Move Over, Clear Channel – Internet Sports “Radio” Gives Minor-League and Home Town Academic Sports More Reach

By Dan
Daley
SVG Audio Editor

The next time you get the uncontrollable desire to follow the Sioux Falls
Storm, you won’t have fly to South
Dakota to catch a game. Instead, tune this United
Indoor Football League team in off the Internet, on Audio Sports Online, the
most ambitious of a handful of online sports streaming webcasters that are
giving teams and sports that aren’t ready for prime time another way to build
an audience.

Founded by Jason Dozier in 2003 to give high school football teams in the central
Indiana area a way to get some air time, the service is now up to over 150
clients that range from high school and college football and baseball teams to
minor-league and indie-league sports teams like the arena football players the
Dallas Desperados and the Vermont Frost, which play in the ABA’s minor league
system. The reach is as far up the sports food chain as the Indianapolis
Indians, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ AAA farm team.

Robby Kendall, former sports director at WKJU 101.9 in Indianapolis joined Dozier as co-owner in
2006, freeing Dozier to focus on the streaming audio technology that powers the
company. In the wake of FCC rule changes in the 1990s that led to the
consolidation of radio, mega-broadcasters like Clear Channel and Cumulus Media
bought up local radio stations and imposed national programming in place of the
community-based regional-interest agenda that often included live coverage of
local sports teams. “It just became too expensive for local sports to access
terrestrial broadcasting,” says Kendall.

They can now. Audio Sports Online has a minimum 10-game package that costs $350
to stream live on line, with per-game costs declining as the number of games
increases. Included in these rates are set up of the system and archiving for
podcasts of the games.

The technology is simple but effective. Kendall says about $125 gets most
streamcast clients going, with technical guidelines that suggest (but don’t
specify) a Behringer 802 mixer, a Sennheiser E8155 microphone, a set of
headphones (ear buds will do) and cables that interface the line-level signal
directly with a land line connection or a cell phone.

Audio is streamed at 32 kbps, twice that of what most other webcasters in this
nascent market offer, says Kendall. “The
difference between streaming audio at 32 kbps and 16 or even eight, as some do,
is like the difference in sound between an FM and AM radio,” he says (Audio
Sports Online also offers video streaming, at rates as high as 760 kbps, for a
higher unit price). Jason Dozier also walks first-time users through a
simulated webcast a week before he first streamed game to make sure that
they’re comfortable with the concept.

During football season, Audio Sports Online hosts as many as 65 games on a
Saturday night. Baseball and basketball spread the webcasts over the entire
week. Teams tin banners on their websites alerting fans to a game broadcast.
“It has given many local teams a national audience,” says Kendall.
“It’s not unusual to have a brother in Iraq
and grandparents in Florida listening to a
game going on it the Midwest.”

The two partners just bought a radio station, WTXY 1540, in Whiteville, NC.
They plan to convert the current talk to community-based programming. “And that
will definitely include sports,” says Kendall.