Shout.tv Live Events App Ready for Prime Time

Shout.tv wanted to attract millions of fans of sports and other live events to play sponsored trivia games for cash and prizes. But each game was like a DDoS attack on its data centers. As a solution, the company turned to a distributed database management system called NuoDB.

By Stephanie Overby
Fri, January 31, 2014

CIO

football, super bowl, commercials
Millions of Americans will be watching Superbowl XLVIII this Sunday night -- not just to watch the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos battle it out or to see how miserably cold the fans are at MetLife Stadium, but to check out what are some of the most highly anticipated television advertisements of the year.

But while they're entertaining to watch, those ads may not drive many sales. According to a 2013 study by advertising and marketing research firm Communicus, 80 percent of commercials shown during the big game had no effect on consumers' intent to purchase the products or services they featured.

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Shout.tv Creates Live Mobile App For Sports Fans

Shout.tv has developed a mobile app that it says can help companies reach rabid fans most effectively taking advantage of the popularity of second- or even third-screen viewing by consumers during live televised events, like sports or awards shows. Users log into the app to vote on questions and compete in trivia games for cash and prizes from sponsors including Coca-Cola, Amazon, Starbucks, McDonald's, Netflix, and Hulu. "Second- and third-screen mobile and Web applications get better retention and help those entities that are losing out on ad dollars because of DVRs and lack of interest in traditional ads," says Bruce Grant, Shout.tv's CIO.

[ 10 Apps You'll Need to Survive Super Bowl Sunday ]

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Although the app enables typical social networking functionality like the ability to cheer for a team or trash-talk a rival, the real draw are the games, with prizes from iPads and gift cards to custom snowboards and LED TVs, which are awarded based on how quickly a correct answer in given. That creates a particularly difficult infrastructure challenge for Grant.

The games are played during timeouts or breaks in play and "create a burst in traffic against all aspects of our infrastructure," explains Grant. "That poses challenges at the data center. It's as if we're incenting our players to conduct a distributed-denial-of-service attack on us each time they answer a question."

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Shout.tv's CIO Looks to Infrastructure of the Future for Live Events App

Unlike an online retailer, for example, which sees orders trickle in throughout the day, Shout.tv must support a million users sending information within a very small window of time, according to Grant. Most players answer within a 90-second period with the majority chiming in around the 10 to 15 second mark, he explains. As the company, which makes its revenues from advertisers and in-app purchases, was anticipating further growth, Grant began looking last year at the options for what he calls the "infrastructure of the future."

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