Rob Sutton is hoping to revolutionise the way we watch television. With Netflix, streaming devices and smart TVs already wildly upsetting the traditional viewing experience, his challenge was to figure out what hasn’t already been done.
But his startup Qrate.TV, winner of Startup Weekend Brisbane 2013, distinguishes itself as a blend of different mediums. It offers a collaborative streaming platform for viewing and sharing queues of videos; essentially, it’s a social network that combines the streaming features of broadcast television with the range of videos available online.
“What I want to do with Qrate.TV is essentially come to a middle ground, where it allows you to access online content but do it in a streaming fashion you can play via your TV,” Sutton says. “Then use your social network to filter a lot of that content.”
“Because the whole idea is that it’s collaborative,” he says. “You can build playlists with your friends, you can see what they’re watching, access their playlists, filter the online content and provide a way of finding those high quality, interesting videos.”
An electrical engineer, Sutton’s journey started when he bought, and ultimately gave up on, a digital Sony BRAVIA TV in 2013. Likening it to an old style mobile phone, he was frustrated by it’s Youtube compatibility and has since described it as a “TV that happened to have internet rather than an internet-enabled TV.”
After hearing Matt Way pitch the original idea at Startup Weekend, Sutton helped form the Qrate team, which, after winning the competition and developing the product for several months, ultimately broke up (Way and co-founder Nick Drewe have since worked on the similar product Churn.TV from Brisbane and Vietnam).
Sutton continued to work on the original project himself, and while his vision for the site as a social platform formed the final product, he has outsourced the back-end work to web developer BusinessPro Designs.
Since the site’s launch in December 2014, Sutton has focused on marketing and tracking user experiences; he notes that viewership has almost doubled between December and January. He also identifies one notable user as a firefighter, who currently uses the site to curate training-related videos.
From here, Sutton hopes to refine Qrate.TV to match user expectations, upgrade the site to enable private uploads, and further focus on the platform’s collaborative elements as a way of differentiating it from similar products.
“I want to get to the point where I can upload content as well, so people can upload videos and create private playlists to share with their family,” Sutton says. “It just adds an extra dimension to how people can use the site.”