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Stuart Hamilton, senior director, Sports and Entertainment Innovations at Cisco, looks at how technology can help transform the live fan experience


ot so long ago, there was only one way for a sports fan to see their team play; travel to the stadium, buy a ticket and watch the game live. The advent of televised sport changed that but, for many years, watching a sporting event on TV was just

what you did if you couldn’t be there. After all, nothing could be as good as being there live, could it?

Accelerating innovation Today, the balance between live and televised sport has shifted. The huge increase in the number of available channels com- bined with the rise of high definition television (HDTV), surround sound, digital recording devices such as TiVo, video on demand and, most recently, 3D have revolutionised the viewing experi- ence for the average armchair sports fan. In addition, more and more fans are using a second and even a third screen in the form of computers, smartphones and tablets, to complement and par- ticipate in the action via social media outlets. This influx of new technology, the so called ‘red button effect’ is great news for the viewing public but, for sporting organisations, teams and venues, it represents a very real threat to ticket sales, match attendances and associated revenue streams.


ome of the Wales national rugby union team and the Wales national football team, the operators of Car-

diff’s Millennium Stadium wanted to deliver an unprecedented sporting experience for fans and visitors. By working with Cisco, the stadium is now

able to deliver seven channels of HD video from an expanded channel line of up to 450 displays for more than 74,500 visitors to experience. The StadiumVision technology allows the

stadium to transform from holding rugby or football matches to a concert venue that can host the likes of Take That or U2 as well as opening up new revenue streams through tar- geted promotions and sponsorship activities. “Nobody in the elite sport or major

event marketplace can afford to allow their

We want every single individual who visits the Millennium

Stadium to leave armed with special memories of having attended a great event

supporters to put up with second best in the modern era,” says Roger Lewis, group chief executive, Welsh Rugby Union. “We want every single individual who visits the Millennium Stadium to leave armed with special memories of having attended a great event.

46 Read Sports Management online “We can now show them images from the

action they have just seen and live images of what is happening behind the scenes before, during and after the big events. This enriches their experience of being in the stadium and takes our visitors even closer to the action.”

Issue 4 2011 © cybertrek 2011

This is only natural, after all when fans can watch a game complete with instant replays, in-game statistics, real-time analy- sis and high definition from the comfort of their sofa – all at a lower cost per game and without the chance of getting rained on – the incentive to travel to the stadium and watch the game in the flesh is diminished. We are already seeing the red button effect impact on international cricket, where in many countries Test match attendances are falling rapidly, despite television audiences remaining high. In addition, with these new TV tech- nologies becoming increasingly common across all sports, it’s clear that sports organisations and venues need to step up their game if the live experience is to meet – and surpass – fan expec- tations and stay ahead of the competition.

Meeting this demand, a new raft of technologies are now available to provide fans in the stadium with more interactive and personalised experiences, allowing sports and entertainment properties to connect with fans in entirely new ways.

Transforming the fan experience

Large video-screens have been present in major sporting venues for a while but now. With a fully IP-based network designed to stream high volumes of media at once, it’s possible to make high definition (HD) video available on hundreds and thousands of digital displays throughout the stadium, creating a more immer- sive experience for all. This means replays or alternate camera angles are no longer confined to big screens or scoreboards but can be shown on TV displays throughout the stands, press area, premium clubs, even in the concourse to entertain fans queuing for refreshments.

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