Avatar of David BanysDavid Banys

Watching TV with Marathon

Marathon is an iOS and Android app for exploring, logging, and discussing TV with friends and family. With more than 15,000 users, Marathon is quickly becoming a go-to social destination for lovers of TV shows.

We were keen to talk to Marathon Founder Josh Pensky about how the idea for Marathon came together, how people are consuming TV during “the great unbundling,” and what the future holds for the application and community.

Let’s get right into it!

Marathon is a social app for tracking your favorite TV shows with friends

Marathon is a social app for tracking your favorite TV shows with friends

Railway: Tell us all about Marathon. When did you start? What was the inspiration behind the company? How have you been able to acquire 15,000 users so quickly?

Josh: I’ve always loved TV as a medium of storytelling. Back in college, my first foray into product development was building a prototype for a TV companion app called watchr. The idea stuck with me for the next few years as I finished my degree, and I finally decided to get serious about making my app a reality in May 2022. Three months later, Marathon launched and it’s been my most meaningful project to date!

I’ve been really grateful for all the support from the Marathon community. We got a lot of traction early on after being featured in Lifehacker and the App Store, and since then we’ve grown exponentially through word-of-mouth from our amazing users.

Marathon makes it easy to discover new TV shows by streaming service

Marathon makes it easy to discover new TV shows by streaming service

Railway: Marathon reminds us a little bit of Goodreads (for books) and Letterboxd (for film) in the sense that it’s built with this idea that people love to keep track of the media they consume. Are those fair comparisons? What do you envision for the future of the community aspect of Marathon?

Josh: Those are fair comparisons and I’m very happy to be named among these huge inspirations! Marathon has always been centered around building a community for folks, like me, who love TV.

A lot of people talk about television in these “micro-communities” of other social platforms, like Twitter and Reddit, and we’re really interested in bringing these communities together to discuss in one unified platform.

I’ve been experimenting with some new ways to facilitate deeper conversations, and I’m really excited to start teasing out those ideas over the next year.

Railway: It’s really cool to visualize a season of a show on Marathon. We were checking out Shogun, which was really popular this spring, and it seems like the end of the season was especially popular. Have you been surprised by the popularity of any shows recently?

Josh: We are truly living in a golden age of television. It’s easy to get lost in the sheer number of new shows vying for audiences’ attention — I’m still trying to dig my way out of a backlog to start Shogun! — but through it all I’m inspired by how the industry continues to find new ways to utilize TV as a medium for artful storytelling.

It’s also been heartwarming to see some of my favorite shows continue to delight audiences years after they’ve ended. Some that I’ve seen pop up recently on Marathon’s trending list are BoJack Horseman, Community, and Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Whether it’s your first introduction to these shows or your yearly rewatch, I love seeing everyone’s reactions appear on my Marathon activity feed.

One of our favorite recent shows is Shogun

One of our favorite recent shows is Shogun

Railway: TV “unbundling” is something we’ve been seeing a lot lately in the news. Another great feature of Marathon is that you can pick a service (like Apple TV) get a list of trending shows for that service. Do you think part of Marathon’s popularity is benefiting from so many options when it comes to new streaming services?

Josh: A single streaming service opens up access to a huge variety of shows that you can start watching anytime. Multiply that by the hundreds of streaming services that are now available, and it can quickly get really overwhelming!

Marathon is purpose-built to alleviate that stress: we aggregate the shows you’re watching (or want to watch) across all platforms into a single app. A lot of people come to Marathon because we’ve simplified the process of finding your favorite shows thanks to our universal search and watchlist.

The app continues to improve daily thanks to the great feedback we receive from our community, and we welcome any ideas on how we can keep pushing the platform forward!

Railway: Let’s talk a bit about your tech stack. Can you tell us a little bit about the architecture of Marathon and how you’ve gone through the process of building it?

Josh: The tech is one of my favorite parts of Marathon and I’m really proud of how it’s grown. When I first started, Marathon was a simple SwiftUI app backed by a couple Next.js API routes. As our community has grown, I’ve completed some major refactors to support Android and stabilize the API under load.

Today, both our iOS and Android apps are written in React Native, which makes it possible for me to support a wider community as a solo engineer. Powering our whole platform is a Ruby on Rails API running on Railway, which processes about a million episodes logged by users every month.

Most recently, I’ve upgraded our Rails API to auto-generate a TypeScript client SDK that our mobile apps can use for full end-to-end type safety, even across languages. We’re hoping to open-source this in the future for our engineer friends!

Railway: We’d love to hear about your experience building Marathon with Railway. How has Railway been helpful in your development cycle?

Josh: Railway has been a great tool for me as a solo founder who relies on external services to keep operations running smoothly.

Railway’s interface is one of the best I’ve used for hosting and comes with a helpful API that makes it easy to automate tasks, like Marathon’s custom deploy queue. Coming from other platforms that charge you per machine, it’s really refreshing that Railway only bills us for the resources that we actually use, making it especially flexible during high spikes of usage.

Templates have also been a recent lifesaver for me. Last month, we switched away from a fairly expensive hosted search service to a Meilisearch template I spun up on Railway in less than an hour. Not only did we save up to 95% on our monthly search bill, but now Marathon’s search is twice as fast and ready for future enhancements.

Railway: If readers would like to get started with Marathon, where should they get started? Any other links or advice for first-time users on the platform?

Josh: Check out Marathon on the App Store and Play Store! Start logging your shows, see what your friends are watching, and share your latest thoughts with our community.

We’ve got a ton of new features we’re rolling out all the time, so be sure to follow us on Twitter and Threads for the latest details.