With New IPTV Platform, Kansas City Royals Engage Fans on Every Display at ‘The K’
Latest renovation integrates centerfield videoboard with 450+ video displays
Kauffman Stadium may be nearing the big 5-0, but you wouldn’t know it, thanks to the Kansas City Royals’ continuing efforts to breathe new life into their longtime home. In 2009, a top-to-bottom, $250 million renovation installed a new video-control room, the now iconic centerfield videoboard, and more than 450 video displays throughout the venue. Today, an overhaul of the IPTV system and integration of the videoboard with those displays are designed to better engage Royals fans on game day.
“In 2008-09, we moved from what looked like a 30-year-old stadium to what looked like a relatively brand-new stadium, and that included a complete redo of a lot of the footprint of the stadium plus the introduction of a lot of technology, including IPTV,” says Brian Himstedt, senior director, information systems, Kansas City Royals. “At that time, [it was] very early days of IPTV, and a lot of that technology didn’t exist in the stadium prior to that. That’s now eight or nine years ago. [We] needed to reconsider what we’re doing with our IPTV platforms.”
After experiencing some of the benefits of IPTV with the system installed in 2009, the Royals realized that they needed a system that could support low-latency, live in-venue streaming and enable them to create and update dynamic digital signage content. The team selected VITEC’s EZ TV IPTV and digital-signage platform, which integrates IPTV distribution with digital-signage capabilities in one platform.
“The quality of the product that we put out on a concourse or we put in our suites depends on the reliability of the video platform: no latency, no interruptions of service, well integrated with the rest of the venue,” says Himstedt. “VITEC hit a sweet spot for us just in terms of cost and performance.”
In addition to an improvement in video quality and reliability, the Royals looked for a way to further integrate their fan-facing video elements, including the one-of-a-kind centerfield videoboard. Rather than maintain a separate IPTV system with a separate operator, the Royals tied the VITEC platform into a Daktronics DMP-8000 media digital-media player to integrate the IPTV system with the LED displays.
“Now we can really make IPTV a part of the event presentation and give it the same look and feel as we have on the main scoreboard,” says Steven Funke, director, event presentation and production, Kansas City Royals. “It’s another element we have to give out information or make it part of the show, as opposed to before, when it was a standalone system. That’s been exciting to us, since we now have the capabilities to do pretty much anything we want on the IPTV system that we haven’t done in the past.”
The new workflow, which debuted prior to the 2016-17 season, has given the Royals’ in-house production team added flexibility. The main game presentation can be encoded and delivered to the stadium’s hundreds of TVs with minimal delay but still act like a TV channel; the Royals can easily “change the channel” to a sponsor ad, a team promotion, and more. Furthermore, the system gives the Royals the ability to change the channel only on specific displays or in specific zones.
With “The K” well into its fifth decade (the stadium will celebrate its 46th season this year), the Royals see the potential upgrades on the horizon to keep the in-venue video experience fresh, dynamic, and engaging. The team recently invested in two Ross Video XPressions graphics systems to enliven the layout of the centerfield videoboard and enhance the overall presentation. Additional changes may soon follow.
“Our philosophy is to entertain the fans, obviously, but we want to be a secondary to the game itself,” says Funke. “We want to be able to complement it as much we can.”