‘New York Times’ Turns to SVG for Industry-Assessment Story

In the Jan.
29 edition of the
New York Times, John Branch features SVG prominently in
his story on the sports industry’s challenge of bringing the living room to the
game. Branch refers to last January’s survey by the CEA and SVG, which
indicated that half of sports fans believe that watching in
high-definition is “almost as good” as watching in person.

SVG Editorial Director Ken Kershbaumer is also quoted in the story,
discussing how he was struck by how disconnected ticket holders were
from the pregame buzz at last year’s Super Bowl: “‘You go through the
turnstiles, and all of a sudden you don’t have the pregame coverage,’
Mr. Kerschbaumer said. ‘You just go in and sit there.’”

Read the full text of the story below.

Bob Hirsch
and Mark Wolchock have watched Giants football games on television together for
decades. Increasingly, their view is clearer than that of friends with season
tickets. Invariably, the telephone rings.

“Guys will
call up from Giants Stadium, asking what happened,” said Mr. Hirsch, a
56-year-old from New City, N.Y. “Because they know we saw the play from
15 different angles.”

It is not
lost on league officials, industry executives and entrepreneurs that the best
seat in the house may be in the living room, not at the game, even for events
like the Super Bowl here on Sunday. Technological advances, ranging from
high-definition flat-screen televisions to laptop computers, have provided fans
on the couch with information that those in the stands never have.

That has
forced sports officials to rethink the game experience and desperately attempt
to bring the living room to the game, not the other way around.

The Dallas
Cowboys’ new stadium will feature a 160-by-71-foot high-definition screen
spanning more than half the field. The Jets’ and Giants’ new stadium, scheduled
to open in 2010, will have gigantic video screens in each corner, 20 video
boards outside the stadium aimed at tailgaters, and 2,100 high-definition
flat-screen televisions inside.

like Kangaroo Media and WiseDV are fervently marketing hand-held devices,
available at events like Nascar and Formula One races, and tennis and golf
tournaments. The units provide various camera feeds, updates and statistics,
allowing fans to essentially create a broadcast of the event that they are also
watching live.

Arenas and
stadiums everywhere are adding bandwidth capacity and wireless Internet to
appease the ever-growing number of high-tech gadgets that fans carry.

“As a
society, we have become so conditioned to having access to a virtually
limitless amount of information that our expectations have changed,” said Tim
Herbert, senior director for market research for the Consumer Electronics
Association. “For many, it’s enough to sit and watch a game. But for many
others, especially younger fans, they’re looking to have a different type of

Every year,
more fans watch sports on giant televisions, pause or rewind the live action
themselves, flip through a dozen or more other games available on different
channels, and have a laptop nearby to check everything from biographical data
to up-to-the-minute fantasy-league statistics, or maybe join a fan forum for
running commentary on the proceedings.

“People do
view the home experience significantly better now than they did, say, 10 years
ago,” Mr. Herbert said.

When those
people go to a game — if they go to a game — they are forced to leave many of
those capabilities behind. The issue facing the sports industry is just how
much that matters.

half of sports fans believe that watching in high definition is “almost as
good” as watching in person, according to a survey conducted last January by
the C.E.A. and the Sports Video Group. The survey also found that 30 percent
planned to watch last year’s Super Bowl with a computer nearby, to look up
information during the game.

officials from the N.F.L., the N.B.A. and Major League Baseball said that they
do not view the allure of home viewing as a threat to attracting ticket buyers,
even in a battered economy. A live event is unique, they said, and nothing can
replace its sights, sounds and smells — or the “tribal enthusiasm,” as the
N.F.L. executive vice president Eric Grubman put it, of like-minded people who
believe that they can have an impact on the contest’s result.

is the ultimate television sport,” Mr. Grubman said. “I would also submit that
it’s the ultimate in-stadium sport.”

Bob Bowman,
chief executive of MLB.com, Major League Baseball’s official Web site, said: “I
don’t think anything is going to replace the value and sheer pageantry of a
live event. That said, it’s incumbent on all of us to provide content to
enhance the experience for the fan, regardless of where they are.”

buyers have always gambled on unpredictable elements ranging from weather to
the personalities of fans around them. They have also known that if replays are
shown in the stadium, they are usually not repeated from various angles. There
are no announcers to explain what has happened. The down time between plays and
during commercial breaks can be yawn-inducing. And at sporting events spread
over large areas, like golf tournaments and car races, most fans miss the key
moments. They are left to catch the highlights later — at home, probably.

But if
executives truly did not worry about fans choosing to stay home, there probably
would not be such extravagant plans for the latest and biggest video screens at
N.F.L. stadiums.

Without a
nudge from tech-savvy fans, Major League Baseball probably would not promote
its “MLB At Bat” application for users of iPhones and new-generation
BlackBerrys, which might be the next generation’s transistor radios. For a
price (less than $10 for this season, Mr. Bowman said), users get live
scoreboards and box scores, pitch-by-pitch graphics, live radio play-by-plays
and near-instant replays.

Without a
nod to the future, the N.B.A. would not continue its foray into
three-dimensional broadcasts, widely seen as the next big trend in home viewing.
The league first offered a 3-D game to fans in a Cleveland arena during the 2007 finals. About
160 theaters in 35 states will host 3-D broadcasts of next month’s All-Star

And without
the technical gadgets at home, people might not find a need for the gadgets
from the likes of Kangaroo Media and WiseDV.

have more and more stuff at home, which, in a way, brings them closer to the
game,” said Martin Greenwood, WiseDV’s senior vice president for business
development and operations. “And the question is, if you’re already at the
game, can we bring you even closer to it?”

Mimeault, president and chief operating officer of Kangaroo Media, said that
his company typically rents out about 10,000 devices at Nascar’s Daytona 500,
at more than $50 each.

At the
Super Bowl 11 years ago, the backs of some seats featured Vyvx ChoiceSeat
touch-screen displays — “the granddaddy of all of us,” said Tim Hayden, who
started a company called Vivid Sky to connect fans at events to the type of
information they expect at home.

But at
Sunday’s Super Bowl in Tampa,
Fla., there will be no special
technological gizmos beyond the ones people bring themselves. There will be
just a game, a halftime show and the typical eye candy to get fans through the
commercial breaks.

At last
year’s Super Bowl, Ken Kerschbaumer, editorial director of the Sports Video
Group, was struck by how disconnected ticket holders were from the pre-game
buzz, when millions at home watched television and scanned the Internet.

“You go
through the turnstiles, and all of a sudden you don’t have the pregame
coverage,” Mr. Kerschbaumer said. “You just go in and sit there.”

technology at home and at the sports sites might be nearly the same, so fans in
both places have similar access to views and information.

“And then
it gets back to the old-fashioned stuff,” said Mr. Bowman, the MLB.com
executive. “Do you want to be able to smell the grass, or do you want to be
closer to your refrigerator?”

Password must contain the following:

A lowercase letter

A capital (uppercase) letter

A number

Minimum 8 characters