NFL teams may be embracing the iPad, but the league seems a bit mixed in its approach to fans carrying iPhones, iPads, and other mobile devices. Despite a plan announced earlier this summer that NFL stadiums would be equipped with large-scale Wi-Fi access along with mobile apps for fans to use while at a game, the NFL has decided to take a much more cautious approach to game-day technology.
Earlier this year, amid reports that tickets sales for NFL had fallen for a fifth straight year in a row, the league announced free Wi-Fi and some ambitious in-stadium perks for fans willing to put down the money to see their favorite team play in person. Unfortunately for most fans, only five stadiums will be offering these features during the 2012 season.
Earlier this Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice president of ventures and business operations told detailed some of the league’s plans while noting that, thanks to technology, fans can have a better experience in their living rooms or sports bars.
The at-home experience has gotten better and cheaper, while the in-stadium experience feels like it hasn’t… That’s a trend that we’ve got to do something about.
To balance that out, the plan has been to equip stadiums with Wi-Fi that would be free for anyone attending a game along with a range of special in-stadium app options. Those options included giving fans an audio feed from microphones added to the helmets of certain players on the field, access to a range of replay camera angles, the ability to see the same replays as officials, and in-stadium access to NFL Redzone (currently only available on mobile devices to Verizon customers).
News came shortly after the announcement that the NFL hadn’t signed a league-wide telecommunications partner to power in-stadium Wi-Fi. Instead the NFL will offer Wi-Fi and addition iOS and Android app features in specific stadiums for the 2012 season. Those stadiums will serve as a pilot project.
- MetLife Stadium – The NY Giants and NY Jets
- Gillette Stadium – The New England Patriots
- Bank of America Stadium – The Carolina Panthers
- Lucas Oil Stadium – The Indianapolis Colts
- The Superdome – The New Orleans Saints
Fans watching the Colts or Patriots play at home games will also have access to NFL Redzone while Panthers fans will get multiple camera angles for replays.
According to Grubman several clubs already have contracts with various providers and the league is wary of making an exceedingly large commitment to a single provider without some road testing – meaning the handful of stadiums offering services this season.
Multiple clubs are already getting these integrated systems installed with one of the carriers or with an equipment provider, thus yielding a rich array of installations that can be monitored for effectiveness. There is still quite a bit of speed in tech development, so we remain wary of big expenditure on installed infrastructure until a solution is proven.
Sports Business Daily noted last month that each stadium has its own array of service providers that it has been working with for some time.