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Virtual Spectator finds life is good after the cup

By Aimee McClinchy

Friday 31st March 2000

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Craig Meek SAILS UP: Terrabyte's Craig Meek
Sports viewing software company Virtual Spectator is finalising a second round of capital raising in the US as it gears up with deals in other sports and investigates other wireless applications.

The graphic and global positioning system software, which gained exposure through the America's Cup, is being used in the Steinlager Cup and Swedish Matches with estimates it could be involved with up to 20 sailing races a year, executive director Craig Meek said.

The company, with technology developed from joint efforts of Dunedin-based Animation Research and Auckland's Terabyte, has expanded and developed its product offering for sailing since the end of the America's Cup, Mr Meek said.

Developments included sponsorship logos being visible on the sails of the boat graphics.

Virtual Spectator had also negotiated with the race committee to have its transmission gear onboard each boat in the Swedish Matches giving it much greater control over the information collected.

More land information showing the geographical layout of each harbour was also being developed and an online store would be set up to sell sponsors' goods.

The sailing software was being translated into Italian and Spanish because of the uptake during the cup in those markets, he said, with the company considering franchising the business.

In February, Virtual Spectator had scored a $5 million investment from US sports broadcast venture capitalists Snider Capital and IT Capital. The current second round of capital raising would be re-invested in expanding offshore and further research and development into at least two other sports, Mr Meek said.

One of those was golf, where applications were being developed, and the other involves Formula One racing.

The ultimate aim is to make a pay-per-view channel, whether broadcasting-based or internet-based, with a myriad of sports available.

Virtual Spectator is working on wireless application protocol (WAP)- enabled products with partners including Ericsson. Customers would be able to watch the race on their WAP phones, he said.

Long-term plans for the company include a Nasdaq listing, Mr Meek said. But he was first concentrating on the commercial realities facing the company, and on creating a strong, viable base of sports products.

He said he did not want Virtual Spectator to speed ahead and get caught in the dot.com hype. "I believe the bubble will not burst but 'recorrect' and we have to have a firm base."

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