VTS 2010: Business Is Catching On to Digital Signage, IPTV

In just a few short years, the role of digital signage and IPTV at major sports venues has increased tenfold. Digital-signage systems like Cisco StadiumVision, Harris InfoCaster, and Sony Ziris are an absolute must for modern stadiums and arenas looking to deliver video, promotions, and information to thousands of digital displays throughout the facility.

SVG’s Sports Venue Technology Summit brought together top minds from the digital-signage field at New Meadowlands Stadium on Nov. 10 to discuss the rapidly changing industry.

“We’re finding more and more ways to optimize [digital signage and IPTV] and find new revenue streams,” said Stuart Hamilton, senior director of innovation, Cisco Sports and Entertainment Solutions Group. “A few years ago when this started, I think the technology was a little ahead of the business folks. They had all this capability but didn’t know what to do with it. Now the business side is catching up to that.”

The ROI Factor
Large-scale installations like the StadiumVision system at New Meadowlands, which features more than 2,200 Sony displays running on a single IPTV network, require a substantial initial investment. If systems like this are to proliferate venues in the future, investors must begin to see a genuine return on their investment.

“As the ROI gets clearer and becomes more crystallized, I think people will realize that it makes more sense to do this and running cable is just a piece of that overall cost,” said Hamilton. “It’s just a matter of time before most venues have a system like this in place.”

Orlando’s Amway Center, which uses Harris’s InfoCaster system to push out digital signage to more than 1,000 Samsung flat-panel displays, has already seen a significant ROI, according to Rich Zabel, VP of sales for Harris. The Orlando Magic’s new home opened in October but has already seen a 15%-20% jump in concession sales over last year, due in large part to the digital signage that promotes the product.

“So far, there have been great results from Orlando, especially in terms of concessions,” says Zabel. “That’s partially because of new menu items and such, but digital signage is a very big part of that jump as well. They feel like they’re getting more people to the concessions just from signage. That wow factor draws people in to the concessions more.”

Keeping Track and Staying Current
While it is easy to demand a return on your investment, calculating that ROI is another challenge altogether. Determining who views this signage, when, and where is still a work in progress, but Cisco, Harris, and Sony continue to develop these solutions.

“This is probably an area where we need to get a bit better,” said Hamilton. “Today, we produce the results of what was shown where. Then, we produce reports based on this database customized for how the team wants to show their sponsors. But we are working on more in-depth [analysis techniques].”

Harris currently has its new Punctuate software in beta test at the Amway Center. Punctuate manages the scheduling and placement of advertising and promotional content for digital-signage networks. In addition to automatic content placement, the software offers inventory control, invoicing, rate cards for automatic ad pricing, and campaign management.

“It is quickly becoming an existing technology,” says Zabel. “The Punctuate system is only in beta right now at Amway, but we are excited about where we can go with it.”

Sony offers a solution that brings video and screen shots into the equation.

We have some new technologies with cameras actually built into the screens,” says Greg Browning, SVP of sales and marketing at Convergent Media, Sony Professional Services Group. “We can tell who looks at the display, and we can give [clients] a look at what specific demographics — age group, sex, and so on —looked at that screen.”

However, Browning says that clients rarely utilize the analysis offered by their digital-signage providers. “We can show daily log reports, and we can take screen shots of certain times during the day, but advertisers rarely ask for this info even though we’ve come up with reams of reports and data. In most cases, they’ll know if it’s working or not before we do, based on their cash register.”

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