Improving on YouTube, Canadian Startup TVphoon Wants You to Watch More and Click Less

With over 800 million unique visitors logging on to YouTube every month, its safe to say most of us have experienced a common pitfall of the site. A video is selected, it runs for a few minutes, and then everything stops.

Unless the user has selected a playlist, more often then not the viewing experience isn’t a passive one and we’re forced to find a new, quality video every time.

Toronto-based startup TVphoon feels that this is a poor viewing experience and founder Kyle Hsiao has created a cable alternative solution. TVphoon sorts through millions of YouTube videos, finding the good from the bad, to offer over 70 distinct channels. Users save time and money by watching for free and having more control over what they want to watch.

“People can come to our site, turn on the daily news in the morning and leave it in the background and tune in when they want,” said Hsiao. “We search videos for them, we filter out the bad ones and organize them in a way so that people only consume good videos.”

They constantly add up-to-date content and some channels are actually live. But save for news, sports matches or awards shows, about 90 per cent of television isn’t live these days anyways. As well some of TVphoon’s channels can’t be found on basic cable packages. It’s one thing to offer a channel on cars (which every cable provider can) but it’s another thing to offer a channel devoted to TED talks (which TVphoon offers).

Along those lines the 32-year-old Hsiao takes some motivation by being able to offer viewers quality content that they haven’t discovered before. “There are over four billion hours of videos watched per month and every minute there are 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube, so videos are produced faster than what we can consume,” said Hsiao.

Like many startups TVphoon has bootstrapped their way to a soft launch so far and have focused on building a strong product. Their metrics have been encouraging thus far: over 30 percent of their 1,600 viewers last month are returning users. Those 1,600 viewers represented close to a 100 percent gain from the previous month. Over 16,000 videos have been viewed on TVphoon for an average of 22 minutes (about the same amount of time as a YouTube viewer).

The team is going to be focusing on personalization so the platform can more efficiently take advantage of users’ tastes and preferences. More top-up support should be on the way too: besides any web browser, the platform supports Google TV and is available on the Windows 8 app store, but not iOS or Android apps.

Eventually TVphoon will also expand on multi-source aggregation, as they plan to include any video from the web. Hsiao contends that they’re not trying to compete with NetFlix or Hulu, but rather they want to stream content from smaller, independent video producers.