How Will Technology Lead the Way?
Updated: Aug 12, 2021
Featured in: Sports Business Journal
By Karn Dhingra and Eric Prisbell
August 3, 2020
As teams and leagues navigate a return to play, they will be relying on innovative solutions to manage and keep facilities safe, communicate and connect with fans, provide contactless service and many other functions associated with offering live sports events in the COVID era. Sports Business Journal contacted technology executives across sports about technology’s role in the road ahead, the kinds of technology they are watching today and the problems that remain on the horizon. Their answers are edited for clarity and brevity.
How involved is technology in sports’ return to play?
Jason Gaedtke: Technology increasingly plays an important role in supporting both the game on the field (through replay, tracking, analytics, communications) and the delivery of the live baseball experience to fans (through MLB.com, MLB.TV and the MLB App). With limited in-stadium attendance during the pandemic, we are excited to launch some new fan experiences this year to enhance the remote-watching experience, including Rally (a free-to-play game based on baseball propositions) and Cheer at the Park (an online opportunity for fans to engage and share in the emotion of the game).
Adam Goodyer: It’s absolutely critical that all systems and digital touch points are successfully integrated as we slowly start welcoming fans back safely. These key pillars include access control, crowd management, contactless collection, and real-time safety messaging throughout each stage of the fan journey.
Brandon Schneider: We are spending a lot of time thinking about the in-venue fan experience, and how it changes in a post-COVID world. One key trend that has stayed constant in a lot of our research and work has been mobile and how we can put more power into the hands of our fans through the Warriors + Chase Center app. Everything from expanded food and beverage ordering, retail ordering, enhanced venue maps, enhanced ticket management, more information about transit options (including real-time public transit options), potentially showing wait times for certain areas of the venue, and more. We made a significant investment in building our own custom app with our partner, Accenture, which gives us the ability to provide updates on an ongoing basis. Since we launched our app ahead of opening Chase Center last fall, we’ve made 21 updates. It’s all about giving fans as much useful information as possible, so they’re prepared for this new fan experience in whatever form it may be.
We are fortunate to have just built a brand-new arena, and Chase Center is one of the only 5G-enabled venues on the West Coast, which allows us to offer a wider variety of digital experiences to fans while at an event. We can deliver more content to our fans, significantly decrease latency of data and look at different second-screen experiences on mobile (for example, exclusive camera angles).
Denise Taylor: For all stakeholders, technology is integral to the return of live sports. Player health and wellness is being monitored through apps and wearables. Increased venue hygiene protocols are being addressed through the increased use of medical-grade solutions, enhanced air and lighting solutions, along with advanced robotics being used for productions.
For the fan, we are thinking about a variety of technology integrations throughout venues, including an integrated digital ticket, facial recognition capabilities to reduce lines for entry and concessions, a frictionless retail and food and beverage experience, cashless payment methods, and using artificial intelligence and data algorithms to model out ticketing, seating, and social distancing.
The at-home viewing experience is also being driven by technology, with new digital fan engagements, innovative broadcast enhancements, and other ways to bring the live sports experience into people’s homes. Being able to have that socially connected, digital event with a group of friends sharing unique, premium content through an exclusive VIP experience.