Where it's based: Nashville, Tenn.
When it was founded: 2014
Why it's Fierce: Calling Rabble.TV a "community-driven social audio app" is both a bit confusing and downplays the potential of this application, which allows sports fans to become sports announcers, at least to the Rabble.TV audience.
Rabble.TV's service operates in tandem with linear TV or OTT live streams and allows the user to broadcast his or her voice to listeners. It's similar to Twitch, the massively popular live-streaming gaming site, which allows the gameplayer to give a rundown of what he or she is about to do in a game, as well as interact directly with viewers via the chat screen.
Rabble.TV breaks out this highlight and makes it possible to do live commentary on just about anything--although, as co-founder Glenn Hopper points out, its primary niche is sports. "Technically you could do (a broadcast) about anything but we try to keep everyone in that world where we talk about sports or TV. … We're really trying to own that niche of communicating around live events," Hopper told FierceOnlineVideo.
"There's a groundswell of sports fans who are tired of national sportscasters spouting clichés as they emotionlessly call games that matter to us," co-founder Ryan Tyrrell told Forbes in a recent profile. The Rabble.TV app (and desktop version) provides a soapbox of sorts for not just people doing voiceovers but listeners chiming in with their own opinions.
Rabble.TV had its genesis in a shared childhood experience.
"Even as kids, (Tyrrell and I) both had similar stories growing up where our dads would turn down the national announcers and--in his case it was University of Tennessee sports and for mine it was University of Memphis basketball--where the national announcers just don't know your team, and there would be a great radio personality who actually did know the team and could call it with passion--so both of us, our dads would drag the radio into the living room, turn the volume down on the TV set, and listen to the radio announcer calling the game," Hopper said.
A few websites have done audio voiceovers for the past several years: sites like Rifftrax and MST3K have been packaging and selling audio voiceovers for movies they're riffing on, for example. But Rabble.TV focuses more on the ongoing democratization of content, allowing users to create the audio using a simple, free package.
Rabble.TV's social aspect adds another dimension to the service. Users of its public beta "love they can do this in a targeted way," Hopper said. "When you're using another platform people can't find your stream. … You just get tossed out into the ocean of content … with nothing to tie it to, it's harder to be found."
Although some have raised questions about the legality of Rabble.TV's service, and whether it violates TV broadcasting copyrights, Hopper said the issue isn't really a concern. "In the United States, unscripted events--such as basketball, football, soccer and hockey games--are not subject to copyright protection and so people are free to comment on them, write about them, etc.," he said. Because the site prohibits recording of audio coming from a sports broadcast and doesn't allow users to transmit video--unlike the trouble Meerkat and Periscope have run into with users retransmitting sporting events like the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout--copyright violations are not an issue, he said.
The company's early growth has been entirely organic, with the founders largely funding it themselves as they developed the platform and technical components. Hopper said Rabble.TV will be entirely ad-supported, so that users can access the service without a cost barrier.
What's next: Rabble.TV is currently in live beta, with its iOS app set to "listen-only." But a full-featured iOS app will launch nearly simultaneously with its soon-to-be-revamped website, Hopper said, with both featuring a slicker interface and improved user experience. An Android app will also launch soon.
Hopper said the company will continue to grow organically, with its focus on acquiring a solid user base first, and then looking at various funding options.