Fan Engagement and Video Production Go Hand in Hand
If the mantra throughout the sports-venue industry is “focus on fan engagement,” the NFL is not only listening. It’s leading the charge.
This year, the NFL finally repealed its blackout policy. The decision — a consequence of the FCC’s unanimous vote to eliminate sports blackout rules and pressure from the Senate Judiciary Committee — overturns a policy that had been in place since the 1970s, when ticket revenue was the lifeblood of the NFL franchise. Fans cheered the news: after all, ticket prices have skyrocketed in the past four decades, and the broadcast product has vastly improved. But, amidst the coverage was a very interesting fact: in 2014, not a single game had been blacked out.
In fact, in 2014, nearly three-quarters of NFL franchises reported an increase in average attendance over 2013. Although the on-field product certainly factors into a team’s popularity, it isn’t the only factor driving attendance. Record-breaking videoboards with crystal-clear images and broadcast-like replays draw more and more fans to the game; amenities like WiFi, DAS, and venue-specific mobile apps keep them there throughout the season.
The NFL’s push to improve the fan experience can be sensed in nearly every one of its 31 stadiums. In the past 10 years, four new venues have been built, and, in the past six years, a whopping 16 have been upgraded to HD, including six in 2014 and five in 2015. Two new builds are under way in Minnesota and Atlanta. And those that remain are upgrading, considering upgrades, or pursuing new stadiums (including the three teams — San Diego, Oakland, and St. Louis — currently involved in the Los Angeles franchise discussions).
NFL franchises focus on fan engagement in a number of ways, but they’re unified by a focus on in-venue video production. As broadcast quality gets better and better, not only do teams need to match the technology of the production, but they must also re-create the content. Fans expect replays — in both real time and super-slow motion — as well as first-down lines, player stats, and fantasy updates. Several teams are taking it a step further by integrating into the in-venue production their own unique shots — such as under the hood, player tunnel, or locker room — that viewers wouldn’t see in their living room.
Because of this, teams are devoting sizable portions of their renovation budgets to their video-control rooms, investing in the same production switchers, graphics engines, and replay servers as broadcasters. And because venues don’t have to contend with the same transmission and distribution issues as broadcast, they are increasingly investing in cameras, image processors, and videoboards that can handle 4K, even 8K capture and playout, as well as in the asset-management systems to store this valuable content.
SVG — in an effort to better serve the producers, venue operators, systems integrators, consultants, and technology vendors that produce in-venue video — will rebrand its Venue Tech moniker to one more in line with our goals: Venue Production. On Nov. 4, we will host our first-ever SVG Venue Production Seminar (formerly the SVG Venue@ series) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL, diving into “beyond HD” workflows. And, throughout the year, we’ll continue to support the excellent work you do through our annual Summit and regional Seminars, our annual Venue Production Journal (coming soon!), and the ever evolving Venue Initiative White Paper.