments: TV show fans, TV networks and TV show producers.

Televisionary architecture was built to achieve several goals
  • Highly extensible features
  • Easy rebrandability
  • Insulate apps from backed data source
  • Utilize analytics maximally

Televisionary was selected by ICTA to represent Sri Lanka under the entertainment category in WSA 2014 competition. Microsoft featured Televisionary in AppStore for 2 days as an outstanding Windows Phone app.