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Volume 23 No. 13
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LED displays would add energy to fanless venues

The technology would be placed in areas close to the playing surface to be visible during broadcasts.
Photo: 4front / prismview
The technology would be placed in areas close to the playing surface to be visible during broadcasts.
Photo: 4front / prismview
The technology would be placed in areas close to the playing surface to be visible during broadcasts.
Photo: 4front / prismview

A partnership being announced this week aims to recreate the live sports experience with customized video displays just off the playing surface that are designed to bring energy to arenas and stadiums where teams will resume play without fans. 

Chicago-based 4Front, a sports marketing and analytics company, is partnering with Utah-based Prismview, a Samsung subsidiary, on the venture.

Josh Kritzler, a co-founder of 4Front, said the idea grew from conversations the agency had with existing and prospective clients who were seeking to recreate the live sports experience in a fanless environment and provide new opportunities for sponsors and revenue generation for teams.

At a basic level, 4Front and Prismview will give teams the ability to set up LED video screens in prominent areas of a venue where they can be viewed during game broadcasts, Kritzler said.

At an NHL or NBA arena, for example, the displays could be positioned behind the backboard or behind the scorer’s table in the first couple of rows of a venue. Other options would be behind the players bench or behind the penalty box. In baseball, they could go at the top of the dugouts. The displays could do everything from sponsor messaging to highlighting live feeds of fans watching games via Zoom.

The costs of the displays and services range from the low-to-mid five figures to low six figures monthly, depending on how many teams request. Kritzler said they are in advanced discussions with a number of organizations and leagues on using the technology. 

4Front will work with leagues, teams and broadcasters to make sure the company’s displays are in compliance with broadcasting and rights restrictions. In neutral-site games, advertising and sponsorship deals will be made with the leagues. Teams and sponsors would deal with each other, if they were to host fanless games at their home venues. 

The displays are intended to be a make-good for existing partners but new inventory can be created for the teams to sell, Kritzler said. 4Front’s hope is that the displays are not permanent fixtures but rather are supplemental to the teams’ existing displays, scoreboards, and center-hung board, which are geared toward fans attending the game in-person.

With traditional platforms like concourse signage and experiential activations now out of the question without fans at venues, the displays can create value for teams and league sponsors, Kritzler added. “So the idea is, in a fanless environment, you can put technology in places that would otherwise be impossible because it would block views and experiences.”

He said the technology could be adapted to highlight some of the entertainment elements fans are used to when attending in person, such as the kiss cam, fan votes and sponsored contests.

Steve McNelley, senior vice president of consulting at sports marketing agency rEvolution, said he finds the technology intriguing because the displays are dynamic and customizable, and could allow teams to message to their home market.  

The displays can also be used as “second screen experiences” that have become more prevalent with viewers — regardless of their age — during the last several months of quarantines and lockdowns, McNelley said.