Commentary crew eye lucrative deals
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.’’