May 2, 2016

Twitter and the NFL: What does the deal mean for team apps and mobile video? Stadium Tech Report Podcast No. 3 tells you!

Episode 3 of the STADIUM TECH REPORT PODCAST is live, in which hosts Phil Harvey and Paul Kapustka discuss the NFL’s Thursday Night Football streaming deal with Twitter, and what that deal means for both team stadium apps in particular and for mobile video use in general. Take a listen and let us know what you think!

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST: Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes!

Let the NFL streaming battles begin: AT&T brings live streaming to basic Sunday Ticket plan

Screen shot of DirecTV Sunday Ticket app for iPad

Screen shot of DirecTV Sunday Ticket app for iPad

If you are a regular MSR reader you may remember that when the AT&T/DirecTV acquisition came to pass, we wondered how long it would take before AT&T and Verizon started battling each other in the quest to bring live NFL action to fans on their phones. The answer: wait no more, the battle’s here.

Today, AT&T announced that all subscribers to the DirecTV Sunday Ticket plan “will be able to stream Sunday afternoon out-of-market football games to almost any device” when action kicks off this fall. Previously, Sunday Ticket subscribers had to shell out about an extra hundred bucks to get the Sunday Ticket Max package, which offered streaming. Last year, the basic Sunday Ticket package was about $250; so far we can’t find a price for this season (and we don’t want to hunt through all the splash screens trying to get us to sign up for DirecTV services). Suffice to say it will still be a premium product, but one that many NFL fans can’t live without.

According to AT&T, live streaming via the Sunday Ticket plan was up 35 percent last year, a figure that doesn’t surprise us at all. We’ve been tracking Verizon Wireless and its NFL Mobile package of live-streamed games (which varies but usually includes Monday, Thursday and any weekend games, as well as Sunday out-of-market games) for some time now, and posts about NFL Mobile typically draw the highest traffic to our site. Verizon has never released subscriber numbers for NFL Mobile, but if you guessed it was among the most popular sports apps out there, you would probably be right. Even at $1 billion for four years, the rights fees seem a bargain for Verizon.

DirecTV pays the NFL more (about $1.5 billion a year, according to reports) but it gets more; NFL Mobile is exclusive to cell phone devices, meaning you can’t use it on tablets or PCs. And now thrown into the mobile mix is Twitter, whose reported $10 million deal with the NFL for Thursday-night games also includes the rights to stream to cell phones and any other device. Anyone else out there want to play?

Why is NFL action so popular on mobile devices? Mainly, I think, because of several factors, including fantasy betting and the fact that the screens have gotten so big and sharp, you can actually watch a game on a phone and it’s not painful. As many of us mobile-NFL freaks know, the best part of the deals isn’t necessarily the games themselves, but instead it’s access to the NFL’s RedZone channel, which keeps you up to date on action all across the league (and despite its name, it offers way more than just plays “in the red zone.” They try to keep live action going at all times, and NO COMMMERCIALS makes it a football junkie’s dream).

Plus, on the West coast, RedZone will often just show all of later games since there are fewer contests to jump in between. I don’t know how many people will sit every Sunday through several games on the couch, but if you can watch a few minutes or a final drive while you’re somewhere else it’s pretty addictive.

No news yet this year from Verizon on what the NFL Mobile package of games might look like, but stay tuned: This battle is just getting started. Good news is, more competition means more access and lower prices for fans. That’s something we can all cheer, no matter which teams we root for.

Miami Dolphins go long on multiple social-media platforms for Gase intro

The team website was just one of the vehicles the Miami Dolphins used in their multi-platform social media campaign for the hiring of Adam Gase. All images: Miami Dolphins (click on any photo for a larger image)

The team website was just one of the vehicles the Miami Dolphins used in their multi-platform social media campaign for the hiring of Adam Gase. All images: Miami Dolphins (click on any photo for a larger image)

Intelligent marketers of professional sports know they have to get their messaging to where the fans are – the stadium, their living rooms, and in today’s world, their smartphones. Small wonder, then, that the NFL’s Miami Dolphins chose multiple social media outlets in early January to introduce their new head coach, Adam Gase, in a multi-platform, social-cast event.

The Dolphins engineered a live Q&A session and broadcast the press conference with Gase that spanned Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Meerkat and Snapchat. This multi-platform event, the first of its kind in professional sports according to the Dolphins, included video and text chat and was intended to reach online fans and encourage engagement, said the event’s planners, Jason Jenkins, senior vice president of communications and community affairs for the Dolphins, and Surf Melendez, managing director of content and creative services for the team.

Joined by his wife, Jennifer, and their three young children, Gase told fans that outside of football, he was most looking forward to the Miami weather. “It was 15 degrees when we left” Chicago, he said, where he’d been working as the Bears’ offensive coordinator. By the end of the press conference, the Dolphins’ Facebook video page registered more than 100,000 views, with a peak of approximately 11,700 simultaneous viewers, according to the Dolphins’ press office.

