How Sports Technology Titan SMT Acquiring Rival Sportvision Will Change The Graphics Game

In a mammoth deal, TV graphics powerhouse SMT (formerly known as SportsMEDIA Technology) has acquired its main competitor, Sportvision. For 18 years, the two companies have competed to provide cutting edge digital graphics and enhancements for live sporting events. This acquisition will rebrand Sportvision under the SMT banner, which will allow SMT to expand its clientele and gain access to Sportvision’s latest innovations.

“SMT’s acquisition of Sportvision is a watershed moment for us,” SMT CEO and founder Gerard Hall said in a statement. “Although we have been marketplace competitors for many years, SMT has always had a tremendous respect for the applied science, the cutting-edge technology, and the creative innovation that runs through the DNA of the Sportvision team. While other companies claim to have had a game-changing impact on how sports are presented, Sportvision enjoys an unparalleled and industrywide reputation for delivering actual game-changing solutions.”

Sportvision, which was founded in 1998 and has over 70 patents, is known for popular on-screen graphics like the yellow “1st & Ten” line in football, the “PITCHf/x” virtual strike zone in baseball, and the “RACEf/x” pointer system in NASCAR. By adding these innovations to its arsenal, SMT will be able to improve its products while also taking advantage of Sportvision’s existing partnerships. “They have client relationships and sports league relationships that are unique to them,” Hall told Jacksonville Business Journal.

The deal was finalized Oct. 4, and it gives SMT a 100 percent ownership interest in Sportvision. Hall, who founded SMT in 1988, will remain CEO of the expanded company. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but SMT used a minority round investment from Eldridge Industries, Vicente Capital Partners, and Hall himself to help fund the acquisition. The investment amounted to $13.8 million, according to Triangle Business Journal, but Hall says the value of the investment is not reflective of the purchase price. Whatever the price, both sides seem to be happy with the deal.

“I am pleased that Sportvision has found a great acquirer in SMT. They are a leader in the sports-technology industry, and they have been very successful across many decades in the business,” Sportvision CEO Hank Adams said in a statement. “Sportvision has a terrific collection of existing products and innovative technologies under development. Combining these with SMT’s capabilities will provide fans, teams, and media companies with exceptional insights and value.”

One of the most significant technological gains in the deal is Sportvision’s state-of-the-art player tracking system, which was recently on display during the World Cup of Hockey last month. The World Cup was seen as an experiment for the new technology, but the potential for its use in sports and analytics is huge.

“We see the market for tracking objects in space only getting bigger, and we now have the best technology in the world to do that,” Hall told Sports Video Group. “From Sportvision’s image-tracking engine, which they have heavily invested in, to the infrared tracking technology that Sportvision just deployed at the World Cup of Hockey to our ultra-wide-band and RFID-chip tracking and our image-based tracking, we feel like we have created a truly best-of-breed [offering] under the SMT umbrella.”

This isn’t the first game-changing acquisition that SMT has made. In 2012, the Durham, N.C.-based company acquired Information and Display Systems, LLC (also known as IDS), a Jacksonville, Fla.-based company that was well-known for its scoring and results systems used in tennis. The IDS acquisition doubled the size of SMT, and the company kept the Jacksonville office open, rebranding it as the events side of the business. The Jacksonville office has about 170 employees, while the Durham office has 120.

With the acquisition of the Chicago-based Sportvision, SMT’s total employee count is now at 370.

SMT will close the Chicago office, but Sportvision’s technology facility in Fremont, Calif. will remain open.

“It’s no surprise that Sportvision’s technology team is a big part of the acquisition,” Hall said. “The Fremont, CA, office will stay business as usual. The biggest thing is to keep our clients happy, so we are going to make sure the Fremont office stays as efficient and successful as possible.”

Efficiency is paramount when it comes to developing new sports technology, and SMT is ensuring its own success by adding Sportvision’s knowledge and resources. Before any of these deals, SMT was well-known for creating the first real-time scoring system that could interface with television. But with the acquisition of IDS and now Sportvision, SMT is almost guaranteed be on the forefront of live TV graphics and data integration in virtually every major sport for the foreseeable future.

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