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Sports Broadcasting Technology

NFL 2014: Catch a Pass to the Technology Zone

September 04, 2014


With the NFL regular season kickoff tonight, the only question that needs to be asked is: are you ready for some technology?

Determined to continue a reverse in attendance begun just last year after four years of declining turnouts, forward thinking teams and their tech gurus have been busy infusing stadiums already equipped with Wi-Fi networks with powerful apps to revamp the in-stadium experience.

The NFL and team owners are well aware of two realities—more fans are watching games on cheaper and larger-screen TVs in the convenience of their homes, and that for those headed to the game, they grab their team jersey, tickets, car keys—and smartphones.

So what advancements and enhancements will fans benefit from during week one of the NFL regular season?

On Tap

The league opened its video vault to power NFL Now, an app that debuted on the eve of preseason this year. It lets fans personalize the content they receive by team and/or player. The video content includes analysis, updates, highlights and interviews before, during and after games. That’s in addition to access to the league vast vault of video content.

Teams such as the San Francisco 49ers in their new Levi’s Field, and others in their older stadiums have launched new and improved stadium-oriented apps designed specifically to enhance the fan experience for fans in the stands. Instant replays, new camera angles and express concessions are among the new benefits.

In at least one NFL stadium, video cameras facing restroom entrances have been installed in concourses to determine and notify smartphone-equipped fans when the lines are the shortest.

Teams have enlisted the aid of stadium mapping vendors to enable the connection of fans to stadium sections, amenities and parking lots, for starters.

From the Seats to the Sidelines

Technology has made its way from the concourses and stands down onto the fields and into football facilities – in many cases for use before, during and after games.

We’ve already seen consumer electronic advances in the league’s pre-season games with coaches on the sideline equipped with tablets that replace the antiquated black and white photo printouts for reviewing plays that litter the sidelines and the coaches’ boxes after the games.

And for those that can’t attend or watch when it airs on live broadcast TV, the league has broadened its use of video-on-demand systems to feed content to apps such as NFL Game Rewind and NFL GamePass.

Tablets have already replaced playbooks for many teams as means for archiving and reviewing play diagrams by offense, defense and special teams. Neither tablet use requires Internet access.

NFL & TV – Stay Tuned!

And in what could be the biggest off-the-field technology football story of the season, the football world waits to see whether ongoing negotiations with the NFL leads to the satellite TV provider retaining the coveted NFL Sunday Ticket out-of-market game package that it has carried exclusively. Oh, and whether AT&T’s (News - Alert) bid to buy DIRECTV is approved.

In the meantime, check the website and those of individual teams to learn what apps are available to improve the fan experience, regardless of location.

So with technology the watch word of the week and all the above-mentioned capabilities considered, are you ready for some football?

By Bob Wallace, Founder, Fast Forward Thinking LLC

Edited by Maurice Nagle