A few years ago personal pagers—a.k.a. beepers—were worn almost exclusively by physicians, but these days the units dangle from the belts of everyone from systems engineers to actors to bicycle messengers. Add sports fans to that list now that The Sports Page is available. The Sports Page is a sports-information service that provides its subscribers with up-to-the-minute scores, news of sports-related injuries, weather conditions at game sites, race results and—no surprise—point spreads.
The Sports Page is the brainchild of Bill Nelson, who developed it with the help of fellow Las Vegas entrepreneur Jack Newton and computer salesman Mark Gintis. They all wanted a piece of the score-phone action. By charging up to $2.00 a call, score phones were raking in money. But, says Nelson, "It's a really inefficient way to get scores," adding that along with paying for the call, the caller must wait for the result he wants and sometimes endure advertisements.
Nelson came up with an alternative. "We had a computer with the ability to dial phone numbers, and a friend in Pittsburgh said, 'Hey, have your computer call me with the scores,' " Nelson recalls. An idea flashed in his brain: Instead of people going to get the scores, why not bring the scores to the people?
After waiting a year and a half for further development in beeper technology, Nelson launched Beeper Plus, the parent company of The Sports Page. The first Sports Page office opened in March 1987 in West Corina, Calif. Within two months it had sold 300 units. "We expected to sell 500 in the first year" says Kevin Kohler, the Southern California distributor.
The Sports Page system employs the same technology as the personal pager. About the size of a pack of cigarettes, the Motorola-made unit features an LCD screen with room for two lines of text. The Sports Page's computers gather and sort information from three sports wire services, transmit that data to satellites and then on to paging frequencies in cities across the country. The beeper receives the information and stores it in its memory, which consists of about seven files or "mailboxes." The beepers can store 80 scores at a time.
Pressing the Read button calls up the names of the mailboxes, such as "Partial Scores," "Finals" and "Today's Schedule." When the button is pressed a second time, the unit scrolls through the information in the selected file. Sports Page subscribers can stop the scrolling by pressing the HOLD button.
The beeper receives updates every five minutes, and all the events that are brought up to date over that span are placed in the "Ticker" mailbox, a sort of hot line. If the score doesn't change in five minutes, the game will move to the "Partial Scores" mailbox, where it will stay until the end of the game or until the score changes again.
The beeper only sounds when an event is in progress or when new information comes through. The most the beeper will sound is 12 times an hour, or with every five-minute update. The signaling function can also be turned off.
Developed in Las Vegas and containing such information as betting lines, horse racing scratches, injury reports and over/under figures, Sports Page is tailor-made for the bettor. It covers college and pro football and basketball, baseball, hockey and horse racing but doesn't give, say, golf and Olympic results. And the cost may frighten off the sports fan who just wants the latest gadget. The beeper runs $300 to $360, plus a monthly subscription fee of $40 to $65. But if you care only about baseball, for example, you can have the service stopped for the winter and use the unit just as a pager. Finally, while the beeper is portable, the service isn't. Subscribers can use The Sports Page only within the area in which their franchise operates. Sports Page is now available in 14 regions around the country, with 10 more scheduled to open by June.
Beep. Partial Score LSU 45, Fla. 42...Hialeah track conditions fast....