US sports media investor, Dunedin's ARL move on Virtual Spectator

The ownership of the company behind the locally-developed Internet sports animation technology Virtual Spectator has been tweaked again.

The ownership of the company behind the locally-developed Internet sports animation technology Virtual Spectator has been tweaked again.

New IT Capital director Jay Snider announced yesterday that his "venture capital firm and sports media specialist", Snider Capital, would take 15% of Virtual Spectator Limited. IT Capital has added to its initial investment in January to take its stake to 19%. Snider and IT Capital managing director Keith Philips will join the Virtual Spectator board. The new cash amounts to$5 million.

But the most important development for Virtual Spectator's long-term prospects is the announcement that Dunedin's Animation Research (ARL) has agreed to roll its digital sports interests into Virtual Spectator - bringing its stake up to 27%, the largest single holding in the company.

ARL's work in real-time 3D graphics is the real basis of Virtual Spectator. While the product is currently associated with the America's Cup competition, ARL has been working for several years on versions for coverage of sports such as motor racing, golf and horse racing - which Snider sees as its future.

"I have been looking for some time at a number of evolving media technologies in sport," Snider said yesterday. "We were introduced to Virtual Spectator through our involvement with IT Capital, and we immediately recognised its huge potential in a range of international sports. As a true pioneer in the live coverage of sporting events over the Internet in non-video format, Virtual Spectator is the best I have seen anywhere in the world."

The holdings announced yesterday reduced the stake of Virtual Spectator chairman Lindsay Ferguson, who put in $1.5 million last month, from 50% to 17%. Terabyte Interactive's Craig Meek owns 7%.

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