San Antonio Spurs refresh mobile app with new features from YinzCam

Screen shot of new app design for the San Antonio Spurs. Credit: YinzCam

The San Antonio Spurs announced a new version of the team’s mobile app, which includes new features both for fans attending Spurs home games at AT&T Center as well as for fans following the team remotely. The new features were added to the app by developer YinzCam, which also designed previous versions of the team’s app.

According to YinzCam and the Spurs, a new interface designed for clarity and faster navigation will help fans find new features like blue-dot wayfinding (available only for Apple iOS devices) as well as new interactive maps available for both iOS and Android devices. Another update is the inclusion of on-demand replays for fans at AT&T Center, with four different camera angles to choose from, according to YinzCam.

In a nod toward a trend of team and stadium apps adding more attendance-specific services, the new version of the Spurs app will inlcude a “Season Ticket Member Club,” which the Spurs and YinzCam said will provide special offers and discounts, as well as the ability for season ticket holders to have single sign-on access to Ticketmaster’s account manager, which they can then use to digitally manage their tickets.

What’s not clear is if this update is an addition to an update YinzCam was scheduled to provide to the Spurs in the wake of a 2015 deal with the NBA under which YinzCam was to redesign 22 NBA team apps, including the Spurs’. Since that deal several teams have replaced YinzCam with a competitor — the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Utah Jazz and the Charlotte Hornets are all currently working with VenueNext to deliver their team apps. The Orlando Magic are also a VenueNext client, the first NBA team to pick that developer.

YinzCam, however, still claims to have developed 21 of the NBA team apps in use this season, including apps for the following teams: Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards. The Sacramento Kings and the Miami Heat use apps designed by Built.io, another newcomer in the stadium and team-app market. This year the Detroit Pistons turned to Venuetize for their team app in their new home, Little Caesars Arena. According to this release Venuetize also helped design the new app for the Portland Trailblazers. The Dallas Mavericks’ team app is supplied by Tixsee.

BNP Paribas Open serves up new app from YinzCam

Screen shot of new BNP Paribas Open app from YinzCam.

The BNP Paribas Open, one of the premier stops on the professional tennis tour, has tapped YinzCam to provide a new app for this year’s event that includes support for a wide range of services including ticket purchases, wayfinding, transportation to and from the venue, and a schedule of matches.

The new app, available for iOS and Android devices, is the first tennis-venue app for YinzCam, whose market-leading list of customers is mainly in U.S. professional sports, including the NHL, the NFL and the NBA. Reflecting YinzCam’s historic excellence in providing content to mobile apps, the BNP Paribas Open app will include biographies and photos for the more than 200 women and men players from the WTA and the ATP World Tour. According to YinzCam, the app will also support live scoring and real-time match results.

Probably one of the more important features to fans at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the tournament’s host venue, is the interactive map, which provides information on food and beverage options as well as other services (restrooms, ticket offices, etc.) as you scroll through the map. YinzCam said the app also has a chatbot to answer questions, though when we tried asking it “will Roger Federer win?” it asked us to rephrase the question because it didn’t understand.

As previously reported by MSR, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden is well covered for Wi-Fi with a network using gear from Ruckus; apparently, the new app replaces the previous app developed by The App Company of Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.

Tampa Bay Lightning pick Venuetize for new Amalie Arena app

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Amalie Arena have selected developer Venuetize for a new team and stadium app that will bring features including a multi-purpose digital wallet that will help fans manage their ticket options for hockey games and other events at the venue.

Screen shot of the new Amalie Arena app by Venuetize.

Announced in January, the new app is already available for iOS and Android devices. According to the team, the app supports the ability to purchase concessions and merchandise with a mobile device, as well as being able to perform detailed ticketing transactions including transfers and even transfers of discounts.

The deal with the Lightning represents Venuetize’s second NHL deal this season, following the company’s win to provide a similar stadium and team app for the Detroit Red Wings (and the Detroit Pistons) at Little Caesars Arena. Venuetize also previously built an integrated app for the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres.

