Com­men­tary crew eye lu­cra­tive deals

The Southland Times - - BUSINESS - HAMISH MCNICOL

It’s game on for sports com­men­tary in­no­va­tor Spalk.

The com­pany, based at busi­ness in­cu­ba­tor Ice­house, has $500,000 in its locker and a proven suc­cess at the un­der-19 bas­ket­ball world cup, where 93 peo­ple com­men­tated on 32 games, as it em­barks on an am­bi­tious 12 months ahead.

‘‘We’ve got quite a unique pitch,’’ chief ex­ec­u­tive Ben Reynolds said. ‘‘No one else is ex­e­cut­ing on this idea yet.’’

Spalk’s idea is two-fold: selling its tech­nol­ogy to ex­ist­ing sports broad­cast­ers and let­ting am­a­teur codes use its YouTube-style plat­form to broad­cast con­tent.

The busi­ness be­gan back in 2015 as a group of mates pro­vid­ing sports com­men­tary for fun, slowly at­tract­ing an au­di­ence of thou­sands.

It was im­pos­si­ble to syn­chro­nise the words with the video feeds, so they built some­thing to fix it.

Reynolds said Maori TV ap­proached them in early 2016 be­cause it wanted to have mul­ti­ple al­ter­nate lan­guages ac­com­pa­ny­ing its sports con­tent.

The team of three quit their jobs and ex­panded to six, at which time they de­vel­oped a clear strat­egy.

‘‘We fig­ured if Maori TV have this prob­lem, prob­a­bly other peo­ple do too, and we started look­ing more in the broad­cast mar­ket, rather than just am­a­teur sports.’’

The com­pany had de­cided to shift away from the idea of crowd­sourced com­men­tary to one they called de­mo­graph­i­cally tar­geted com­men­tary.

For in­stance, broad­cast­ers might be put off by the prospect of their im­ages be­ing ac­com­pa­nied by a match re­port from a young kid in a base­ment.

But con­sid­er­ing a good por­tion of the Auck­land cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict con­sisted of re­cent im­mi­grants, Reynolds said Spalk al­lowed broad­cast­ers to of­fer that au­di­ence spe­cialised con­tent with a rel­e­vant com­men­ta­tor.

‘‘Sud­denly that au­di­ence is more likely to watch your con­tent, rather than wher­ever else they’re steal­ing it from on­line.’’

The com­pany has re­cently com­pleted a $500,000 in­vest­ment round and was tar­get­ing an­other by the end of the year in the United States, where sports broad­cast rights were worth $25 bil­lion a year.

Its own broad­cast plat­form on its web­site was still young, Reynolds said, but the com­pany planned to tap into the US col­lege sports mar­ket with it.

Ear­lier this month, Spalk was used for the un­der-19 bas­ket­ball world cup in Cairo, Egypt, where 32 games were com­men­tated on by 93 dif­fer­ent peo­ple.

FIBA head of dig­i­tal Ni­co­las Cha­part said the Spalk col­lab­o­ra­tion had been ex­tremely pos­i­tive.

‘‘More than 4 mil­lion peo­ple have tuned in to watch the group phase games and hav­ing fans com­men­tat­ing the games has greatly con­tributed to this suc­cess.

‘‘Spalk will def­i­nitely help us to lo­calise and en­rich our live stream ex­pe­ri­ence while also keep­ing pro­duc­tion costs un­der con­trol.’’

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