In memory of sports’ video board pioneer
This year 135 million fans will be watching their favorite teams, stars and most importantly themselves on video boards in sports venues from coast to coast. They won’t have the slightest idea who made their in-game experience that much more enjoyable.
In the U.S. alone, there are close to 30,000 video screens in stadiums, ballparks, arenas and other venues. There are multiple screens and ribbon boards everywhere eyeballs are focused: in clubs, bars, press rooms and in locker rooms. Every major college football team has a video screen. The last holdout was Notre Dame, installing two screens this past summer. High schools also have seen the value in digital advertising, selling sponsorships to create new revenue streams. Beats selling cookies and candy bars.
The man who started all of this in 1980 was born in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1938. He was in the city on Aug. 6, 1945, when the Enola Gay dropped her horrific atomic payload, killing over 100,000 residents. He and his family miraculously survived.
Mikio Matsubayashi was the “Johnny Appleseed” of sports video boards in America. He recently died after a valiant battle with cancer.
Mikio was my friend and friend to hundreds of executives throughout sports. We worked to bring the first video board to the Oakland Coliseum in 1983. Millions of fans have benefited from his vision, future focus, marketing savvy, business building and network of venues throughout America. The business of sports has grown from millions to multiple billions of dollars due in large part to his unique skills and positive personality.
Mikio worked for TEAC (Tokyo Electro Acoustic Company) and Mitsubishi-TRW in the 1960s and ’70s. Through TEAC, he met former MLB Commissioner William Eckert, who introduced him to Los Angeles Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley.
In 1979, Mitsubishi Electric of Japan developed a large outdoor video system it wanted to market in the U.S. The company came to Mikio for advice. The 1980 All-Star Game was to be held at Dodger Stadium, so Mikio asked Mitsubishi to bring the system to Los Angeles.
In English, Mitsubishi translates to “three diamonds,” so Mikio named the video system “Diamond Vision.” It was installed in time for the game and was the first video board at an American sports venue.
Mikio and Diamond Vision created a revolution in sports business. The next time you smile at Kiss-Cam or marvel at a replay, say “thank you” to Mikio Matsubayashi.
Andy Dolich is a sports business consultant who formerly was an executive for the Oakland A’s, San Francisco 49ers, Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies.