Skimo: The essential TV catch-up service for those who have FOMO

Bypassed 'Breaking Bad'? Too busy for 'The Bridge'? Don't worry, technology firm Skimo has developed a condensed TV catch-up service. Hannah Verdier gets up to speed
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The Independent Culture

FOMO is big business in TV. That, for the uninitiated, is fear of missing out. You know those FOMO moments. You see #OITNB and don't have a clue what it means (that's Orange Is The New Black, by the way. Already on series 2, what do you mean you haven't seen it yet?). Everyone in the pub has their own theory about what the bejiggins is going on in 24. You have no idea why Binky's crying, or indeed that Binky is the name of a Made In Chelsea character and not someone's guinea pig.

Few are immune to those unfortunate moments when a TV show has completely passed you by and trying to join in a conversation at work, on Twitter or even among your closest friends, proves impossible.

Well, Skimo aims to save you from such hardcore social embarrassment. It calls itself "The Video Summarization Engine" and breaks down a show into two or three minutes for quick, easy, painless consumption. Want to pretend that you've been keeping up with The Bridge when you've really spent all evening Keeping Up With The Kardashians? Consider it done in a crunch.

Is Skimo the perfect solution for time-poor viewers or a nightmare that spells doom for all those pieces of perfectly crafted long-form TV? Ten years ago we had watercooler telly, but now there's such a buzz around new shows that viewers are suffering from full-blown FOMO if they don't start watching by the time everyone else does. If you're not an early adopter, don't bother to even try to join in with the noise. Skimo founder Vasu Srinivasan argues that viewing habits have become so voracious that even if a show finds its way on to YouTube, attention spans are so short that the majority goes to waste. "People do not watch the whole video – they skim it," he says. "Skimo can automatically generate two to three minutes of highlights from any video in any language. Our hope and dream is that one day Skimo will become part of the language, like watching a trailer or film commentary."

It's a handy tool that allows TV bluffing at its most efficient. Because everybody needs to bluff, don't they? With so many must-see shows hitting screens, combined with so many more important things to do in life, you're no one if you admit that you haven't had the time – or indeed the inclination – to get involved. With Skimo, the temptation of being able to watch a whole season of Breaking Bad in 20 minutes is just too strong.

Watching the latest TV shows now gains us the same kind of kudos that listening to the coolest bands once did. Maybe it's the recession forcing everyone to stick to their sofas and get their kicks for free, or maybe TV really is the new black, but once you're on that bandwagon of keeping up, don't ever fall off. If you didn't board that Scandi-drama bus, what are you going to do when dinner party talk turns to Birgitte Nyborg's blow-dry?

Sure, you could just swot up on relevant TV hashtags and borrow someone else's opinion, but it's not long before you'll be busted. Keeping tabs on The X Factor via the medium of Twitter is child's play, but Game Of Thrones is a whole different challenge. With added dragons. If you relied on the internet to tell you everything you need to know about telly, you'd get wrapped up in a disturbing world of Downton Abbey cat memes. OK, so with the non-linear joy of Netflix you might just get away with admitting that you haven't actually started on House of Cards yet, but where does that leave you with Breaking Bad? Five seasons of crystal meth-based intrigue doesn't just happen overnight and by the time you've caught up, you'll have missed the next big thing. Then there are those hyped series that you watched for a bit, chattered about and then dumped halfway through when something more enticing came along. The Americans, anyone?

If you dare to forget about a gripping series opener and have some semblance of a social life/a passing interest in the World Cup/regular employment, you might as well save yourself the hassle and Skimo it instead. So far, the service has only been used to condense the long-running US comedy Frasier and Tamil soap operas, but Srinivasan is in talks with major channels around the world.

Soaps are where Skimo could come into its own. Being a slave to their relentless schedule is a full-time job. Emmerdale is a particularly tricky mistress, which demands the devotion of watching every weeknight at just the time that you're waiting for the train home from work or bribing a child to put down the Haribo and get into bed. Miss it for a couple of nights and Charity Dingle could be married, divorced and have taken her ex-husband to the cleaners by the time you return. Sparing two minutes to catch up on your iPhone on the way to work? Much more convenient.

But how does Skimo guarantee that you won't miss out on the scene that you really want to watch? "Most long-play films and TV episodes will have six or fewer crucial scenes and by crunching them together we can produce a summary," says Srinivasan. "Crucial scenes are given more focus, are often brighter with more shots, and it is this that the Skimo engine picks up on." Fancy algorithms may be cleverer than your average viewer, but where's their sense of humour? While EastEnders might look like it's all about the search for Lucy Beale's killer, real fans know that the moment that makes you pause and rewind the Sky Plus is when Danny Dyer reverts to his Nineties rave-self, promising Roxy he can put on a "naughty party".

The ability to flick through a show might unearth some hidden gems and Srinivasan suggests: "Consumers can watch the Skimo video first before committing time to watching the long-form video."

So, one Skimo of RuPaul's Drag Race and you could be hooked. Hang on, isn't giving a bite-size taster of a new show just another way to get you addicted to it? Cunning.

TV in a nutshell

24: Live Another Day

Cor blimey, guv'nor, Jack Bauer's on the run in London. Shoot, grab, save the President. Can anyone hear that clock ticking?


Who killed Lucy? Meanwhile, the ladies form a disorderly queue for Max Branning, "Oi, you're not my muvva!"

Downton Abbey

Lady Mary spends ages finding a chap, war breaks out, he dies. Now Lady Sybil's croaked it. Tough being posh.

Game Of Thrones

Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte's a goner. Lysa's a goner. Tywin's a goner. Look, a dragon.

Breaking Bad

Teaching? Too much hassle. I'll just cook up some crystal meth to fund the cancer treatment. Bit harsh, this drug dealing.