NHL lockout boosting business for B.C. company

Victoria's SendtoNews inks multi-year sports video deal with American Hockey League as demand for broadcast-quality content from other leagues grows

SendtoNews CEO Greg Bobolo: “between 50 and 60 different players from the NHL are playing in [the American Hockey League]. It's a huge attraction”

While the National Hockey League's (NHL) immediate future remains unclear, a Victoria cloud-based video company is scoring other hockey business.

SendtoNews, which distributes broadcast-quality news and sports video to media outlets, announced a multi-year deal with the American Hockey League (AHL) on November 8 to send nightly game highlights around North America and elsewhere in the hockey world.

The AHL is the 30-team minor professional league that's one step below the NHL.

SendtoNews client Abbotsford Heat is the only Canadian team west of Toronto.

The Calgary Flames affiliate is enjoying an average 900-fans-per-game attendance rise to 4,452, thanks to greater media attention after the NHL locked out players in September for the second time in eight years.

"Between 50 and 60 different players from the NHL are playing in that league," said SendtoNews CEO Greg Bobolo. "It's a huge attraction."

The AHL alliance is the latest in a burgeoning SendtoNews list of clients that's beginning to read like a who's who of the sports business, including Major League Soccer and the PGA.

"We're also looking at the KHL (Russian first division), another 30 or so players from the NHL," Bobolo said.

"We sat down and met with those guys in Europe."

That's not to say that Bobolo isn't eager for an end to the lockout that threatens to cancel the entire NHL season.

SendtoNews has what Bobolo says is an "eight-figure" agreement to distribute NHL game highlights, mainly to newspaper websites and other digital outlets that weren't previously allowed to carry them.

"It was substantial for us, in terms of revenue," he said. "But it's not like it's gone away; it's just delayed while the players are in negotiations.

"It's a big win for the newspaper dot-coms to get that content, further hopefully adding to their digital subscriptions. We've got the newspaper dot-coms, the broadcast individuals, they're all struggling from shrinking budgets and shrinking resources, so there's a desperate need for all types of content. The highlights are what consumers want online."

SendtoNews was founded in 2009 by veteran TV sportscaster Keith Wells, who remains vice-president of content and innovation.

As well as its hockey business, SendtoNews is also in various stages of affiliations with the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.

Its presence at the BC International Media Centre during the 2010 Winter Olympics allowed it to service various international clients that were not Games rights-holders.

SendtoNews competes in a global market with the U.K. sports video on demand specialist Perform Group and the video arm of the Associated Press wire service.

Bobolo said some broadcasters are fine with receiving B-roll, while those online without the production wherewithal want a packaged product, complete with voice-overs and graphics.

In September, SendtoNews got $3 million in seed funding to expand its network.

The company also has offices in Vancouver, Toronto, New York and San Francisco and uses Amazon.com to host its content.

The funding was arranged by RevenueWire Inc., which invested $1 million in SendtoNews in 2011.

In October, SendtoNews hired former CAI Canada executive Sean Coutts as its chief operating officer.

Bobolo became involved with the company as a strategic adviser in early 2011 and became the full-time president by mid-year.

The ex-vice-president of sales and marketing at Seeker Solution was formerly with the Mergis Group and Bobolo Publications Group and Dream House Publications.

BMackin@biv.com twitter.com/bobmackin

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