3 Pillars of Sports Technology
I started my career working in the field of technology, I worked through the pre-chasm period of the Internet, into the boom of the Internet, wireless, and into hardware as CEO of the first smartphone in the world, the PC-E phone manufactured by Samsung. Through the past two decades of this technological revolution I’ve learned that there are essentially three pillars to the business of technology: content, access, and mediums. I didn’t realize how powerful and simple these pillars of technology were, however, until I transitioned my career into sports.
I was hired as the CEO of the most notable sports agency in the world, Leigh Steinberg Sports & Entertainment, not because I was a lawyer or had extensive knowledge of sports, but Leigh knew the future of sports was dependent on technology. He brought me on at his firm to merge my experience in technology with his sports business expertise. After that unbelievable journey I partnered with Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon as the CEO of Sports 1 Marketing where I found these pillars are even more critical, since we currently work as consultants on the technology issues at stadiums and arenas. We must try to figure out the richest content, the most efficient access, and the appropriate mediums in order to provide the most immersive sports experience.
The first pillar, content, is “what” we experience. The second, access, is “how” we experience it. And finally the third pillar of medium is “where” we experience it. One of the most critical business issues of today when building these large projects is the lengthy amount of time it takes to build these multi-billion dollar stadiums and arenas. The long lead times force us to have great foresight on the appropriate technologies for content, access, and mediums. Also, we must answer the important challenge of how the technologies will be implemented in two to three years.
As we look towards the future of sports technologies, we must understand how to monetize and utilize all the three pillars: content, access, and mediums
Every type of content is provided in sports from gaming companies (EA Sports), to the respective professional leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB), to the fantasy side of our industry (DraftKings, Fan Duel), and don’t forget the media giants (ESPN/Disney). We are now forced to sift through all of these great ideas, or content, to find the most valuable or viral content. For example Disney, the “King” of content, created a kingdom about a mouse that still exists today. In Fact, Disney’s content is more popular than ever! In fact, Disney’s content is more popular than ever thanks to the success of ESPN, Star Wars, and Disneyland. Even when we look at their YouTube channel, Disney has almost 900 million views on its own.
The access pillar is also critical with large projects, because as we build access to this content we have to take into account the sheer number of people who will try to access it. We have arenas that can accommodate over 100,000 fans, all attempting to access content on their handheld devices. How do we provide the bandwidth in such a concentrated space? For example, the 49ers’ new facility, Levi’s Stadium, laid out hundreds of miles of cable in order to achieve record stadium bandwidth capacity. But are there enough POPs and access points? Most new stadiums are installing over 700 access points to service the fans. In order for our stadiums to survive we have to give the same connectivity and access that customers are provided at home, inside their stadiums.
Content and access mean nothing without the last pillar, mediums--“where” we experience content. Studies shows that, today, a large proportion of fans prefer to watch the game at home (57 percent according to Cisco). Many families have created a home that offers a great experience that continually lives, breathes, and expands. This is because all of the different mediums change daily; appliances and hardware are continually replaced. In fact, the biggest competitor to Apple—is Apple. How many of us are using an iPhone 4s? When looking at the stadiums and arenas in the sports world, the expense of these massive buildings provide a great challenge to most CIOs.
Almost every major sports league has had decreasing attendance, but attendance at some events is increasing. The difference between a regular-season NFL game and the Super Bowl, a normal college hockey game and the Frozen Four, a regular baseball game compared to the All-Star Game or the Farmer’s open compared to the Masters, is that these popular events are combining content, access, and mediums with the “priceless” value of a “life” experience. They are delivering unbelievable content, giving unique and exclusive access, as well as using great mediums illustrated by the comparisons above. Anything that is event-oriented, with the exclusive once-in-a-lifetime experience, provides value that exponentially increases the attendance, since our daily experience of sports at home cannot compare.
As we look towards the future of sports technologies, we must understand how to monetize and utilize all three pillars. Number one is content, what is the consumer experiencing? Number two is access, how are they experiencing it? Number three is the medium, where are they experiencing it?