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Volume 26 No. 227
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SBJ Unpacks: How Tech Can Enhance Home-Viewing Experience

Games without fans seem like an inevitability, and there are many conversations going on between networks, leagues and tech companies to determine what those games will look and sound like for those watching at home. In the most recent episode of “SBJ Unpacks: Weathering COVID-19,” our Bill King and Eric Prisbell discuss what leagues, networks and tech companies are considering as they plan for broadcasts of games played without spectators, as well as the current state of negotiations around MLB.

On how technology could be used to create a more vibrant environment for fans watching games at home
Prisbell: Nobody wants to sit and watch empty stands, no matter what the product on the field or court is in that particular game. One of the technologies that’s really emerging with this circumstance is mixed reality. … There’s a variety of things that The Famous Group and other tech companies can do to change what viewers are seeing at home. One of those is if you virtually cover the empty seats and use mixed reality technology to do it. Imagine being at home watching a game where there’s no fans, say a basketball game, NBA Playoffs, and there’s a digital display of fans, almost like a video game where you see those digital fans in the crowd.

On whether there is potential for a virtual ticket that gives fans an at-home version of a premium seat 
Prisbell: There’s no doubt. Everybody that I’ve talked to, at least off the record, made clear of that in some way. The NBA did say, and they did want to stress, that they want to give an enhanced experience to all fans. Not just for season-ticket holders or for premium members; they want to reach all fans. I’m sure they’ll find a way to do that.

On arguments between MLB and the MLBPA that may jeopardize a July return to baseball
Prisbell: They have a couple weeks here to figure this out, to have negotiations with the union over medical protocols, other issues, where the games are played, what the postseason will look like, but most notably the compensation element. Those discussions are not expected to be smooth. They’re not expected to be over in a short amount of time. I’d be surprised if they were. There’s certainly tension between the two sides that’s been there for a while, and both sides seem hunkered down and not willing to budge on this issue.