How a former NFL linebacker and his entrepreneur partner are revolutionizing live video
When watching sports in 2020, audiences are treated to super slow-motion replays, in-game audio and dozens of camera angles of the action. So why can’t we see from the perspective of an athlete? That’s the problem former NFL linebacker Dhani Jones sought to solve after he ended his career with the Cincinnati Bengals. In his quest to develop the tech, Jones met with experienced developer Chris McLennan, who was one of the few willing to tackle the challenge. The two shared the same vision, and ActionStreamer was born. Now the company is changing how we see the game and realizing that their tech isn’t just about sports.
“ActionStreamer is an end-to-end platform for wireless and wearable media streaming devices,” said McLennan, co-founder and CTO of the company. “We have multiple implementations of our technology, but the most visible one is a camera and helmet, which is a great use case of our tech. We can stream video from the helmet itself, which lets someone see from the perspective of the person wearing the technology. Although our technology is primarily implemented in sports wearables, we’re not an action camera company and we’re certainly not a sports equipment manufacturer, we’re actually a platform for streaming video.”
But ActionStreamer isn’t just stopping at sports. With such an in-demand product being seen by so many, professional sports organizations can take years to implement products like ActionStreamer’s. And while leagues around the world adjusted to COVID, McLennan and his team have found applications for their streaming technology that extend far beyond the sports world.
“Initially, Action Streamer really focused on working with the largest sports leagues — organizations like MLB, the NFL, the PGA tour, the NHL — and their media partners like Fox Sports, ESPN, NBC, CBS,” he said. “The next step for us is to take our technology and use it to make the world a better place by putting it on our first responders in the fire and medical fields and also folks that have to go into dangerous situations for maintaining equipment or search and rescue,” he said. “We’re really excited to have been born in sports and have really gotten our tech developed there, but what comes next for us is to push it out into the mainstream for these very impactful purposes.”
Achieving ActionStreamer’s goals is much more complicated than simply placing a camera into a helmet. The real challenge is delivering the media from that helmet (or other wearable product) to a central source that can be distributed to viewers at home. It’s the reason the technology hasn’t already been implemented, and the reason ActionStreamer’s functionality is so groundbreaking.
“We create a closed-loop system that’s a very different and disruptive approach to wireless transmission, and it’s why we’re working with some of the biggest media partners and leagues in the world,” McLennan said. “The, ‘So what?’ of ActionStreamer is that we’re getting fans closer to the action. These are events that people invest a huge amount of time and energy into, and we’re giving them perspectives that they’ve never seen before. It’s great that folks can really connect with the sport and these events and get really as close as they can.”
When Jones retired from the Bengals and set to work on the idea for ActionStreamer, Cincinnati already made sense as a home to develop the product. But when McLennan joined the team, the southwest Ohio roots were doubled. McLennan has started multiple businesses in the Cincinnati area and has been involved with CincyTech and other entrepreneurial organizations in the area like the HCDC, where ActionStreamer is based. He said founding ActionStreamer in Cincinnati was not only a personal fit, but a professional one.
“I was born and raised in Cincinnati and everything I know and love is here,” he said. “When I started my last company, we went and pitched to CincyTech, who understood what we were doing and funded the company, allowing us to build that technology here in Cincinnati. So when it came time to do ActionStreamer, we went back to CincyTech and again, they understood the opportunity and took a risk with us to fund the company. Cincinnati has been a great place to start a business. We have great local universities and it’s easy to live here. It’s a great place to start a tech company right now.”