“The whole point of [of the social-cast] was to make sure that we were using our brand and all our platforms in an innovative way,” Melendez said. “Whenever we communicate or get the brand out there, we try to be innovative, this time with a live, social broadcast.” The team also streamed Gase’s introduction on its website and the Miami Dolphins official smartphone app; Melendez said the intention wasn’t to bypass the general media but to complement them.

md2“We have the luxury of experimenting and innovating because our owner, Stephen Ross, and CEO [Tom Garfinkel] are there supporting us,” Jenkins added. “This is a new place to be.”

Technical challenges for new approaches

Editor’s note: This excerpt is from our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT, our long-form PDF publication that combines in-depth stadium tech reports with news and analysis of the hottest topics in the world of stadium and large public venue tech deployments. Enjoy this feature, and then DOWNLOAD THE REPORT and read all the rest of the great info in this report!

A new place, and a challenging one, at least technically. Melendez said the first requirement was making sure they had enough smartphones for all the different platforms. “We needed the right people and the right devices to make sure we got the right shot, that the audio was good, that someone was posting and someone else was monitoring the feed,” Melendez explained.

He and his department are constantly experimenting with these different technology to improve or fine-tune performance. “We had a dry run [for the Gase introduction]. But once it’s go-time, things happen, like Wi-Fi,” he laughed.

Live video was another of the Dolphins' social-media tactics

Live video was another of the Dolphins’ social-media tactics

Still, the approach seemed to be a hit with Dolphins’ fans. “As we were broadcasting live, the responses were, ‘Wow, this is tremendous, they’re getting me in there’ [the Dolphins' offices],” Melendez said. “This is a new and fresh place to be.”

In addition to reach, impressions and views, the Dolphins are closely monitoring how social media grows the brand and creates new revenue. Like most businesses, the Dolphins conduct regular lead-generation campaigns; most have been telephone-based, according to Melendez, but that is quickly changing.

“We’ve done a couple dry runs on social media, where you can put out a call to action and target a specific audience for leads,” he said. “The response was 4-5 times as fruitful for good, qualified leads.”

As a new medium, social media requires continuous education with the Dolphins’ partners on how to use the platforms. “We then educate our sponsors that social does X, Y and Z and how that benefits them,” Melendez said.

But the door for social education swings both ways, according to Vince Pannozzo, social media manager for the Dolphins. “We work with the team and with Facebook and Twitter directly to talk about personal brands as well as best practices,” he said.

“Cheerleaders, too,” Jenkins hastened to add.

The next big test of the Dolphins social strategy will come when the NFL’s free agency begins in mid-March. “That’s going to be a fun time to tune into what we’re doing,” Melendez said. “Generally we’re taking a step back at the content we’re creating overall and how we’re broadcasting, quote unquote, because we’re looking at how to serve up things that we used to do on more traditional avenues. It will look different next season.”

UPDATE: WrestleMania 32 sets new Wi-Fi mark at AT&T Stadium; total Wi-Fi + DAS hits 8.6 TB

The Undertaker arrives at AT&T Stadium for WrestleMania 32. Photo: WWE.com

The Undertaker arrives at AT&T Stadium for WrestleMania 32. Photo: WWE.com


UPDATE: Fixes an MSR calculation error on DAS figures.

The 101,763 fans who filled AT&T Stadium Sunday for WrestleMania 32 set new stadium records for Wi-Fi, according to figures provided by AT&T Stadium and AT&T, with 6.77 terabytes of Wi-Fi traffic and an additional 1.9 TB on the AT&T network on the stadium’s DAS for a total wireless figure of 8.6 TB.

The Wi-Fi numbers put Sunday’s signature WWE event (also the biggest WrestleMania by attendance) into second place in our unofficial record-keeping of the largest single-day Wi-Fi traffic stadium events. Only Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium earlier this year was bigger, with 10.1 TB of Wi-Fi traffic. So far, WrestleMania 32 is also now third in combined Wi-Fi and DAS figures, trailing Super Bowl 50 and Super Bowl XLIX (see charts below).

THE NEW TOP 3 TOTAL USAGE

1. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB; DAS: 15.9 TB; Total: 26 TB
2. Super Bowl XLIX, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB; DAS: 6.56 TB**; Total: 12.79 TB**
3. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB; DAS: 1.9 TB*; Total: 8.6 TB*

* = AT&T DAS stats only
** = AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint DAS stats only

THE NEW TOP 5 FOR WI-FI

1. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB
2. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB
3. Super Bowl XLIX, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB
4. Alabama vs. Texas A&M, Kyle Field, College Station, Texas, Oct. 17, 2015: Wi-Fi: 5.7 TB
5. College Football Playoff championship game, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 12, 2015: Wi-Fi: 4.93 TB

Wi-Fi not to blame for stadium entry issues

John Winborn, chief information officer for the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, said in an email that the reported claims of the Wi-Fi being offline Sunday — and that being the reason why entry lines were long and slow — were not true. While Winborn did admit that one single Wi-Fi AP (out of the more than 2,000 in the stadium’s network) was offline and there were “a couple issues” with ticket scanners, he said “there were no Wi-Fi issues that would have had a significant impact on ingress.” Other reports have claimed the doors were opened later due to extended show rehearsals, while commenters on MSR’s posts have claimed that a lack of wristbands for stadium-floor seating also led to seating issues even for fans already inside the main building entrances. So far, we have not seen any official explanation for the delays other than the official apology from the stadium and the WWE:

“To ensure the safety of WWE fans, increased security measures were put in place tonight. We apologize that it may have taken some fans longer than usual to get into AT&T Stadium.”

