Streaming Sound Makes Waves in Sports Bars

Allowing guests to listen to nearby TVs keeps them in their seats, and raises check averages.
Allowing guests to listen to nearby TVs keeps them in their seats, and raises check averages. thinkstock

Roger Sachs and his three Las Vegas Steiner’s Pub locations are among the full-service restaurants that can’t wait for Sundays in the fall to arrive. Football signals big business for the Nevada-style pub, known for its video poker and abundant bar program, and Sachs responds with 15 to 17 TVs in each venue, as well as a lively atmosphere that lures diners from the couch to the corner booth. But keeping guests entertained well past the opening whistle is another issue entirely.

“There may be a Sunday where somebody comes in to eat and their game might be on in the background and they’re not able to listen to what’s happening,” Sachs says. “So they’re like, ‘I’m going to go home and watch it where I can listen to it as well.’”

To keep guests from taking their wallets back to the living room, Sachs linked up with hearTV, a company that connects mobile devices to nearby TVs. After downloading an app, a diner can pop in a pair of headphones and stream the sound in real time. “Without a doubt, they’ll eat more food and drink more beers,” Sachs says.

HearTV was founded in 2011 by George Dennis, the visionary behind TV Ears, a popular wireless audio listening device that’s been around since 1998. The rise of smart phones inspired Dennis to bring the concept into hospitality venues. Initially, the process was so tumultuous that he canned the entire operation and gave up. 

“I realized that I couldn’t figure this out,” he explains. “But about six months later, phones got a little bit stronger and smarter.”

Sachs was one of the first operators to sign on. He’s seen the hardware and payment options simplify over the years. While the first model was bulky and the fees monthly, the current setup is sleek and budget-friendly. Operators only need to purchase one unit per audio feed, which can service multiple TVs, at a price of $299 ($249 if ordering five or more). Sachs says one of his hearTV devices works for eight TVs. At all times, he makes sure every TV is synced up and ready to connect. 

“In hospitality, you always want to say yes to your customers,” Dennis says. “And all throughout the country people are saying, ‘Can I hear that game?’ And the owners and servers are saying, ‘No,’ or they’re scrambling around. It’s typically a yes now.”

Sachs sums it up nicely, suggesting the streaming sound will keep everyone happy, “and more than likely, they’ll come back time and again.”

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