SBJ/February 11-17, 2013/Facilities

Cisco’s StadiumVision Mobile debuts in Brooklyn

Aiming to improve the in-venue experience for fans, Cisco has introduced technology that provides exclusive video feeds via mobile devices at live events.

StadiumVision Mobile, an extension of Cisco’s digital concourse display system, was unveiled earlier this month at Barclays Center, with the system integrated into the arena’s free mobile application. Sporting Kansas City and Real Madrid are expected to activate the same technology later this year through mobile apps at their venues.

Cisco hopes its ability to deliver high-quality live video, game replays, and commerce opportunities to smartphones and tablets will help teams and venues add value to what they’re already offering to fans.

“This validates a lot of the ‘competing with the couch’ issues and challenges that we have been talking about for some time,” said Dave Holland, Cisco Sports & Entertainment’s general manager and senior vice president. “It creates the portal by which owners of teams can actually know who’s in their venue, and have a means by which they can communicate and let [fans] opt-in for services or maybe even transact business.”

Fans using apps powered by Cisco’s StadiumVision Mobile will get access to exclusive video. The Brooklyn Nets have been testing the system at Barclays Center.
For both Barclays Center and Sporting Kansas City, the use of StadiumVision Mobile could extend beyond live game events to concerts and other special events, pending approval from the participating artists and event promoters.

At Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, the system allows fans to get exclusive feeds from Cisco cameras placed throughout the building, with one feed coming from the YES Network, the Nets’ broadcast partner. That channel does not carry the broadcast feed’s commercials. In addition, small wireless cameras have been placed in select locations — the scorer’s table, the players’ bench and a basket stanchion — to give an insider’s view.

Over the next few weeks, cameras also could be set up in premium spaces for behind-the-ropes feeds from the Calvin Klein Courtside Club or the Nets’ practice court.

“The idea is to provide a different experience every time you load the application,” said Chip Foley, director of building technology for Forest City Ratner Cos., the developer of Barclays Center.

But the system is only as good as fans’ ability to access the content. Barclays Center spent an undisclosed amount to outfit its building to meet the needs of StadiumVision Mobile.

The building opened in September after Cisco installed 275 Wi-Fi access points, 100 in the seating bowl alone, to support fans simultaneously connecting to the application to watch live video.

The Barclays Center application, which can be viewed on iPhones and Android devices and most tablets, debuted Feb. 1 after arena officials spent the last three months testing the live-video component, Foley said. To access the live video, fans enter the facility and connect to the building’s Wi-Fi system, where they can download the free arena application.

The app’s “watch” icon opens the various camera views.

Arena officials estimated usage in the hundreds for the first two home games since the technology was activated. Foley said the video rendered fine on newer cell phones with higher frequency for Wi-Fi but that the quality was less than optimal on older devices.

The service is being promoted through digital signs inside and outside the building.

Barclays Center executives view the technology primarily as a fan amenity but see future opportunities for developing advertising inventory on it.

“We reviewed other IPTV systems and StadiumVision was the best,” Foley said. “That’s where we started and from there we wanted to be all-in with the ability to get connected with a mobile application. The most important thing is we have a solid, high bandwidth Wi-Fi solution.”

For Cisco, the mobile system follows StadiumVision, the company’s branded concourse display system, and Connected Stadium Wi-Fi, its wireless solution supporting mobile — all of which are part of the company’s effort to boost the fan experience.

For older buildings, the cost to upgrade Wi-Fi for StadiumVision Mobile runs from $1 million to $2 million, depending on the size of the venue and the number of wireless access points required, Holland said. Connected Stadium Wi-Fi can be used in tandem with other networks at a building, but it’s designed to operate with Cisco equipment. The mobile technology carries the same opportunities to generate revenue with advertising insertions as the 5-year-old StadiumVision platform.

“It is not a prohibitive investment when you look at the revenue streams it could generate,” Holland said. “If you already have a Cisco network in place, it could be somewhat less. We don’t think the pricing is a market hurdle.”

Sporting Kansas City, a Cisco client, plans to activate the technology for the coming MLS season with four wireless cameras offering views from the players’ bench, a field corner, behind a goal and the top of the stadium. Fans must register on the team’s free application before they can access the technology in Kansas City.

The team plans to develop its own mobile advertising program using the same sponsors advertising on StadiumVision television monitors throughout the stadium, according to Asim Pasha, Sporting Kansas City’s chief information officer. As the technology develops, there will be an option for mobile users to eliminate commercial messages, Pasha said.

Pasha said the team tested the application on many occasions last season at Sporting Park, the team’s 18,500-seat stadium that opened in 2011.

“There are refinements to be made, but overall it does fairly well in a medium- to low-scale [setting],” Pasha said. “For prime time at an NFL venue, there is work to be done.”

Cisco officials also tout the potential for full integration of its systems, where a moment of exclusivity can now run seamlessly from the main scoreboard to LED ribbon boards and StadiumVision’s wired displays in the concourses, suites and clubs, to the seat level with the mobile app.

“This is the holy grail for advertisers because it brings them into that [team] discussion with the fan,” Holland said.

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