During Sunday’s event Winborn said the Wi-Fi network saw 20,462 concurrent and 34,951 total user connections, some via a network of 150 temporary Wi-Fi APs installed among the seats on the stadium floor.

Twitter to stream NFL Thursday night games to all platforms, including smartphones

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 11.00.55 AMThe big news from the NFL today was a deal signed with Twitter, under which Twitter will get to stream live NFL Thursday Night games online to any connected device, including smartphones. To us, that last bit is the most interesting part of the deal since it breaks the previous stronghold held by Verizon Wireless and its NFL Mobile deal, under which Verizon was previously the sole provider of live NFL action to smartphones.

While many NFL games have been streamed by various entities online — including recent years’ playoff games, the Super Bowl and Monday Night Football — for most of those “broadcasts” you could only watch on a phone-type device if you were a Verizon customer and used the NFL Mobile app. The only exception we know of for U.S. fans was the extra-price DirecTV Sunday Ticket package, which also allowed for mobile viewing; but for free online action, you could typically only watch on a PC, connected TV or a tablet — smartphones were the exclusive domain of Verizon.

Under the Twitter deal, fans who are Twitter users will be able to watch Thursday night games free of any other charge, on tablets, PCs, connected TVs and smartphones, according to a release today from the NFL and Twitter. In addition to live action, the league and Twitter promise pre-game extras like Periscope broadcasts from teams and players, meaning you will get low-quality jittery interviews instead of professionally produced material. But we jest. The Periscope broadcasts could be cool, especially if they are on the field where fans never really get to be.

The Twitter deal follows on the heels of last season’s Yahoo-streamed game, which attracted 15.2 million viewers. It will be interesting to see what the numbers are for Twitter this year, since the Thursday night games will be available on regular TV from both NBC and CBS, which have five games each, as well as on the NFL Network, which will simulcast all games on Thursday nights.

Minnesota Vikings pick VenueNext for U.S. Bank Stadium app

Outside view of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Photo: USBankStadium.com.

Outside view of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Photo: USBankStadium.com.

Stadium app developer VenueNext has scored another NFL client, as the Minnesota Vikings announced today that they would use VenueNext technology in the app for the yet-to-open U.S. Bank Stadium.

According to VenueNext and the Vikings, the U.S. Bank Stadium app will support many of the same unique game-day features found in the app VenueNext built for the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium, including beacon-based wayfinding, the ability to order food and drinks via the app for express pickup, digital ticketing and game-day upgrade availability, as well as “robust” video content and a loyalty program tied to game-day activity. One feature at Levi’s Stadium, the ability to have food and drink delivered to fans in their seats, is “still being explored” by the Vikings, according to VenueNext.

Due to open this summer ahead of the 2016 NFL season, U.S. Bank Stadium is slated to host Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, 2018. A Wi-Fi network with approximately 1,300 Cisco access points will supply wireless connectivity to the 66,200-seat venue, along with a neutral-host DAS built by Verizon Wireless. Aruba is supplying the 2,000 beacons being used inside the venue, and overall network operations will be run by CenturyLink, which will oversee deployment of some 2,000 digital TV displays inside the stadium.

Screenshot of U.S. Bank Vikings app in development. Image: VenueNext

Screenshot of U.S. Bank Vikings app in development. Image: VenueNext

According to VenueNext, app development partners will include Ticketmaster, Aramark for food, point-of-sale solution Appetize, seat upgrade technology from Experience, fan loyalty programs from Skidata and content app developer Adept. The Vikings are the third NFL team to choose VenueNext technology, behind the Niners and the Dallas Cowboys. VenueNext also has built a stadium app for the NBA’s Orlando Magic.

“We look forward to launching this new, dynamically-upgraded app that not only will give all Vikings fans a better experience when consuming team content on their mobile devices but also will allow seamless access to the numerous amenities at U.S. Bank Stadium,” said Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf in a prepared statement. “Our goals are always to provide the best game day experience possible and to continue developing deeper engagement with all Vikings fans, and the VenueNext technology will help achieve both.”

“We’re excited to extend our reach in the NFL through this collaboration with the Vikings,” said John Paul, CEO & Founder of VenueNext, also in a prepared statement. “We want to become the standard for bringing Silicon Valley innovation to fan experiences, and implementing in a state-of-the-art development like U.S. Bank Stadium brings us closer to that goal.”

Interior look at U.S. Bank Stadium. Photo: USBankStadium.com

Interior look at U.S. Bank Stadium. Photo: USBankStadium.com