With new entrants like Hopscotch challenging established app players like YinzCam and VenueNext in the stadium and team app arena, Venuetize seems to be claiming its own turf with apps that lean heavily on transaction features, as well as the ability to easily shift between sporting events and other events at stadiums.

YinzCam, which made its name early in the space with content-focused apps, recently unveiled a feature that allows app users to order and pay for food and beverages. Clearly, the ability to support more transaction-based services seems to be part of the increased table stakes in the stadium and team app market going forward.

AVAI Mobile scores big with new Daytona Speedway app

Screenshot of Daytona app. Credit: AVAI Mobile

Screenshot of Daytona app. Credit: AVAI Mobile

Denny Hamlin may have won the race, but there was another victor at the Daytona 500 this year, as the 2016 event saw the debut of a new mobile app for the speedway designed by AVAI Mobile of Austin, Texas. According to AVAI the Daytona app was just the first in a series of apps for International Speedway Corp. (ISC) tracks, a deal that may signal another serious entrant into the growing market for stadium and other large-venue mobile apps.

AVAI Mobile CEO Rand Arnold said that ISC approached AVAI looking for a way to combine different parts of a race-day digital fan experience that ISC was already using, including racing content, a beacon/wayfinding infrastructure as well as a loyalty program and push marketing.

“They were looking to completely change the [digital] fan experience, and they needed someone to tie all the things together,” said Arnold in a recent phone interview. Under a NASCAR-fast deadline — Arnold said AVAI completed the app project in 90 days from design to launch — AVAI used its modular architecture to build and launch a new Daytona venue app ahead of this year’s race, one that Arnold said was used by 30 percent of attendees.

Wayfinding an important feature at sprawling Daytona

If there was one feature that was key in getting fans to use the app it was the active wayfinding and maps feature, Arnold said. As an enormous, sprawling venue, a NASCAR track is always a challenge for fans to find their way around; it was especially so at Daytona this year given all the renovated spaces that were part of the track’s “Daytona Rising” refurbishment of grandstands and other fan areas.

“It’s a huge venue,” Arnold said of Daytona. “And if as a fan you wanted to take advantage of technology [to find your way around], that meant you were going to use the app.”

Map interface from Daytona app.

Map interface from Daytona app.

The Daytona app also featured integration with the existing FanVision experience, which provides race fans with in-car camera and scanner content; it also had a fully interactive site map, with the ability to “mark” areas like favored concession stands or where you parked your car; there is also support for a fan loyalty program as well as user-selected push messaging, where fans could be alerted to things like shorter concession lines, or autograph sessions with drivers.

Arnold said AVAI’s overall strategy of having an app platform that was purpose-built to integrate easily with third-party features enabled the quick turnaround on the Daytona app. He said that “making it easy to integrate APIs and SDKs” from existing services like analytics, content or other services may make sense to more venues, as they seek to integrate tools they are already using into a single mobile-app platform.

Concert deals now, more stadiums later?

Though AVAI Mobile has more than a few big-event customers — the company just announced a deal to provide mobile technology for C3 Events, which runs the Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza festivals, among others — the Daytona/ISC deal is probably the company’s biggest stadium “name” deal so far.

And unlike VenueNext, the app developer for the San Francisco 49ers that has made a name for itself by providing cutting-edge services like in-seat food and beverage delivery, AVAI Mobile will more likely seek customers who are looking for a more pragmatic approach, Arnold said.

“Some things deliver less return for a lot more money,” said Arnold, talking about possible features a stadium app could provide. “I think sometimes you can offer services that are in the end, just not that much better. You need to ask how far you want to go, and figure out what’s best.”

March Madness viewing: More digital options, plus some virtual reality

MML_iPhone_01-WatchRemember when college basketball tournament season only had a small slice of games available online? Or when you had to pay extra to watch online? It wasn’t that long ago. Thankfully though the future is here now and for 2016 the college hoops postseason has even more ways to watch games mobile or online, including one option to watch games via virtual reality programming.

