Madison native Keith Jasper is founder and president of Vsporto, a start-up company focusing on team-specific, 24-hour online sports radio stations. Inspired by companies like Pandora, Vsporto launched in September 2011 and currently provides mobile apps for Bulldog Sports Radio and Rebel Sports Radio, which cover Mississippi State and Ole Miss football, respectively. Jasper got his start in online sports coverage when he developed a Buffalo Bills fan site when he was 14 that peaked at 20,000 hits daily. Vsporto now has 30 employees and a goal of starting an online radio station for virtually every college and professional sports team in the nation.
Q — How did you get interested in technology?
A — I started off building websites as a kid. My family got our first computer when I was in seventh grade, and I was just fascinated with it. I started tinkering around with it. I found online some tutorials on building websites and eventually, I just … actually after I went to my first Buffalo Bills game, I told my step dad at the time, “I’m going to build a Bills site.” So I hammered away on building one for like three months … about two years ago I started teaching myself how to build iPhone apps.
Q — Who are some of the online sports personalities who contribute to your shows now?
A — Reggie Hicks, a former Ole Miss tight end, is doing a show with us, and Kentrell Lockett just started. We’re working on a few others. I can’t say names yet. We’re working on getting some more Mississippi State players.
Reggie Kelly, an NFL tight end who played for the Atlanta Falcons, has a show about tailgaiting for Bulldog Sports Radio. He has his own food product line.
Q — Are you loyal to certain teams? You studied at Mississippi State.
A — I grew up, honestly, just liking sports. I’ve always liked sports. Half of my family is Mississippi State fans, and the other half is Ole Miss fans. So every time we get together, it literally is this back-and-forth thing. It’s definitely funny to watch.
Q — What were you doing before you started Vsporto?
A — I was part owner of the Smoothie King in Madison. Sports and media and technology have always been my passion.
Q — Revenue and business plan?
A — Our revenue model is strictly through advertising. If you download an app, as soon as you open it up there’s a registration page that pops up. You can skip that or fill it in. If you fill it in, there’s a name, address and zipcode. We can target banner ads within that app to people with certain zipcodes and that sort of thing. I think that’s pretty effective with businesses because it helps them get more bang for their buck with advertising. We’ve talked about adding on a lot of new features and doing some subscription-based stuff. With the Internet, I’ve always stressed the point of being free.
Q — Number of users?
A — We’ve got over 10,000 registered users. Downloads — I haven’t checked lately, but it’s more than 10,000. We had projected 300. We’ve been up for three months, roughly.
Q — Challenges?
A — The biggest thing for us is getting people from Mississippi to understand Internet radio and how it’s a growing radio form and how fast it’s growing. Pandora is growing so fast they really can’t sell enough ads to keep up with their rate of growth. I think that’s one of our challenges: Helping people in Mississippi see that Internet radio is becoming more mainstream. I can listen to (music through my smart phone) in my car, not only through an adapter, but a lot of the newer cars have some sort of physical adapter. Others have Blue Tooth capability where you can sync it up that way. A lot of the newer cars have in-dash displays, where you can connect it through a wi-fi spot.
Q — Do other networks have 24/7 Internet radio sports station?
A — Not really. We’re the first network of multiple stations. I know we’re the first 24-hour Mississippi State sports radio channel. There was a station in Oxford — they had “24/7.” We market ourselves as true 24/7 coverage. For example, with our Ole Miss channel, we don’t dive off the topic of Ole Miss. It’s coverage of Ole Miss. We don’t have a show talking about other teams.
Q — Goals for expansion?
A — Our next goal is to roll out channels — we want to look at everything now on a state-by-state basis. So going forward our next new few channels are going to be Alabama and Auburn, and our goal is to release those simultaneously. Because I think with some fan bases, if they see another school has one within their state, they may get a little agitated. We’d like to do a roll out for the entire SEC. Eventually, for me, my number is 211 channels — and that would be all NCAA teams, all NFL, NBA.
With the Bills, they’re NFL. I’ve got more contacts with the NFL than I do with college sports. I’m really more of an NFL fan. That’s where I’d like to take it.
Q — Do you ever worry you won’t be able to get enough content for a 24/7 station?
A — It did at first, but look at, for example, CNN. When CNN launched, people were saying, “There’s no way you can do a 24-hour channel just on news. News is like 30 minutes.” Now you have how many 24-hour news channels? If you look at their lineup during a normal day, they have like 10 or 12 hours of new news content, and then it’s mostly replays. We kind of follow the same model. We knew we weren’t going to get 10 to 12 hours of new content every day, but we could try to set short-term goals and build from that.
MORE ON JASPER:
Favorite Movie: Apollo 13
Favorite Restaurant: Frisco Deli in Madison
Favorite Book: “Touching the Void” by Joe Simpson
—Interviewed by Amy McCullough
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