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February 26, 2016

Connected Stadium – Are we There Yet?

by Bastien Lacheny

Almost everybody in the sport business agrees about the connected stadium and how it can greatly enhance the experience on venue, but how far are we actually from this new era?

A lot was said during the last Super Bowl about Levi’s stadium, one of the most connected venues on the planet, and all the positive features that come along with this connectivity. The majority of the US giant arenas are now providing similar experiences. What about Europe? We’re getting closer, despite some technology and business challenges that will mean us waiting a few more years before the majority of fans truly see these new exciting opportunities materialize out of the US.

Fans can’t wait for it

We are lucky enough to play in one of the rare businesses where engagement is already naturally high, even when money is not involved, so imagining that the public will embrace new in-stadium features quickly is natural, and various surveys on the topic are backing up the theory:

69% of fans agree would significantly improve their experience
73% stated they would watch multi-angle replays on their mobile (Source: EVS)
• In the San Francisco 49ers Levi’s Stadium, a third of the audience is using the stadium app during games

So why are we not seeing that all across Europe already?

Connected stadium-1

A business model to find out

It’s a no-brainer than more and more venues will be connected, offering a large range of features in the coming years, but the reality is that the switch to the connected era doesn’t come cheap.

Organizing a new event can be a big boost for the transition – see France with Euro 2016 – but the huge cost of equipment (whether we talk about 4G/5G or Wi-Fi) have to be amortized by smart business models adapted to each stadium. This will likely be shared between sponsorship, app revenues (additional food & beverages, ticket upgrade, merchandising…) and pure investment.

Not easy to do when your only window to address the users is one home game of 2 hours every 2 weeks or so.

Connected stadium - 2

Which Technology?

So how do you provide a good network to the equivalent of a small city concentrated in such a relatively small and confined structure? Looking at the various conferences on the topic, it’s not clear to me who is winning the battle of connectivity between 4G/5G and Wi-Fi to provide enough bandwidth to support this intensive usage, especially if video consumption is involved.

The latest voices suggest that 4G/5G will put Wi-Fi away, but 5G is years away and High end 4G is at least 4 times more expensive. Also, why would a stadium owner want to invest heavily in a solution where he does not control the network, whereas the operator does?

Connected Stadium_3

Which services?

The sky is almost the limit here, and we already have some really nice examples:

• Silent order of food & beverages, with in-app purchase and alert system when fans can go and collect their order (e.g. Växjö Arena in Sweden)
• Geo localization to give direction to seats, bathrooms, restaurants (e.g. Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco)
• Team news, live game scores and statistics (Barclays Center in New York City)
• E-ticketing and virtual match program
• Gaming (predictor games, Trivia, etc..)
• Social Networks (with tweets displayed on Big screen)
• Merchandising (buy your shirt on the app and pick it up when you leave the stadium or delivered at your seat)

Exciting right? Only some of these will probably make the cut long term, and a key part of success for the stadium owners will be differentiating the “nice to have” and those than truly enhance the fan experience and make the business case solid.

Connected Stadium_4

Future is bright for both fans and business

As I made my point about these challenges and open points on the topic, don’t misunderstand me… it is coming, it’s just not clear at what speed depending on the country or the stadium… and I can’t wait for it, both as a fan with a season ticket and as an actor of the sport business. At deltatre, we’re currently working on an in-stadium app project for one of the largest venues in Europe, while several other discussions are in play.

Live sport on its own brings more engagement than any other content. Well the more you engage your customers, the more loyalty you create, and everybody knows it costs you less to keep a customer than to get a new one. It’s a virtuous circle. Provide great features to your users, create more engagement, collect user data, increase revenue and start it all over again.

We’re in a business which is hard to predict more than a few years in advance, with revolution often around the corner and new opportunities emerging to overtake others that didn’t catch on. I believe the connected stadium is already a reality in the most modern arenas and will come up big as predicted at some point. The exciting thing is, that at the same time, the experience at home could well change drastically too, thanks to technologies such as Oculus Rift Virtual Reality or Hololense Augmented Reality.

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About the author

Bastien Lacheny
Commercial Director (France)

After graduating in business, I started my career working for Eurosport, where I was in charge of the product for the Pan-European Yahoo-Eurosport Websites. I joined deltatre in 2009 to create products for broadcasters starting with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

A key aspect of my role has been to oversee the evolution of deltatre’s cutting edge video product, Diva.

I love sport, practicing Basketball and Snowboard, and I’m a huge football fan and watch a lot of sports on TV or at the venue.