Like last year, if you have a qualifying cable contract, you are basically covered and should be able to watch all the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games live, on whichever platform you want. The best way to start is to head to the NCAA’s March Madness home page, where you should be able to find any and all information on devices, apps and other avenues to streaming coverage. According to Turner Sports, the NCAA and CBS Sports the games will be available live on 12 different platforms, including Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku players and Roku TV models. The new March Madness Live app isn’t avalable until Thursday, so check back soon for the go-to app for everything March Madness.

Also like last year, you should be able to watch a few minutes of the first game you see without having to log in — great if you are just trying to catch a buzzer beater. The games of course will be available on regular TV, and the March Madness home page has what may be a great time saver, a widget that helps you find those obscure cable channels other than CBS or TNT where the games might be on. Since we’ve just moved, MSR’s NCAA viewing team might make good use of the Zip Code-powered channel finder.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 12.14.34 PMEven if you don’t have a cable contract you can still watch a lot of games that are streamed online; games broadcast on CBS will be available for no charge on desktop, mobile and tablet platforms, while games broadcast on the other channels (TNT, TBS, truTV and local channels) should be available on those providers’ websites. Again, if you get stuck or lost just defaulting back to the March Madness home page should give you a path to whatever game it is you’re looking for.

Big East tourney available in VR

If you have a NextVR platform you will be able to watch the 2016 Big East tournament (it starts Thursday, March 10) thanks to a partnership between FOX Sports and NextVR. We’re not VR-savvy here at MSR headquarters yet but with seven games and 15 hours of programming scheduled this might be a cool treat for VR fans. NextVR has an instruction page on how to watch the games in VR; if anyone tries this out, send us an email with a report on how it worked (or didn’t) and we’ll let everyone else know.

Also, don’t forget — this year for the first time the NCAA Men’s Championship game, scheduled for Monday, April 4, will be on TBS, NOT on CBS, the first time the champs game has been only on cable. And, there will be streaming options as well during Final Four weekend, according to the official announcement:

For the NCAA Final Four National Semifinals on Saturday, April 2, from Houston, NCAA March Madness Live will provide three distinct live video streams of both games to provide unprecedented viewing options for fans – live streaming of the traditional game coverage provided on TBS, along with “Team Stream by Bleacher Report” coverage or team-specific presentations offered via TNT and truTV. This year’s NCAA Tournament will include the National Championship airing on TBS, the first time the championship has ever been televised on cable television.

UPDATE: Super Bowl 50 stadium app will only support in-seat beverage delivery

Screenshot of home page of Super Bowl 50 stadium app. (Click on any photo for a larger image)

Screenshot of home page of Super Bowl 50 stadium app. (Click on any photo for a larger image)

UPDATE, 1/29/16, 11 a.m. — One of the most interesting features of Levi’s Stadium and its ground-breaking stadium app — the ability for fans to order food and beverages on their phones and have them delivered to any seat in the stadium — will be only half-enabled as part of the Super Bowl 50 app, with beverages the only items available to be delivered to fans in their seats.

While the app originally showed food items available for delivery service when it went live Wednesday night, by Thursday morning only beverages were showing up in the In-Seat Delivery menu. Food items and merchandise, however, can be ordered in advance and picked up at express windows throughout the stadium.

Developed for the NFL by VenueNext, the developer behind the regular Levi’s Stadium app, the Super Bowl 50 stadium app otherwise has most of the regular bells and whistles enjoyed by San Francisco 49ers fans the last two seasons, including the live wayfinding maps feature.

In a quick run-through of the app the other new feature we didn’t see was the ability to send food and beverages to a friend in the stadium, which makes sense to leave out since a Super Bowl crowd probably doesn’t have as many friends at the venue as a regular Niners crowd would. The Super Bowl 50 stadium app also has some NFL-specific add-ons, including a Super Bowl Fan Guide (what to bring, what not to bring) and a link to the NFL Experience promotional site, as well as a direct link to download the NFL Mobile App. Features not visible yet on the app that will be there for game day include game-action instant replays, as well as a “Celebrity cam” and a way to see Super Bowl commercials from the game broadcast via the app after they air on TV.

