MEI Roundtable: Venue Tech

Sport Business News

Several industry experts were asked to answer the following question: £When it comes to technology facilities, what does a venue need to offer in order to help facilitate the best possible experience for both service providers and the spectators?Ø

Francis Tellier, CEO of Host Broadcast Services, host broadcaster of the FIFA World CupA venue needs to offer the following:– SPACE, SPACE, SPACE. This can be a major problem at the older European venues. For seasonal users (i. e. for the likes of weekly League coverage), the following is needed:– Pre–cabling for comprehensive set–up of services (more and more venues are heading down this route). – Technical set–up boxes at the Broadcast Compound/plug & play (Frankfurt style for FIFA Women's World Cup 2011). – Fibre optic connectivity from venue to specific hub(s) and/or town studios (as per Northern Countries, Norway being a good example). When a flagship event is scheduled, then it is easier to interconnect the existing infrastructure seamlessly, within budget and with total redundancy added for the event itself. Within the venue, there is a need for:– Infrastructure for an enhanced viewing experience/infotainment – such as that delivered by HBS in South Africa. We offered 290 dedicated features i. e. to bring the spectator in earlier/for longer periods of time, with family and friends. – Dedicated media servers at the venue/or at the club house to manage broadcast content, sponsor content, music/shows etc. For example, over and above the 2, 750 hours of feeds produced by HBS for TV and 290 Infotainement features for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, HBS produced 2, 734 player vignettes, 146, 500 production webpages, 64 mobile phone match feeds, 400 team specific reports in eight languages, 5, 250 still images that were clipped for distribution, 6, 300 text descriptions were written, and 15, 000 mobile match clips were voiced in 11 languages. – Infrastructure within the venue/at the seats/to enable second screen experience via tablets with WIFI access (MFL style). For the Host Broadcaster, there is an ever growing need to produce clips and/or additional footage for Media Rights Licensees but at the same time to go on feeding clips for spectators within the venue. For example, in Russia, where stadia might still resemble, in some cases, our old concrete venues, a quantum leap is taking place towards, in the coming year, next next next generation venues where international broadcasters at flagship events and even more so spectators on a regular weekly basis, are going to be placing new demands on the Host Broadcaster to access replays, clips, data, infotainment etc. Therefore, host broadcasting, is more and more becoming a job for specialists. www. hbs. tvTom Jones, principal, Populous:Technology in venues is continuing to develop at an astonishing rate and has an increasing impact on the experience that all user groups gain when visiting and using a venue. The key thing is to design a venue with flexibility that allows for the use of current technology, but also gives scope for change and adaption over time to facilitate upgrades and evolution of the systems and equipment. Technology has typically been used to help to create a comfortable internal climate and environment, as well as passing on basic information to spectators, staff and performers. It can now be harnessed to create variable moods and character within the internal spaces, as well as providing much more in the way of interactive information. The interface between users and the venue can now be much more dynamic, with ticketing, venue information and other data all available to a spectator – prior to physically arriving at the venue. Commercial interaction can also be much more dynamic, with greater choice and flexibility in ordering at concessions and other commercial outlets within the venue. The experience of the event can also be enhanced, with multiple options on viewing and event statistics available both within and outside the arena. The challenge for the venue designer is how to harness the wide range of available technologies to provide relevant support and opportunities to the venue users, without creating an overload of information that can actually create more confusion than cohesion. Populous is the Official Architectural and Overlay Design Services Provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic GamesTelephone +44 (0)20 8874 7666Fax +44 (0)20 8874 7470www. populous. comPaul Jennings, venue technology consultant and former head of IT at Wembley Stadium, London:Clearly there are lots of different technologies but I prefer to think of venue technology in four different categories; command and control, accessibility, scalability and reliability. So what do I mean by command and control? It seems to me that technology has an increasing role in helping service providers and venue/safety operators to not only control activities during an event but also help provide vital information and communication methods should things go wrong. This maybe as sophisticated as Integrated Building Management Systems (controlling such things as lighting, escalators, heating and power) to CCTV, PA sound systems and telephony as well as enhanced radio communications. Accessibility is of course providing technology that can be accessed throughout the stadium with certain areas requiring more emphasis than others, such as those provided for the media, caterers, conference suites and of course the age old challenge of providing adequate WIFI and mobile coverage for the masses!Accessibility is also linked to scalability. I often feel that the best venues have a technical infrastructure and procedures that allow for expansion relatively easily, sometimes on a temporary basis by third parties. Some service providers will of course pay for