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Big League Challenges for Professional Sports Venues

By Seth Buechley
August 17th, 2012

Team SOLiD had a chance to address several hundred of the sports industry’s technical leaders at SEAT 2012 in Boston last week. Christine Stoffel  and Chris Dill from SEAT did a great job of selecting a world-class venue and organizing a world-class event designed to foster interaction and idea exchange. The event was a mixture of panels, presentations, sports venue tours, and socializing about the most pressing challenges and opportunities within sports and public entertainment venues.

The DAS panel was a perfect straight of stakeholders that included a venue (Chip Foley from Barclays Center), a carrier (Chad Townes from AT&T), a DAS manufacturer (Seth Buechley from SOLiD), and a third party owner (John Davis from ExteNet).

Feedback from audience ranged from skepticism about how well the carriers really play together on a carrier-owned DAS, to curiosity about whether a venue should try to work with carriers directly or bring on a third-party.

For me, the key ideas to wrestle with came from Mike Morris with Major League Baseball.  He told the audience that MLB was focused on three major IT areas; (1) Analytics, (2) Mobile and (3) Data Security.  I couldn’t help notice that Analytics and Mobile fit squarely within the conversation we’ve been having in the DAS industry.

Analytics

I’m not sure you can have good analytics without the data to analyze.  How can you measure fan experience if you don’t know what they experience?

Outside of Super Bowls, which are handled quite differently than most events, I am not aware of a single professional sports venue that receives sufficient detailed network usage data to determine who is in their building and the type of mobile fan experience they are having.

Though the carriers and pro sport team both suggest  they “share” the customer, it clear they really don’t share the customer experience information. Carriers simply don’t share that information under the premise that it is their own “licensed” spectrum being used to deliver cellular.

In the future venues will find ways to access real-time mobile user data (subject to privacy laws) from carriers.

Mobile

You really can’t (or shouldn’t) roll-out a killer team or in-stadium mobile app without robust cellular and/or WiFi coverage.

Mobile users are finicky, so if a team launches a lame app, or one that appears lame because the network is overly congested, then that app may never be revisited or adopted.

Furthermore, it will be hard to know why the mobile app underperforms. Was the problem artistic layout, the content, the offer, or the network experience?

Cellular DAS and a robust WiFi offload program are some basic building blocks that have to be put in place before a team or venue can have a mobile strategy on-site.

Final Word

Clearly the folks in the sports venue IT space felt like kids in a candy mall, sitting squarely between two of Americas great loves – the smart phone and the home team.

What do you think?

SEAT 2012 Tour of Fenway Park

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