A New Way to Listen to the Hawkeyes

Sept. 18, 2009

Editor’s Note: Almost 2,000 fans of the Hawkeyes have already purchased an LSR. Fans interested in making a purchase on game day should look for the LSR vendors inside the Krause Family Plaza and UI parking lots.

IOWA CITY, Iowa – What do the 70,000 fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes who will descend upon Kinnick Stadium Saturday for the UI’s date with Arizona at 2:30 p.m. Iowa time have in common with more than 35,000 fans of the game of golf who watched Y.E. Yang’s victory over Tiger Woods in mid-August at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine Country Club in Chaska, Minn.?

They can listen to live play-by-play of the game action – without any delay – thanks to a product called, “Live Sports Radio.”

The UI Athletics Department has joined the likes of Big Ten Conference peers Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota in making available for purchase a radio that provides fans in the stands at both home games and away games of the Hawkeyes the opportunity to listen to Gary Dolphin, Ed Podolak and Rob Brooks – the voice of the Hawkeye Radio Network – live and without any delay.

Iowa’s custom-made Live Sports Radios – each featuring a Tigerhawk on the earpiece and a black-and-gold lanyard that hangs comfortably around a fans’ neck – will be available for purchase on game days from vendors that will be going from tailgate to tailgate in UI parking lots. The cost is $20.

Click HERE to visit the official Live Sports Radio world wide web site.

Here’s a little more about this exciting new product, compliments of the Wall Street Journal. The story was written by Dale Buss and first appeared in Aug. 24, 2009 editions of the Journal.


Center stage at last weekend’s PGA Tournament was Y.E. Yang’s victory over Tiger Woods, of course. But TV cameras also regularly caught gallery members sporting what looked like oversize Bluetooth transmitters. More than 35,000 people used these devices, known as Live Sports Radios, to listen to the Sirius XM Radio broadcast of the tourney while enjoying the ¬action in person at Hazeltine Country Club in Chaska, Minn.

You may also have caught Charlize Theron donning a Live Sports Radio at the U.S. Tennis Open tournament last year, or the sportwriter Larry Fitzgerald Sr. wearing one as he watched his son dominate Super Bowl XLIII in February.

This fall, they’ll be joined by fans of the National Football League’s Jacksonville Jaguars and those at both home and away games of 25 major-college football teams.

Live Sports Radio broadcasts are in high fidelity and occur in real time because they come over what is essentially a closed circuit. This eliminates delays in transmitting the -announcer’s call that now stretch up to 20-some seconds depending on the broadcaster.

The idea came from an ¬English rugby fan, Nick Opperman, who hatched his business plan as an MBA project. Deciding that American sports lent themselves to the concept far better than, say, European soccer, he secured a sponsorship by American Express at the U.S. Tennis Open tournament in 2006, and then a test with University of Michigan football the following year. Two years ago, a Troy, Mich.-based private equity group, TMW Enterprises, bought the startup and renamed it Live Sports Radio.

The earpiece lets fans extract more value from their decision to plunk down hundreds or even thousands of dollars to see an event in person—where, arguably, they know less about what’s going on in front of them than if they’d stayed home and watched it all on TV. Avid fans have long brought radios with them to the stadium, of course, but they’ve always faced limitations.

Live Sports Radio broadcasts are in high fidelity and occur in real time because they come over what is essentially a closed circuit. This eliminates delays in transmitting the -announcer’s call that now stretch up to 20-some seconds depending on the broadcaster. And since the device occupies just one aural cavity, wearers can tap into the broadcast while still enjoying in-stadium camaraderie with other fans.

“It’s a fulfilling way to connect with our card members who love tennis,” said Jessica Igoe, director of global sponsorship marketing for American Express, which provides thousands of the radios free to its customers–and many other fans–not only at the U.S. Tennis Open but also at both the men’s PGA and U.S. Open golf tournaments.

So in Flushing, N.Y., where America’s premier tennis event begins again on Aug. 31, radio-bearing members of the crowd will hear the CBS broadcast and chuckle like secret club members at the witticisms of color commentator John -McEnroe, and they’ll benefit from Amex-provided weather and traffic updates. Golf gallery members, who usually are in the dark about what is happening on the course beyond the hole or two they can see, are another natural audience for the devices.

But college-football enthusiasts are expected to be an even better market for Live Sports Radio, which is expanding this year to clusters of teams in major conferences, including the Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10 and Southeastern, after successful tests last year at Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma State and Penn State.

Fan attachment to longtime radio play-by-play announcers, such as the University of Michigan’s mellifluous Frank Beckmann, can be intense. With the radios, traveling fans can enjoy the “home” broadcast of an away game even within the ¬enemy’s stadium. So thousands of passionate students and alumni are happy to purchase the devices, customized with each school’s logos and colors, from sales teams in stadium parking lots, typically for $20 apiece, or two for $30.

About two-thirds of the sales are ¬impulse purchases made on the way into the stadium, though Live Sports Radio sells its ¬devices online and at concession stands as well. Fans can use them all season and, afterward, as a regular FM radio. Live Sports also has introduced a more expensive model that includes the AM band and transmits via ear buds.

More than 15,000 University of Alabama fans bought the earpieces last year, including many in the contingent of about 10,000 who usually travel to the team’s away games, said Tom Brooks, an ¬executive of Crimson Tide Sports Marketing. “It’s becoming another part of fans’ game-day attire,” said Mr. Brooks, whose outfit broadcasts the games as called by the venerable Eli Gold.

Purists may object to Live Sports Radio as akin to luxury boxes, arms on seats, urinals instead of troughs, and other modern stadium accouterments. There’s also competition in the sports-experience enhancement game, from a company called Kangaroo, which provides live TV feeds on a hand-held device. It was also at the PGA Tournament, and it is testing with the ¬Miami Dolphins of the NFL this fall.

Live Sports Radio’s plans, according to its chief executive officer, John Sammut, include a Spanish-language broadcast of next year’s Super Bowl in Miami, more NFL team tests, discussions with Nascar and a foray into what could prove the ultimate market for the devices: Major League ¬Baseball.

Mr. Sammut also is targeting pro basketball and hockey for Live Sports Radio. The live-action fans of those two fast-paced sports already feel intimately connected, but it would be great to see something to keep Jack Nicholson preoccupied at Los Angeles Lakers games.