Modern Stadium Experiences Are Here, and They’re Cool as Hell
Holograms and heated seats—it sounds like technology of the future, but it could soon be coming to a sports stadium near you.
Imagine sitting far back in the bleachers of a basketball game but being able to see the action on the court, via a hologram, as clearly as if you were sitting in the front row. Or imagine getting up at half-time to grab a snack from the concession stand and checking an app on your phone to find the line with the shortest wait time. These are only a few of the ways that technology—powered by 5G—has started to revolutionize the way we watch sports, both on the court and at home.
In a new study commissioned by Amdocs, a software and services provider, researchers found that consumers under the age of 35 preferred watching sports programs through streaming video—and that they were willing to pay more for an immersive, high-quality streaming experience. For this reason, service providers are now scrambling to implement 5G technology into their sports content. According to Amdocs, 87 percent of network operators are planning to unroll 5G streaming at sporting events in the future.
“5G has the potential to completely revolutionize live sports content distribution,” says Josh Spiegelman, managing director of Sponsorships and Content at Mindshare, who works with clients to infuse their brand story into the sports ecosystem across different media properties. One of the ways 5G is poised to do this is through reducing latency—the delay between what's getting transmitted and when audiences actually see it. “I definitely have friends who have texted one another when a crazy moment on the field happened, only to find out that the recipient is a few seconds behind and hasn't seen it yet, due to latency issues,” Spiegelman says. But 5G is capable of transmitting the game instantaneously, and without the risk of buffering—meaning that people watching at home are seeing exactly what's happening on the court, in real time, resulting in a superior home viewing experience. What's more, Spiegelman says, without the risk of latency, sports fans will be able to place bets on their team at any location and be assured there's no delay.
5G is expected to have a “seismic” effect on the fan in-stadium experience as well, Spiegelman says. “Historically, connectivity has been unreliable in many stadiums, which has deterred attendance for fans that are acclimated to second screening during games.” But fans would get a “curated” experience with the introduction of 5G, allowing them to get live replays from multiple camera angles, order food directly to their seats, find the shortest route to food and drink stations, and more. Although it might seem like science fiction, the curated 5G experience has already started to take off: At the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX, Mavericks fans can use interactive maps via their mobile app to locate concessions with the shortest wait times, accessible restrooms, nearby exits, and more. Further east, at the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento, fans of the Sacramento Kings enjoy a “smart” experience, powered by 5G, from the moment they arrive. Instead of traditional turnstiles, fans enter the arena via “smart entry points,” that allow for three times as many people to pass through in the span of one hour. From there, fans can use a mobile app to order food, pay for parking, watch replays, and even adjust the temperature of their seats.
But for those who want to stay at home and feel like they're at the court—5G-powered technology allows for that as well. Last November the Sacramento Kings piloted an augmented reality headset, allowing kids from neighboring schools to use virtual-reality goggles to experience the game from a remote location. The goggles allowed kids to experience the game up-close, as though they were sitting at the scorer's table on the edge of the court.
When it comes to the future of sports, fans have made it clear that they want more than just peanuts and crackerjacks. Immersive, 5G experiences—designed to make home feel like a stadium and give the stadium all the comforts of home—will be what keeps them coming back to the ballgame, again and again.