Amway Center Upgrades IPTV, Digital Signage, and App To Connect Fans on Every Screen
Amway Center, home to the NBA’s Orlando Magic, reports that more than 1.3 million people come through its turnstiles each year. That’s 1.3 million people who will, at some point, wait in line for concessions or the restroom and either look up at a video display or down at their smartphone and expect both to work flawlessly.
Prior to this season, the Magic looked to upgrade the existing IPTV and digital-signage system; no easy feat given the 1,000+ displays scattered throughout the downtown-Orlando arena. With a focus on high quality, reliability, and low latency, the team worked with CTG to create a hybrid approach, selecting VITEC’s IPTV Sports Venue Solution — comprising EZ TV IPTV middleware, HD blade encoders, and IPTV set-top boxes — and Four Winds digital-signage system.
“It’s a much more robust, scalable, and redundant system than we had,” says Orlando Magic VP of IT Jeff Lutes. “We just felt like the VITEC [IPTV system] was best of breed, and the partnership that we formed with them has been fantastic. They worked with us very [closely] to make sure this thing got implemented — in a very short period of time.”
As a result of the hybrid approach, Amway Center’s 1,298 Samsung displays are now backended by VITEC’s IPTV system (those displaying full-screen content) or Four Winds’ digital displays (those formatted with an L-bar), with content shared across the platforms.
VITEC manages the IP streams within the stadium, which includes 20 live channels and an additional 60 DirecTV channels, and delivers to more than 300 Amino set-top boxes throughout Amway Center. That content is also delivered to 700 Four Winds screens. Advanced features include real-time network DVRs and an electronic program guide that provides programming information for all TV channels and local feeds. Using the IPTV system, the Magic can feed customized content to specific locations — for example, the Club and Founders Level suites — and can customize specific suites’ displays with sponsor logos.
“Our set-top–box manager can create specific zones, so you can actually group [set-top boxes] together,” explains Joe Walsh, national sales manager, VITEC. “You can say all the Aminos on the west concourse or all the Aminos in the luxury suites or all the Aminos in the club level. And, through that set-top–box manager, we can actually turn on and off the displays; we can force channel changes. [The Magic] have complete control as an administrator; they’re not walking around with a remote control changing channels on hundreds of displays. They can do it from a centralized point.”
To further enhance the fan experience, the Magic unveiled a mobile app based on the VenueNext platform, allowing fans to buy and sell tickets, purchase concessions and retail items, and access team schedules, stats, and arena directions. The app will include original video; however, there are no immediate plans to integrate the VITEC platform’s mobile-video capabilities.
After the 2013-14 season, the Magic announced that Amway Center would become the first NBA arena to deploy iBeacons. With the 2015-16 season now under way, installation and programming of 900 iBeacons is nearly complete. iBeacons enable teams to prompt fans with ticket deals, seat upgrades, concession sales, and more as soon as they enter the arena. The team also added 120 access points to its free WiFi network and boosted bandwidth from 1 Gb of throughput to 3 Gb.
“Right now, the iBeacons will be used primarily for way finding, but it will evolve,” says Lutes. “Last year, we did some [push notifications] that seat upgrades were available and stuff like that, [and] we will evolve it into more proximity-based messaging for special offers.”
Besides the Orlando Magic, the 20,000-seat Amway Center is home to the ECHL Solar Bears and AFL’s Orlando Predators and is a popular venue for other sports events and major concert tours. The venue will be able to customize its IPTV and digital-signage systems, as well as its mobile app, to suit each tenant.
“[Amway Center] has over 200 functions a year: the Magic’s there, they play hockey there, they have concerts,” says Walsh. “Within our user interface, they can skin it for different events that are happening in their facility. One day, the look and feel of our UI is going to have the Orlando Magic, and, if it’s hockey or a concert, they can skin it a different way. It’s very easy for them to do that.”