NAB 2013: Super Session on Fan Experience Gets Virtual Tour of Six Venues

Sports venues have come a long way since the days of cookie-cutter architecture and postage-stamp–size screens. Today’s venues must provide a vibrant, dynamic fan experience to entice fans away from their television screens and into stadium seats.

At “The Evolution of Spectator Sports” Super Session, produced by SVG for the NAB Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, attendees were treated to virtual visits to six venues that are leading the charge in enhancing the fan experience: Marlins Park, MetLife Stadium, Barclays Center, Amway Center, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and Dodger Stadium.

Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark and Miami Marlins President David Samson joined the conversation in exclusive one-on-ones, discussing their respective strategies for increasing fan engagement and improving the experience for every person who passes through the turnstiles.

“We’ve come to Brooklyn to a building that has the latest and greatest technology and fan-friendly offerings,” said Yormark. “From the seating to the LED to the visual representation to the culinary experience and to the technology, I think we’ve raised the bar for our fans. Those that come here from New Jersey see a total difference in the overall fan engagement experience, and, for those who are experiencing it for the first time, they keep coming back.”

Samson, joining the conversation from Marlins Park during his team’s home opener, echoed the need to create a dynamic fan experience that encourages fans to return to the stadium. Nowadays, that fan experience is rooted in ever evolving technology.

“We started putting the ballpark together from scratch, realizing that, as soon as it opens, the technology may already be old, so we had to be prepared for the ever changing landscape,” said Samson. “That’s why partners like Avid and others make it so we can adjust every single game, which we’ve done since this park opened.”

Yormark and Samson participated in the conversation thanks to Level 3 Vyvx VenueNet+ Services, which delivered a 150-Mbps JPEG 2000 encoded stream from Barclays Center and Marlins Park, respectively, as well as from MetLife Stadium, Amway Center, and Bankers Life Fieldhouse, to the Las Vegas Convention Center. Dodger Stadium provided an image reel of its recently completed renovations.

In addition to the live look-ins, four industry veterans closely involved with the six participating venues joined SVG Editorial Director Ken Kerschbaumer in a panel discussion of the fan experience.

With Bankers Life Fieldhouse involved, the conversation naturally covered the trend towards massive video boards. Cowboys Stadium — home of the original massive video board — continues to elicit mixed reactions but has largely proved successful.

Said WJHW VP Chris Williams, “The goal was for the spectator in the last row of the stadium to have an experience that was better than his living room, and he does.”

The panel also discussed how video might be used in different ways. For Don Sperling, VP/executive producer of Giants Entertainment, video is essential to branding MetLife Stadium, home to the New York Giants and Jets.

 “Video technology really becomes part of the scenery in the sense that this is a gray stadium; it’s a bland-looking stadium purposefully to stay neutral,” said Sperling. “There’s a big transformation that goes on between Jets and Giants games: we turn it blue, we turn it green, not only the team on the field but video-wise. We brand with our sponsors, with our partners, and we put a lot into video technology and a lot into all the distribution channels.”

At Barclays Center, video serves as a way of engaging fans from the moment they step out of the subway.

“We have something called street-to-seat,” explained Chip Foley, director of building technologies, Forest City Ratner, which developed Barclays Center. “Barclays Center is in downtown Brooklyn. There’s 12 subway lines, Long Island Rail Road goes right by. People come out, and the first thing they see is the oculus, our main marquee. One of the most unique things is they can also see right into the bowl; they can actually see the scoreboard, so the fans standing outside on the plaza can see the score of the game.”

Inside Barclays Center, the video-driven fan experience continues: the recently unveiled Barclays Center app provides multicast streaming of multiple video angles, powered by Cisco Sports & Entertainment. Barclays Center boasts a robust WiFi network and distributed antenna system that keeps fans connected while in the venue. The panelists agreed that WiFi and DAS are critical to the in-venue fan experience.

“WiFi and DAS is not an amenity. It is a requirement. You cannot bring a fan to a game and have them [decide that] they may not want to attend that game or leave early because they think they may be missing a phone call or they’re not connected,” says Bob Jordan, SVP, Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment. “Multicast in video seems to be the holy grail right now. That is another medium in engaging with your fans … We create shows bigger and bigger; now we have to create shows smaller and smaller.”

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