Action Audio Apps Moves Into the Living Room
By: Dan Daley, Audio Editor, Sports Video Group
In-venue alternative-audio provider Action Audio Apps has moved beyond the physical venue while adding teams and sports genres. In addition to minor-league hockey teams, such as the Danbury Whalers of the Federal Hockey League, and arena football’s Cleveland Gladiators and Orlando Predators, which have been deploying the app, the Northeast Outlaw Pro Mods drag-racing circuit began integrating it this year. The app has also been used for boxing matches, including the New York Daily News-sponsored Golden Gloves matches and several HBO events.
But the app — which was originally predicated on the idea that live-streaming audio from players, coaches, and officials on the field via WiFi to fans in the stands would help boost ticket sales and counter lost sales to home viewers’ HD/5.1 experience — is now available to anyone anywhere. That includes viewers at home or in sports bars, who will be able to catch multiple channels of audio directly from the field and from local-radio play-by-play announcers and Action Audio’s own commentators.
One advantage the app offers over typical broadcast coverage is that, although it’s still constrained by a 3.5-second delay, the teams and venues that subscribe to it allow Action Audio to operate the mixer and use its discretion as to what is distributed.
“It’s part of the emotion of the game,” says company founder Sebastian Failla of the possibility of profanity. “The experience wouldn’t be the same if [language] was watered down too much.”
However, that advantage is also a caution flag for the major leagues, for which on-air profanity is a constant concern. Failla says Action Audio continues to have a dialog with the NFL and three of its teams, as well as with three NHL teams (which he declines to name), about implementing the app in their stadiums and arenas. “The teams are very much behind the idea,” he says. “The fan experience is paramount for them, and this really enhances that. They want to give the people who attend games something more.”
They do get a lot. Action Audio generally has as many as three players per side wearing Quantum 5X microphones and miniature transmitters optimized in terms of size and padding for use in contact sports. In addition, with some games, users also get audio from coaches and officials and, in other environments, such as drag racing, running commentary from Action Audio’s own announcers. In boxing, both opposing corners are miked, as is the ring itself. The app is capable of up to eight channels of sound simultaneously, and users can choose to listen to one, several, or all. The audio is mono, but, given that almost all the program material is just dialog or its equivalent, stereo or 5.1 surround isn’t missed.
And it’s now available in more places. According to VP of Business Development Billy “Mo” Buckbee, use of the app is being encouraged outside of sports venues, with the agreement of event broadcasters, as a kind of sonic second screen. “They see it as an enhancement of their own broadcast sound,” he explains, adding, “We do what the networks can’t,” a reference to the potential for peppery language not subject to FCC scrutiny.
The company continues to distribute the app for free, deriving revenue from banner and streamed-audio ads and commercials, and recently began giving earbuds to in-venue fans who show that they’re downloaded the app.
Buckbee estimates that downloads are currently in the five-figure range, with an average of just under 1,000 per game covered, which suggests that the app is still heavily event-dependent. To generate more use outside of live events, Action Audio is now also videotaping its games and making highlight clips available postgame. And it’s developing its own podcast radio show, “The Coach Mo Show,” hosted by Buckbee.
“These are all ways to develop more revenue and more user engagement,” he points out. “Note we’re offering content beyond the live event.”