After working in new product development for Atlanta-based media company Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. for 13 years, David Rudolph left his job to pursue a startup company opportunity. The company – PlayOn! Sports – was developed at Turner over the past four years and was recently accepted into Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC).
“PlayOn! Sports offers an end-to-end solution for production and distribution of TV-quality, untelevised live events, with an emphasis on sports,” said Rudolph, who is CEO of the new company. “Although there is a hardware component to our business, it is very much software driven. Two patents – one for software and one for hardware – have been filed.”
While working at Turner, Rudolph saw a market opportunity to distribute high-quality programming via Web-based broadband at a fraction of the cost of traditional television. Numerous media entities and organizations are interested in producing more exclusive programming and generating differentiated digital advertising opportunities. PlayOn! Sports’ focus will initially be on sports because of the audience passion, the relevance of a live broadcast, attractiveness to advertisers and the wide availability of content.
“One of the initial motivations is the exposure our product creates for their sport. Everybody can tell you that the way to grow your sport is to generate media exposure. Smaller, niche sports can’t get that on television, so they are looking for alternatives,” Rudolph noted. “Sports is also an ad-driven model with highly passionate audiences, something that is very attractive to advertisers.”
While a number of companies offer pieces of the production and distribution process, PlayOn! Sports is uniquely positioned because it is optimized for low-cost production by offering the entire spectrum of a clients’ needs, including production equipment and support, training, scheduling, hosting, streaming and archiving, content rights and management and content syndication. But, according to Rudolph, where PlayOn! really stands out is with its patent-pending software.
“Our software includes a Web application and a client application and gives them complete access to everything they need to do for the entire life cycle of an event,” he explained. “When they’re in pre-production, it checks connectivity to make sure that the venue connectivity is there. In production, it handles all the production elements that go into making it a high-quality event such as advertising insertion, production graphics, replay and slow-motion. And in post-production, it handles the video-on-demand management so the video can be embargoed for a period of time or be available within five to 10 minutes upon conclusion of the game.”
Revenue and profits are generated through recurring software-as-a-service licensing fees, advertising inventory that the company retains and sells on an aggregated basis, broad content redistribution rights and production equipment solutions for clients who require it. Rudolph predicts that the redistribution rights alone will generate a significant revenue stream through DVD sales, download-to-own and the syndication of highlight clips. Sales channels include broadcast television stations, newspaper and magazine groups, regional cable networks and operators, universities and high schools, and independent production companies.
Investors obviously believe in the startup’s business model. In December 2008, 2080 Media purchased PlayOn! from Turner Sports International Enterprises and landed $3 million in a first round of funding. The company, which continues to enjoy Turner as an investor and partner, was also accepted into ATDC, Georgia Tech’s nationally recognized science and technology incubator.
“What I like about ATDC is the energy that’s here and the fact that everybody is in an early-stage company and running around like crazy trying to figure it out. There’s a lot that can be learned from just being in that environment,” Rudolph said. “A few months ago we looked at office space and we were going to be sitting next to an insurance company or a bank or a non-profit and it felt sterile. We look forward to the opportunity of being an ATDC member company.”
Charles Ross, general manager of ATDC, looks forward to watching the continued success of PlayOn! Sports.
“Many successful companies – more than 110 – have grown out of the ATDC facility,” he said. “ATDC can offer technology startups like PlayOn! Sports collective experience, leadership and resources that will help take their business to the next level.”
About the ATDC: The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) is a nationally recognized science and technology incubator that helps Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful companies. ATDC provides strategic business advice and connects its member companies to the people and resources they need to succeed. More than 110 companies have emerged from the ATDC.
Headquartered at the Georgia Institute of Technology, ATDC has been recognized by both Inc. and BusinessWeek magazines as among the nation’s top nonprofit incubators. ATDC was formed in 1980 to stimulate growth in Georgia’s technology business base, and now has locations in Atlanta and Savannah. ATDC is part of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. For more information, please visit (www.atdc.org).
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Writer: Nancy Fullbright