Niners, NFL agreed on keeping food delivery sidelined

If there was a component that would really make this Super Bowl different from past Super Bowls it would have been regular Levi’s Stadium food-ordering and delivery options, which are unmatched in any other large stadium we are aware of. From our personal experience the food ordering and delivery system worked well at a past Niners regular-season game, and enabled us to watch a full Niners touchdown drive instead of having to stand in a line to purchase a beer and a pretzel.

Food and drink delivery order page on Super Bowl stadium app, including the $13 Bud Light.

Food and drink delivery order page on Super Bowl stadium app, including the $13 Bud Light.

In its first year the in-seat delivery service was only used a couple thousand times a game at most during Niners regular season home games, which apparently didn’t stress the system. But at the first real “big event” at Levi’s Stadium — the Coors Light Stadium Series outdoor hockey game between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21, 2015 — a massive amount of food orders by hockey fans overwhelmed the delivery system, leading to long wait times and many canceled orders, and lots of frustrated fans.

It didn’t help that the stadium that night also suffered from some Wi-Fi outages and some disconnect on the Verizon cellular network, but the failure of the app and the delivery system (which included not having enough human runners on hand to fulfill all the orders) introduced doubt as to whether Levi’s Stadium could deliver on its delivery promise for a big-game crowd.

According to San Francisco 49ers chief operating officer Al Guido, the decision to only have beverage deliveries at Super Bowl 50 was one reached jointly by the NFL, the Niners and VenueNext, and the catering company for the stadium, Centerplate. In a phone interview Friday Guido said that the potential “amount of education” for all the fans new to the stadium and new to the app led the league, the Niners and the caterers toward a path of greater simplicity, namely just having beverages available for in-seat delivery.

“It was a risk-reward decision about the amount of fan education needed,” Guido said. “There’s so much going on at a Super Bowl and so many people new to the stadium that it didn’t seem worth it to us to risk someone not getting an order delivered because of their error, or our error.” Guido added that with all the extra breaks in action for a Super Bowl, and additional concessions stands, “there’s enough time to get around” to get food.

At the very least, Super Bowl 50 fans won’t need to leave their seats to order beer, wine, sodas, Gatorade and water, the only items currently on the delivery list. What shouldn’t be a big concern to the high-rolling Super Bowl attendees is the $5 service charge for delivery and the high concession prices, including the $13 bottle of Bud Light. For the record, Guido said the delivery system performed at similar levels this regular season compared to last, with about 2,000 to 2,500 delivery orders per game.

Screenshot of wayfinding features in Levi's Stadium app. Photo: Aruba

Screenshot of wayfinding features in Levi’s Stadium app. Photo: Aruba

The app can also determine which windows are closest or have the shortest lines, to help fans satisfy their hunger or thirst needs as efficiently as possible. Using the express pickup option, fans can choose items and pay for them and have them ready for quick pickup at the closest or least-trafficked nearby stand, also cutting the time needed to get fed.

Directions, maps helpful too

What also might be extremely helpful to many of the first-time Levi’s Stadium visitors are the app’s ability to get fans to Levi’s Stadium, and then help them find their way around once they get there. The former feature is one we’ve been having fun with since it links to Google Maps and gives fans options for public transit, walking and bicycling to the stadium — according to the app it will only take us 16 days to walk to Levi’s Stadium from our home here in Boulder, Colo., or five days by bike. Apparently the app isn’t familiar with winter or mountains, but that shouldn’t affect those who use it while in the San Francisco Bay area.

Inside the stadium, the 2,000+ Bluetooth beacons allow the app to offer interactive wayfinding, via maps that show users as a familiar blue dot walking around the stadium. Fans will need to turn on location services and Bluetooth for the mapping features to work.