A new app called WhipClip is taking water-cooler chatter to the next level.
As TV evolves into a multimedia platform, producing quality, evocative programming, so must our interactions evolve with it. Talking about TV used to consist of a group of like-minded watchers gathered around a water cooler the next morning, talking about the previous night’s episode. With the advent of social media, the water cooler has moved from an actual space to a virtual one, where people gather in communities designated by hashtags. It’s now possible for you to keep current with a show you’ve never even seen.
The evolution continues with WhipClip, the latest in app technology that allows its users to watch a live TV show, record up to 40 seconds of it, and post the clip to the app for followers and friends. It also interfaces with other social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, so that you are able to share the clip across multiple platforms.
By giving users the ability to easily share all those juicy, jaw-dropping moments of TV in a legal, convenient way, WhipClip drives traffic to both the WhipClip app and the shows themselves. This also allows TV providers and producers a way to crowdsource promotion for their shows. I spoke with Chief Operating Officer Dan Brian and he shared how WhipClip was born, where the company stands on spoiler culture, and what we can expect from the app in the future.
Remember when Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman went bananas during a network TV interview with Erin Andrews after the Seahawks won the 2014 NFC Championship? Everybody was scrambling to try and show his rant to their friends, but all people could access was a shaky YouTube video with terrible sound.
WhipClip co-founder Richard Rosenblatt wanted to share that moment with his son, but he couldn’t find an easy or legal way to do so. Rosenblatt called his soon-to-be partner, Ori Birnbaum, and together they brainstormed solutions, diving into lots of data and statistics to see if the numbers could support their new idea. It turns out, they could. Meet WhipClip.
“The average American watches four and a half hours of TV per day that accounts for 96 percent of their viewing time,” explained Brian, citing a Nielsen report they consulted during their research. Most of that time is supplemented by a secondary high-quality screen such as a smartphone or tablet; with over 100 million TV-related Tweets sent every month, audiences are usually interacting with at least two screens while they watch television. This is WhipClip’s bread and butter.
Brian says the WhipClip mission is to make sharing video “easy, legal, and fun” and that the primary purpose is to “enable those moments,” like Sherman’s sideline rant, so that viewers don’t have to hold their phones up to TV screens to create a poor-quality video to share over and over with friends.
But how does it work? How is it possible for a viewer at home to clip live TV and post it online within a few seconds? Brian says that it starts with signals—HLS signals, to be exact. These signals are translated into formats specific for streaming video in a fraction of a second.
WhipClip acquires these signals from local cable providers, collects those signals into bundles, encodes them for streaming, and then stores them in the cloud. When a WhipClip user goes to clip the desired moments from a show, the user is able to access the last two minutes, with only a three- or four-second delay. You can even text and email clips, without ever leaving the app itself, making the GIF game practically obsolete.
Content providers—that is, networks and shows—have a lot of rules about what is off-limits to clip, when and how users can clip a show, and when the clips will appear on the app’s community pages. This allows the content providers to trust WhipClip with their intellectual property.
This obviously raises questions about copyright and infringement problems, but Brian is adamant that WhipClip has the legal right to share everything that is available to it. “We have rights to approximately 120 shows,” he explains. “There is no copyright or fair use that comes in to the equation, because we actually have a deal with [networks].”
Indeed, networks can share the streaming rights and clipping capabilities with WhipClip for some shows and not others. This allows for content providers to prioritize shows that might need more exposure.
For example, VH1’s Candidly Nicole might not get as much press as other, higher-profile shows like Dating Naked, but the coverage Candidly Nicole receives from WhipClip can raise its presence and drive viewers to that show when they might not otherwise be aware of it.
WhipClip already has access to shows from all the major networks and several cable stations, but Brian pledges that his team is “working to get more and more shows in the coming months.”
It’s also working on improving functionality for its users, like WhipClip’s already-in-place strategy for dealing with spoilers amid the social media minefield of fan reactions. “If you clip who got the rose on The Bachelorette at 5 o’clock your time, we here in L.A. can’t actually see that until three hours later—until that moment has already aired,” Brian explains. In addition to the delay functionality, you can also mark a clip as a spoiler with one click inside the app, effectively warning your followers that the content is likely to give something away and sparing you from angry followers coming after you for revealing something they didn’t know already.
WhipClip has its eye firmly on the bigger picture, however, and spoilers aren’t really where it wants to invest the most energy. In terms of the greater vision for the app, Brian says, “As much as we’re trying to deliver value and make it fun for the user, we’re trying to add value for the content providers as well.” He envisions WhipClip as a tool for shows to find a wider audience through the clipping and sharing of moments on the app.
It’s easy to see the ripple of that water-cooler effect across industries and fandoms alike.
He believes that WhipClip can be instrumental in getting a show noticed, using clipping to “drive discovery” of programming that may not necessarily be getting the attention of viewers. WhipClip is also drilling down on the capability for a more global search, including new search functions that will “allow people to really find the specific moment they recall, or they heard about or discussed at the water cooler that morning.” If implemented successfully, the search function could benefit fans and networks, as well as writers and publishers looking to embed a specific moment in a story. It’s easy to see the ripple of that water-cooler effect across industries and fandoms alike.
But WhipClip doesn’t want to usurp Twitter’s reign as the go-to source for news, TV-related or otherwise; rather, Brian and his team want to work as a companion to Twitter and other sites. Brian predicts WhipClip will find its place in the social media universe through shows with huge built-in viewerships, like The Bachelorette or Project Runway.
He is quick to qualify his predictions, however. He doesn’t envision WhipClip as “yet another place to talk about [TV],” and he’s not interested in fracturing the online community water cooler further. He’s content to maintain “good relationships with other social media applications” and exist parallel to them.
At some point, the app could evolve into a destination in which users come and talk about TV, current events, and more. But for now, it’s an app strictly for sharing clips with other TV lovers and savvy social-media users.
And it’s making our global water cooler just a little fuller every morning.
WhipClip is free for download in iTunes and GooglePlay.
Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III