Startup Spotlight…YouAreTV Puts Viewers in the “Live” Light

/ Apr 8, 2013

YouAreTv Screenshot 2

Three years ago, at the height of online social video sensation Chatroulette, puckish entrepreneur Josh Weinstein had an idea — a vision really — that involved merging live social interactions with online video in a way that could be profitable for content creators. Or, at the very least, he wanted to build the technology that would serve as the conduit for these content creators. From there, YouAreTV was born.

“We started out as an accidental creation,” says Weinstein, CEO, YouAreTV, “From Chatroulette we had an epiphany where we saw the future of entertainment as being interactive and in real time.”

Say a creator has a live show airing every Tuesday at 4pm. YouAreTV develops the technology that allows viewers to video call into the live show and participate in real time.

“A good analog is Ustream,” says Weinstein, “but we have a functionality on top of that that allows people to video call in, so it’s pretty straightforward in that sense.”

But there’s a twist.

Viewers can opt in to be a participant on the live show, with show creators having the ability to feature them on the actual show for as long as they want. Once the viewer opts in, or says, “Yeah, I want to participate,” they’re put in a waiting pool of sorts with other people who have also indicated they want to be on the show. While they wait in the “backstage” area they can text chat with each other.

“Some people refer to it as [Google] Hangout on steroids,” quips Weinstein.

It seems pretty simple, and in a way it is. But developing the technology hasn’t been smooth sailing.

“It’s a surprisingly difficult tech problem that we’ve been working out for a while,” says Weinstein, “We initially started working on the tech in late 2010, and went through a couple different iterations. Four months ago is when we created something we’re really excited about. So we’re ready to move forward on that.”

“I think it’s a pretty exciting piece of tech that enables a new type of content experience. It’s interactive and participants can have an infinite number of people to interact with in real time,” Weinstein adds.

With their technology firmly in place, YouAreTV is looking to expand partnerships, as well as their in house operational team (At press time, there are about a half dozen staffers working out of YouAreTV’s Union Square offices, and the company has plans to bring on more as partnerships develop in the coming months). At first, the company relied on investors for funding, but now that they are deep into development and have a product to show, partnerships and licensing deals are becoming a reality.

YouAreTV_Merton

One of YouAreTV’s biggest successes is the green-hoodied musician Merton who rose to early fame on Chatroulette by serenading strangers with piano ditties. Merton also served as an early inspiration for Weinstein and currently partners with YouAreTV for his weekly web series.

“We are now beginning to form some of our initial partnerships, talking to folks ranging from production studios to YouTube networks, as well as recording artists and other celebs,” says Weinstein, “Right now, we’re more of a B2B label. We white-label YouAreTV for our partners.”

There are vast implications for YouAreTV’s application both online and off — everything from “American Idol” to presidential debates.

Sure, real-time interaction with an at-home audience still may be something of the future, but it’s a future that’s coming in a few months, and broadcasters and creators need to be prepared for it.

“I think it still is early right now, but we’re starting to see signs of things shifting rapidly with platforms like Aereo and Netflix, and the growth of YouTube,” says Weinstein, “I think we’re about to reach a tipping point, when it becomes very matter of fact that there is a convergence between broadcast and digital.”

Check out a demo of their product here:

 

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