The collision between TV and the Internet gave rise to dozens of ill-conceived startups, all too many of which were dubious ‘social TV’ solutions in search of a problem (most seemed based on TV check-ins or the idea that people would want Twitter feeds shoehorned into every conceivable interface). However, now that we’re starting to see some consolidation in the market, most of the companies left standing are those who created products that genuinely offer value and add to the TV experience. OneTwoSee, a Philadelphia-based technology company specialising in making sports more interactive, is one such company.
While the company is still small – just ten people, with plans to double headcount by the end of this year – OneTwoSee are getting a lot right strategically, and there are a number of lessons that should be useful for anyone hoping to build a successful digital business around the TV industry:
1. They didn’t get too greedy, too early, and chose to focus on a vertical that lends itself to interactivity — OneTwoSee chose sports.
2. They focused heavily on proven methods of engagement: stats and voting. Sports fans love stats, to the point where the numbers generated often become news stories in their own right (Manchester United’s failure to score against Fulham in spite of putting in 81 crosses is one recent example). Put simply, the product has real value, which is why OneTwoSee see engagement rates of five to fifteen percent depending on the sport.
3. They didn’t confine their product to a mobile app. OneTwoSee are truly multi-platform, and then some. Everything is written in HTML5 and can be ported across browsers, mobile, broadcast and connected TV, and the content can even be used in the arena where the sport is taking place.
4. They realised early on that broadcasters are protective of their own brands, so they white-labelled their tech so broadcasters can integrate it into their content without ceding control to a third party.
Chris Reynolds, CEO of OneTwoSee explained to VAN how this is where many second screen and social TV companies fell down. “Many companies approached the space from the wrong direction,” he says. “They were trying to create their own brands and so – by default – they were already swimming against the current, as it was always going to be very difficult for them to partner with the media rights owners who have spent all that money to own the rights. So there was little or no incentive for rights owners to funnel their audience into an app that they no longer control.”
OneTwoSee’s clients include NBC, Comcast, TSN and DirecTV, plus at CES this year they announced partnerships with Bloomberg Sports, who specialise in data-driven projections for sports, and with LG as part of their high profile WebOS launch (the video below is a demo of the LG integration).
5. They gave social a role, but as a secondary rather than a primary feature of the product. Social data can be pulled in and users can engage socially, but it’s an optional extra, not the point of the product. The social features feel additive and aren’t simply replicating the Twitter experience on a different platform.
6. They didn’t take on more money than they needed to. OneTwoNow has raised a little over $2M to date and plans to close on some additional funding very soon to help accelerate growth now that they’re getting traction.
“The revenue model to date has been mostly licensing-based; our applications generally being sold on a per-sport, per-season basis. However, with our growth and expansion to new verticals, we are able to expand the model to include revenue-share arrangements. That is, we can take a lower licensing fee in return for a share of the customer’s advertising revenue derived from our application.”
As a private company, it doesn’t disclose financials, but CEO Chris Reynolds is willing to give some insight into what’s going on behind the scenes, “What we can say is that in 2013, we experienced more than fivefold growth in both revenues and customers. In 2014, we look to more than double revenue, while still maintaining tight control over costs and our cash burn.”