Business, DirecTV brings crime data to satellite TV customers

Baltimore-based already uses the Web to deliver up-to-the-minute crime maps for communities across the United States. The company's next medium? Satellite television.

The startup company said this week that it struck a deal with DirecTV to feature a SpotCrime application that the satellite service's customers can access now through their television sets.

SpotCrime is one of a handful of companies in the United States that makes crime data available for free on Web-based maps. Many municipalities have put crime data online, making it easier for SpotCrime and other companies to use the information to build interactive Web sites.

Colin Drane, SpotCrime's founder and president, said the deal with DirecTV will will introduce the company's content to viewers in 9 million homes. Customers will be able to customize a SpotCrime application on their television which enables them to view crime data in a table or map based on zip codes they enter. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"We just lucked into it," Drane said of the DirectTV arrangement. "We reached out to them, they liked what we have and we were able to get it up and running pretty quickly."

The three-year-old company has a two-prong business model, deriving revenue from advertising and subscriptions from other media companies that feature SpotCrime content on their own Web sites, according to Drane.

The company's Web site enables people to receive customized alerts of crime reports in their neighborhoods. It also offers a premium version of an iPhone application through Apple's App Store that sells for $2.99, and a free version with fewer features.

SpotCrime has struck deals with several television station companies across the country, including Tribune Co., which owns The Baltimore Sun, to feature its crime content, Drane said. The company has five employees and is based in the Emerging Technology Center – a startup incubator – in Baltimore's Canton neighborhood.