The NFL has been trying to compete with a phenomenon known as “couch-gating.” That subtle change to the familiar tail-gating has become the term used to describe the connected NFL fan who watches the game at home.
He might have multiple televisions in his man-cave, or is following his fantasy team’s realtime stats on a tablet. Maybe he just is actively engaging talking in the sport on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The NFL wants to further enhance the fan experience when they attend games and they’re trying to bring “couch-gating” to the game. The one thing needed to fuel everything the fan wants to do on social media is WiFi and internet.
When a stadium fills up on game day, it essentially becomes a small city. The demands of 70,000 people can be crippling to a network and the result is next to no service at times.
Enter Extreme Networks. The company has already deployed their intelligent Wi-Fi analytics technology in Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions; Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles; MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants, New York Jets and Super Bowl XLVIII.
For Extreme Networks, it isn’t simply plugging in a router, or boosting WiFi signals around the stadium. Their intelligent analytics system allows them to do much more than that.
The analytics systems will allow venues and teams to monitor their Wi-Fi signal quality and address problems with their networks quickly and effectively. For instance, if some section in the end zone is using more data than another section of the stadium, they can raise that antenna in the high demand area and lower it in the lower-usage area balancing it out. They can distribute the signal to where it is most needed.
That real-time analysis can allow them to correct issues as they occur instead of addressing them after game day.
That will allow fans to recreate their in-home experience in their seat at the stadium on game day. Fans will be able to quickly and effectively use social devices to share photos on Instagram, post on Twitter or check-in on Facebook. It will also allow the Fantasy Football nut to follow his team and stats on his tablet or smartphone. If a fan even wanted to watch another game on a mobile device, he or she could.
With all that attention to devices, should NFL teams be worried about losing fan interest? Will fans be too distracted to watch the game and create a home-field advantage?
The NFL doesn’t seem to think so and isn’t worried about it. They acknowledge that they think most of this goes on in-between plays or during television commercial timeouts. They also emphasized that it is about improving the fan experience at the game, that was what was paramount.
The future of this technology is exciting with the opportunities it brings about. They envision being able to order food from your seats to avoid going to concession stands, or alternatively being able to see how long lines are before leaving your seat almost like watching traffic on Google Maps. This would also work for bathroom lines. Potentially an app showing you where the nearest bathroom, exit and concession stand is without walking aimlessly around looking for one.
Extreme Networks and the NFL also said they want to use the WiFi to bring an experience to the fan that they couldn’t get anywhere else. Potentially meaning camera angles you can’t get at home on television. Being able to look inside the tunnels or on the side lines. There is even mention of using the WiFi to allow fans to hear play calls or interactions between players and coaches, almost like NASCAR fans listening to crew chiefs talk to their drivers.
One of the teams at the fore-front of these ideas was the New England Patriots. They used the WiFi to channel live audio feeds from players and to provided video on demand from all cameras in Gillette Stadium.
Extreme Networks and the NFL don’t have plans to develop any of these apps in the future, they’ll leave that open to other parties. They’re creating a network that would support that interaction in the future.
With the WiFi capabilities Extreme Network brings to NFL, the potential is limitless. Fans should be excited about the growth and expansion of the in-stadium fan experience following Extreme Network’s partnership with the NFL.