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In the midst of a pandemic, is technology going to be the saving grace for reopening large venue sports events?

Sports and entertainment industries pride themselves on driving innovation. To attempt to finish out their seasons, broadcasters are creating new show formats, measuring and adjusting what works on the fly – all with a skeleton crew.

What will the show look like if there’s no one in the stands?

Broadcasters are working on simulating crowd noises and placing virtual fans in seats to engage and connect with viewers. We’re also likely to see strategic and managed social media engagement with celebs and athletes.

Applications such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will be rolled out to support increased capacity to help support simulated experiences. But in order to work, trouble-free performance during a live sporting event can only be guaranteed when it’s supported by a high-performance cabling infrastructure.

Ad Dollars at Risk Means New Opportunities

The long term challenge is be the inevitable and enormous shift of the sports rights market, and its impact on the flow of revenues.

Programming and the attached ad dollars place financial pressure on big sports networks. Deals, relationships, contracts and commitments are currently in a state of constant flux.

With nearly no sports to watch, the cord-cutting of existing agreements is accelerating faster than anyone anticipated. Which is likely to be an opportunity for tech giants like Amazon and Google to take a larger piece of the sports rights market via Over The Top (OTT) streaming.

OTT lets fans watch events from anywhere, making it free and easy to view without TV access.

In a hungry market, no one will stand for downtime, delays or hiccups in streaming services. The public will be happy to look elsewhere. For example: ESPN’s H-O-R-S-E tournament in April, featuring NBA and WNBA players for a single-elimination shooting competition. Though an excellent attempt at creating a new content format, the video and audio glitches led to poor quality – and a loss of viewers.

Supporting the Reopening Process

No one can say with absolute certainty what the fan experience will be like as we return to live venues, but it will be different. Teams of medical researchers and professionals of all kinds are working hard to give their best advice on safely allowing fan re-entry.

Once stadiums, arenas and ballparks enter the reopening process, people will be happy to cheer on their favorite teams and reconnect with a live audience. But at the same time, they’ll want to feel safe in doing so. This can be accomplished through stadium technology like:

  • More emphasis on sanitization and hygiene via touch-free, grab-and-go and cashless interactions
  • Increased digital signage for way-finding and alerts
  • Venue-specific apps that hold tickets and provide real time information about concessions, restrooms and retail

Moving forward, complex stadium technology solutions are being implemented. Innovative systems such as walkthrough disinfectant spray machines, facial recognition at gates, and thermal cameras for fever detection.

Other measures include enhanced audio and video to reinforce and monitor processes and procedures, and security systems that control access and enforce physical distancing.

All with the goal of minimizing common touch-points such as doors, tickets, lights, toilets, concessions, money, handles, etc.

A New Experience Awaits

It may take more of an “experience” for fans shifting from a sports venue to a complete entertainment destination with surrounding attractions.

State-of-the-art entertainment districts that anchor today’s sports venues have a chance at creating a one-of-a-kind, amazing fan experience that’s also safe.

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