Sports Entertainment Summit II: Mobiles and Tablets for Stand-alone or Dual-screen Configurations

By Mel Lambert

“The good news is that there are plenty of mobile consumer devices,” acknowledged Joe Inzerillo, SVP of multimedia and distribution with Major League Baseball Advanced Media, with a knowing grin. “The bad news is that there are plenty of mobile consumer devices! It is too expensive to support all platforms, but which ones do you chose? We need to determine who the fans are, where they are [located], and what platforms they are using. We can then develop content that supports the platform being used by those targeted users.” Inzerillo was speaking at last week’s SVG Sports Entertainment Summit, which drew more than 300 industry executives to the Sofitel Hotel in Los Angeles to discuss the future from a technical and business perspective, in a well-attended session moderated by SVG executive director Ken Kerschbaumer.

“The quality of video offered by mobile devices is phenomenal,” advised Tim Connolly, VP of Mobile Distribution with Disney and ESPN Media Networks. “We want to bring the same quality of TV experience to mobile users, and not be hampered by technological barriers.” Two factors are important, Connolly conceded. “First,” he said, “we need to develop appropriate business models. Secondly, we need to secure digital rights from the league partners at the right cost,” to enable ESPN to stream digital content seamlessly to tablets, smart phones, and PCs. In terms of monetization paradigms, “Free ain’t’ a business!” Connolly opined.

To offer a fully engaging in-venue experience, it was stressed by more than one participant that mobile WiFi and broadband connections are of growing importance. “WiFi access needs to be painless,” Inzerillo advised. “A third of 50,000 patrons at a ball game might be carrying smart phones or tablets. But sports fans will not pay extra for WiFi,” recalling that at the recent All Stars Game hosted by the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix, AT&T laid on a free-to-use broadband service; a similar service was offered at the Minnesota Twin’s Target Field. “Mobile devices can also now be used to order food in two ball parks,” stated Inzerillo, with a deliver-to-seat service in Philadelphia and a pick-up service in Denver.

Tzahi Sofer, founder/CEO of the web-streaming service AttracTV, offered that two-screen viewing will continue in importance. “Consumers will use different [screens], dependent upon what they are doing, with a seamless experience.”

Inzerillo concluded that social media will be vital for future mobile success, “but content providers should not control it. Integration is important for ease of use,” he stressed. Content providers targeting mobile media “must make sure that connectivity is exquisite via WiFi and 4G. Also, to fully service the fan, mobile services should be venue-specific,” he said, citing the tailored food service offered at a couple of ballparks.

Click here for SVG’s comprehensive coverage of the Sports Entertainment Summit II.