Venture Capital Deal Buzz: SportsMEDIA Technology Corporation

Erin Griffith, Contributing Editor

As Super Bowl XLV approaches, news coverage of the event tends to focus on the ads, parties, halftime performances, and, oh yeah, the game. Most of these topics do not in any way involve venture capital.

However, behind one especially American aspect of the Super Bowl's all-important broadcast lie a few growth equity dollars. Providing those ever-so-dramatic, oft-overblown sports graphics is investor-backed SportsMEDIA Technology Corporation. The Durham, North Carolina-based company provides flashy software, production tools, graphics and stats to American sports programming, including, you guessed it, the Super Bowl. So on February 6, when you gaze upon that yellow first down line--you know, the one people actually at the Super Bowl can't see?--thank SportsMEDIA Technology and its growth equity backers.

The notable part of SportsMEDIA Technology's story is that the company has been jazzing up sports TV since Super Bowl XXII (that's 1988). Pretty old to be called a startup. What's more is the company only took on outside investment for the first time last year.

In September 2010, more than 20 years after its founding, SportsMEDIA Technology secured an investment from Vicente Capital Partners, a Los Angeles-based venture and equity investment firm. Vicente Capital plunked down $12.5 million from its $165 million growth equity fund in what the VC Experts Valuation & Deal Term Database identifies as Series A Preferred stock.

SportsMEDIA Technology has been profitable and growing since its inception, CEO Gerard Hall said in a press release. The company got its start providing wireless data delivery to the PGA Tournament. Now SportsMEDIA Technology's products are used by almost all the major networks, running the gamut sporting events.

So why solicit outside investment for the first time in 2010?

Quite simply, the company wanted to ramp up its R&D. In the last decade, TV sports coverage has evolved way, way past a simple timers and scoreboards. Now viewers are bombarded with instant stats in mind-blowing depth (which, does anyone else feel bloated from sports information overload?). Virtual replays look like video games. Sports anchors can track a ball leaving an athletes hand. And, you know, the first down line thing. Its all lightning fast and incredibly precise. Clearly, the innovation behind sporting event broadcasts moves quickly. SportsMEDIA Technology needed capital to stay on top of the game.

Further, the investment also allows SportsMEDIA Technology to migrate its products into a next generation platform and introduce its offerings to new markets. Those new markets include the real world. With giant, high-def TVs, incredible stats, and flashy presentation, one could argue a TV broadcast trumps an in-the-flesh stadium experience. But for SportsMEDIA Technology, that's an opportunity. The company's graphics and stats are now available for stadium Jumbo-Trons, as well. The new Dallas Cowboys stadium, for example, has a contract with SportsMEDIA Technology. Even though the company was founded 20 years ago, its innovation, it seems, hasn't even reached halftime.

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