Soon, millions of people will sit down to watch the Green Bay Packers face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. But high as the stakes may be, it doesn’t guarantee that it will be the most exciting game of the season. A startup called RUWT?! (short for Are You Watching This?!) offers a service that’s meant to help fans find the most exciting games all season long, for sports including football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer.
One night in the fall of 2000, Mark Phillip, a Brooklyn native who founded RUWT?!, was watching the New York Jets play the Miami Dolphins. In the third quarter, around the time the Dolphins took a 30-7 lead, Phillip, dejected, fell asleep. When he woke up in the morning, however, he found out that “not only did the Jets come back, but it turned out to be one of the biggest comebacks in the history of Monday Night Football.” In fact, the game has become known as “The Monday Night Miracle.” Phillip says, “I’ve always regretted missing it.”
This eventually inspired Phillip to build RUWT?! in 2006. He hoped to provide a service that would keep fans clued in to the biggest moments in sports. The software combines and processes information from two main feeds in order to predict when a game is worth watching and alert fans with information about how to catch the moment.
First, RUWT?! pulls in data about what’s on TV across the United States. The service never recommends games you can’t watch in your area—when you sign up, you tell it your location and TV provider—and it includes information about what channel the game is on.
Then, RUWT?! processes a feed of sports information that includes everything from scores to schedule changes to injuries. The service has rated more than 120,000 games to date, and it learns from previous ratings to inform its new ones. It considers factors such as the rivalry between the teams playing, the score, the time left in the game, the opinions of the site’s users, and other signs of Internet buzz.
It personalizes its recommendations based on a user’s preferred sports and teams. People can also set thresholds for when they’ll receive alerts—for example, they can tell RUWT?! to alert them only for games rated “Epic.”
“It’s been an interesting experience to try to quantify with math this thing that’s so passionate for me,” says Phillip, who majored in computer science at MIT.