NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talks stadium Wi-Fi

The boss, Roger Goodell, gives his approval of Levi's

The boss, Roger Goodell, gives his approval of Levi’s

Two years ago, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made news by calling for Wi-Fi networks in all NFL stadiums. While that wish is not yet a reality, the public debut of the San Francisco 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium Thursday allowed the commish to stop by for a very short press conference, where he did have some interesting points to make about Wi-Fi in stadiums.

While we’ve embedded the entire answer via video below, Goodell’s main point when asked about all the technology in the stadium was to highlight Wi-Fi, about which he said that when you put Wi-Fi in a stadium, “you allow people to use a technology they already know.”

Having more technology available to fans, Goodell went on to say, “is the best experience.” Whether or not the NFL as a league will help pay to bring that technology to individual stadiums that don’t yet have it is a story for another day.

video credit: Paul Kapustka, Mobile Sports Report.

Verizon and the NFL: Pals Now, but What About the Future?

NFL commish Roger Goodell at CES. Credit: Paul Kapustka, Mobile Sports Report

On the surface the appearance of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the Verizon CES keynote was all happiness and light, as chairman Rog traded pleasantries with Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam. But if you listened between the lines there was a bit of a disconnect, making us here at MSR wonder how in sync the two current partners will be in the near future.

The two areas where Verizon and the NFL seem headed in different directions are in mobile content delivery and in-stadium wireless networks, two huge matters for both entities. Currently Verizon is the NFL’s exclusive partner for providing mobile access to live NFL games, available only on Verizon devices via the NFLMobile app. Verizon currently can show live games on Thursday nights, Sunday nights and Monday Night Football, as well as the RedZone channel, which shows a lot of live content from games all around the league. Verizon paid something on the order of $700 million for the deal, which is said to expire after next season.

The unexpected appearance of Goodell during McAdam’s speech led us to initially believe there was some renewal announcement in the air — but instead Goodell left without talking about the future of NFL Mobile. Our guess for most of this season is that the NFL wants to take full control of its mobile/digital content offerings and sell them to fans at a steep cost, like Major League Baseball does. The silence in the presence of Verizon’s CEO can’t be good news for the phone carrier.

Likewise, Goodell has said he wants all stadiums in the league to install high-capacity Wi-Fi networks, to better serve fans with mobile content, social media and other connectivity options while they’re at the games. McAdam’s company, unlike its main competitor AT&T, has not made public Wi-Fi a priority and McAdam talked at CES about his hopes to use the company’s new 4G LTE video broadcast tools to help bring fans mobile coverage of events like the Super Bowl. He even made a pass at Goodell, telling the commish on stage that “we’d love to broadcast the big game [Super Bowl] in the 2014 time frame.” Goodell didn’t bite and didn’t comment. That doesn’t sound like much of a deal or even a promise. Akward stuff for a CEO to be floating, in front of thousands of witnesses.

Though we haven’t yet delved fully into how Verizon’s LTE video broadcast technology works, we’re skeptical that it can handle the big traffic demands of a full stadium of mobile users — more than half of whom are likely not Verizon customers and therefore unable to use any Verizon network technologies. Our guess is that the NFL will keep looking to Wi-Fi to solve stadium network issues — leaving Verizon on the sideline.

The Night the NFL’s Replacement Refs Blew Up Twitter

At 9:24 p.m. Pacific time Monday night, here is what is trending on Twitter: One promoted stream, followed by: #MNF, Roger Goodell, Packers, XFL, #MyExTaughtMe, #ThingsBetterThanReplacementRefs, Vince McMahon, Mike McCarthy, Hail Mary. If you didn’t watch the end of Monday Night Football Twitter can tell you all about it: I don’t even need to hear from Twitter PR that tonight will be the most-tweeted night ever, as every single NFL fan, follower and participant calls for Roger Goodell’s head and his decision to keep real refs out and replacement refs in.

It wasn’t just the single game-ending call that stunk like skunk. There were numerous calls either way, including an egregious offensive pass interference call that went the other way, keeping Seattle’s game-ending drive alive. We’ll embed some choice tweets here but may not get any more since we are betting the Twitter server farms are nearing code red or whatever thing they use to warn of meltdown. If nothing else, Twitter can thank Goodell for probably cementing their IPO. Twitter may be changing sports, but tonight sports is changing Twitter. Or at the very least blowing it to smithereens.

WSJ: NFL Scrambling to Add Digital Access so Fans Stay in Seats

In more than one story we have noted the main reason for pro teams putting wireless networks into stadiums: The possibility that fans will skip buying tickets if the at-game experience has poor connectivity.

In a story Friday from the Wall Street Journal it’s apparent that even the most popular sport in the country — the National Football League — is feeling the pressure to add to the digital experience, because the number of fans who come to the games is dropping. According to the story, the NFL — which is already on record saying it wants to put Wi-Fi in all stadiums — is considering a host of additional digital-access moves, including expanded in-stadium video replays for mobile devices and lightening up on its ridiculous (our opinion) TV blackout rules.

The money quote from the story, which can probably be applied to any major sport these days:

With declines in ticket sales each of the past five years, average game attendance is down 4.5% since 2007, while broadcast and online viewership is soaring. The NFL is worried that its couch-potato options—both on television and on mobile devices—have become good enough that many fans don’t see the point of attending an actual game.

“The at-home experience has gotten better and cheaper, while the in-stadium experience feels like it hasn’t,” said Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice president of ventures and business operations. “That’s a trend that we’ve got to do something about.”

Goodell: Wi-Fi Needed in Every NFL Stadium

At a press conference Tuesday NFL commissioner Roger Goodell left no doubts about where the league stands on Wi-Fi in stadiums: He wants league-wide networks in every NFL venue, so that fans “don’t have to shut down” their mobile devices.

Too bad the video from the NFL isn’t embeddable (hint, guys: sharing is good) but you can view it here to get Goodell’s no-questions-about-it take on Wi-Fi in stadiums as a neccessity. If you listen to the video you hear Goodell talk about all the things the NFL wants its fans to be able to experience digitally while at games — like access to the Red Zone channel, other highlights, and social media.

The devil, of course, is in the details and when asked about how much it would cost to equip every stadium with Wi-Fi, Goodell joked, telling the questioner “you sound like an owner.” While the cost of putting a wireless network will vary at each location, Major League Baseball has a similar impetus and has roughed out the cost at around $3 million per stadium, which is pretty much in line with what we’ve heard and seen.

While some NFL stadiums have Wi-Fi in various areas, like luxury suites, we’re not aware yet of an NFL venue with full blown Wi-Fi, like baseball’s AT&T Park in San Francisco. Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis got a bunch of upgrades for the Super Bowl but that was mostly quick-fix stuff like DAS, small cell antennas that are mainly a band-aid type solution for bandwidth and not something like full-blown Wi-Fi that can handle, say, multiple video streams.

As such Goodell admitted the Wi-Fi initiative wasn’t something that would arrive by the 2012 season, though there might be some test situations where Wi-Fi gets unveiled. Certainly there is no shortage of service providers like AT&T and Verizon who are interested in stadium networking, as are gear suppliers like Cisco, Xirrus, Meru Networks, and possibly others like Brocade, which has apparently signed a deal to be the networking supplier for the new San Francisco 49ers stadium.

The good news is for the industry and for fans — with approval from the top of the league, Wi-Fi in stadiums is now a priority. App developers, integrators and others — start your innovation engines now.