Quantum5X, Action Audio Apps JV Aim To Rejuvenate the In-Venue Experience

Sports broadcasts are so good these days that the home viewing and listening experience may be undercutting attendance at some games. Most notable, perhaps, is the NFL, where attendance has steadily declined since peaking in 2007. The average NFL game drew 64,698 paying customers in 2011, the worst average attendance since 1998. According to Website Coldhardfootballfacts.com estimates, that translated into a deficit of 782,000 paying customers and $60 million in lost revenue over the past four seasons, due mainly to the high cost of tickets, parking, and concessions.

Audio, in the form of discrete 5.1 surround and more on-field sound, has helped make the televised sports experience as engaging as it has become, but sound might turn out to be key to helping boost attendance at venues.

A recently announced joint venture between London, ON-based Quantum5X, a manufacturer of wireless microphone transmitter systems on athletes, officials, and coaches, and Action Audio Apps, a Westchester, NY, startup that aggregates sound from wired-up players at games into a show pushed out over WiFi to attendees’ mobile devices, could be the formula to put fans back in the stands.

Thus far, Action Audio Apps has entered into agreements with regional sports leagues and teams, including the Danbury Whalers of the Federal Hockey League (FHL) and teams in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), as well as for a number of semi-pro boxing matches. Fans can download the Action Audio App for their iOS smartphones or tablets and hear player and other personnel audio from the locker room to the field, including the bench and the penalty box.

The audio remains nominally under the control of the team or league, but, says Action Audio Apps founder Sebastian Failla, regional leagues have been content to leave Action Audio Apps’ mixers in charge of it, protected by a 3.5-second delay.

Eight channels of signal from the Quantum5X microphones are sent from the RF receivers to a portable Behringer X32 audio console. In hockey, multiple player microphones may be assigned to the same channel, subdividing the teams on the ice, with other channels assigned to coaches, referees, and the penalty box. An open microphone is kept at the mix position, and Action Audio Apps’ own commentator talent may bring a player or coach tableside for a quick interview or to offer clarification of rules on a close call.

All this is distributed throughout the venue via WiFi and is accessible to fans through Action Audio Apps’ app, available for free from the Apple App Store. When venues do not have their own WiFi network, Failla says, his company has installed temporary wireless access points.

Revenue for the venture is derived from advertising that runs on the audio and as banners on the app and from sponsorships by teams, leagues, and others. Future iterations of the software will allow archiving and retrieval of previous games, which may also become a source of revenue. The next major demonstration of the concept will take place in March, for an Arena Football team that Failla declines to name.

Market Strategy
Ventures between product vendors and service providers aren’t new, but this one is unusual. Quantum5X President Allen Kool say the relationship began about year ago with his company as simply a supplier to Action Audio Apps. However, he adds, he saw the opportunity not only to sell additional products but also to enter new markets through Action Audio Apps’ strategy of going first to minor and regional sports leagues.

Quantum5X, through existing relationships with the NBA, MLB, and NFL, is also trying to promote the concept of a “show within a show” in major-league venues. Kool notes that the company’s transmitters were used on nearly all the teams and umpires for an MLB spring-training game in 2012, with excellent results.

“It proved that there is a lot of value in giving listeners access to more audio,” he says. “There’s definitely a demand for it, and, if you can only get this level of sound at the stadium, it will bring people there.”

Failla adds that, when fans try the system and then return to a subsequent game without it, they miss it. He cites the exclusivity of the audio content as crucial to the concept’s success.

“Action Audio Apps benefits the promoters and fans by providing an enhanced experience that is  available only at the live event,” he points out. “We expect that Action Audio Apps’ unique ability to put the audience on the field and behind the scenes will enhance the customer experience from everywhere in the venue. By providing an explanation of the rules, interviews with players, and live on-field audio, we engender a deeper involvement between the fan, player, and event. Ultimately, Action Audio App’s will change the way live events are experienced.”