additional infrastructure to be installed, which can be a revenue source as well as a way to deal with peaks in demand that would otherwise be cost–prohibitive for the venue to install itself – classic examples being the installation of mobile receivers and ISDN lines. Reliability is of course important and whilst most venues concentrate on the IT network, many seem to miss wireless that is being used more and more. Often the most successful venues carry out airspace management monitoring and policing the use of spectrum in the venue for cameras, microphones and other wireless devices, all of which can interfere with each other if configured wrongly. How many events have been ruined by a wireless microphone that worked in rehearsal but not on the night when all the other wireless devices were on at the same time!Technology is of course no good without the right people to maximise it with a little added innovation from time to time. P Jennings Consulting Ltdwww. linkedin. com/in/pjjenningsmail@pjenningsconsulting. co. ukJim Irving, head of commercial & video, deltatre:As any regular sports fan knows, sending a text message or making a call at a large stadium can have its challenges, much of the time its not possible at all. There may be an answer!Technology trialled earlier this year at the NFL Super Bowl, could provide the solution, while at the same time, deliver a unique and engaging fan experience. Using an architecture developed by the technology company Cisco, the 110, 000 capacity crowds at the Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Texas, there to watch the Superbowl, were provided access to a high bandwidth WIFI network. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers fans had access to a dedicated network delivered by 300 WIFI hotspots banded together. Without advertising the service at the venue, 60, 000 devices at the game connected to the network, and Cisco recorded up to 6, 000 concurrent users accessing the network at any one time. So why do venues need to make a significant seven figures investment to provide these services, and is there any demand? The results of the Superbowl trial would suggest there is, and recent estimates put the number of mobile connected devices at 5. 6bn by 2015, with the amount of mobile data likely to increase by 2, 600% over the same period. Its also worth mentioning that in another US sport, baseball; Major League Baseball Advanced Media, an umbrella organisation providing digital service for every major league baseball team in the US, announced this year that wireless connections had surpassed wired connection numbers for users of its services. With our experience of delivering Match Centre products for many of the world's largest sports websites, we at deltatre are excited at the potential opportunity to deliver engaging and immersive experiences to fans on venue, initially using data, but in the medium term, combining that data with video to deliver the ultimate in venue experience. Its also evident from our discussions with sponsors that many of the major brands – supporting some of sports highest profile events – are looking for more innovative and engaging ways to connect with there customers. For us, its not a question of whether there will be a need to deliver more connectivity at venues, but more a question of how quickly that connectivity can reach a venue near you. email: media@deltatre. comwww. deltatre. comRonen Artman, VP of marketing, LiveULets take sports as our example as the multichannel boom has seen the range and popularity of sports coverage grow at a rapid rate. It has meant that broadcasters and venues must drive towards a high–quality viewing experience in order to succeed in a competitive environment. What we have also seen – and football is the prime example – is the rise in live in–stadium coverage of the game, which means a high level of both equipment and expertise. The recent Rugby World Cup also highlighted the popularity of games being beamed live to home stadia for those fans that couldnt make the trip to New Zealand. Then theres the emergence of in–house football channels – MUTV being a prime example – that are carried around the world and the growing interest in pre– and post–game activities, such as press conferences and interviews with the players. Broadcasters and venues need to work closely together to provide the volume of innovative content viewers require. There are also the ever–evolving technical needs that venues must think about, for example HD, 3D, super slo–mo, camera positioning, line–of–site issues, bandwidth, security – the list goes on. These are challenging enough for established venues. For sports and other types of events, these issues can be a show–stopper. The growing connectivity of terrestrial wireless networks, including 3G, 4G LTE, WiMAX, and WIFI, can provide an increasingly resilient, comprehensive and cost–effective alternative to streaming SD and HD video via traditional satellite and fibre. The equipment is lightweight and highly portable, with the ability to be housed in one backpack with minimal time required for set–up and go. The device can robustly transmit video to a main hub, such as a studio or broadcast centre, or directly to an online video player for live streaming. LiveUs LU60 provides 1080p HD video combined with high levels of resiliency and sub–second latency. This helps solve issues for venues and broadcasters of all shapes and sizes, allowing footage to be captured that would otherwise remain untapped and real–time interviews in broadcast quality. This live video technology enables both venue and broadcaster to think differently and to satisfy very demanding audiences. Sport is the example we have chosen but the possibilities for other events, such as music and entertainment, are clear for all to see. www. liveu. tv

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