When it comes to watching television, our options are greater than ever.
Smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and set-top boxes – the technological arsenal used to access video entertainment grows each day.
Seeing potential in the multiscreen approach to media consumption, Ottawa-based Jason Flick founded You.i.Labs, now known as You.i TV, in 2008. The goal was "solving the problem that is TV," as Mr. Flick puts it.
"I don't think there's a larger space on the planet that's being disrupted as much as TV is," he adds.
The best example of this is Netflix Inc., the California-based multinational entertainment company that provides streaming video on demand. Whether customers are using an Android phone, Apple TV or a Sony PlayStation, one click and TV content is delivered to the palm of their hand, their office computer or their living room.
Media providers have traditionally needed to reprogram their viewing apps to work for each of these devices. You.i TV has come to their aid with its proprietary You.i Engine, which automatically recalibrates a provider's apps to fit the viewing platform being used.
For instance, NBA League Pass, which allows subscribers to watch basketball games live, would ordinarily need as many as 18 versions of the same app, and that's not taking into account new hardware releases in years to come, such as a new iPhone. You.i TV's technology allows NBA League Pass to rejig an app in minutes rather than weeks.
"It's a huge saving," Mr. Flick says.
You.i TV's technology is powering more than three million app installations for 14 major brands, including the Canadian Football League, Disney Junior, Nickelodeon and Turner Broadcasting System Inc., the company behind TNT and Turner Classic Movies.
And when Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. decided to make a Canadian version of Netflix, called Shomi, they hired You.i TV to produce the electronic applications to deliver the content. (The service shut down in November.)
This year, Time Warner Inc., which owns Turner Broadcasting, led a $12-million (U.S.) Series B funding round for You.i TV, and Scott Levine, managing director of Time Warner Investments, joined the You.i TV board. Turner is standardizing its app development using the You.i technology, which Mr. Flick describes as "massive."
"The footprint that they have is huge," he says. It "was a great validation for us."
You.i TV has since expanded to about 200 employees, he says, and will likely add 100 more in the next 12 to 18 months.
Last month the company was the 127th fastest-growing firm on Deloitte's Technology Fast 500 North America ranking, and in September it placed 15th on the annual Profit 500 ranking of Canada's fastest-growing companies.
Additional growth is expected as more video is consumed on multiple devices. Viewership on so-called "second screens" such as smartphones and tablets is expected to increase 13 per cent between now and 2020.
"Three-quarters of consumers these days are watching TV shows and movies via the Internet through an app on a mobile device," says Safdar Mahmood, a Toronto-based managing director in Accenture's communications, media and technology division, and the company's digital video lead in Canada.
"So when you think about a company like You.i TV and others in their space, their multiscreen applications [are] a pretty hot commodity."
The ability to save companies time and money, while increasing efficiency, also makes You.i TV an attractive proposition, says Lance Laking, investment director at MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund in Ottawa.
"The beauty is that these companies can build their product platform once and it works on any screen," Mr. Laking says.
The MaRS IAF was the first institutional investor in You.i TV. It was impressed with Mr. Flick's approach to the technology, which Mr. Laking says was built at the "bare-metal level," meaning that apps don't have to be completely overhauled every time a new hardware device hits the market.
You.i TV could also move into the automotive and home automation sectors, he says.
It could also make it easier for advertisers to tailor content to specific audiences and platforms.
"That's probably the bigger opportunity," he says. "It opens up a much more unique experience for sharing ad content and delivering ad content.
"That's sort of a tip-of-the-iceberg opportunity for You.i that really gets some of the most recent investors all excited."