To connect the stadium or not? That is the question.

While reading KPCB’s very good “Internet Trends 2014“ report, I couldn’t help but consider how some of the trends they highlight play into the connected stadium debate.

First, here are some take-outs from that KPCB report to set the scene…

  • Smartphones are getting cheaper…

22% – drop in the average cost of a smartphone between 2008 (USD430) and 2013 (USD335).

  • …and they are getting smarter…

10 – number of sensors in Samsung’s Galaxy S5 (up from 3 in the Galaxy S from 2010).

  • TV viewing is increasingly part of an enriched multi-screen experience…

49% and 66% – percentage of US smartphone and tablet owners respectively claiming to be “surfing the web” while watching TV.

  • Millennials find traditional linear TV far less attractive…

3 – number of times more likely a millennial is to get their TV fix from an internet TV source such as Apple TV (internet TV accounts for 34% of their total TV time), compared to non-millennials.

Back to the connected stadium question…is there any doubt, given increasing smartphone affordability and capabilities, as well as the modern connected home-viewing experience, that a stadium should provide spectators with secure, high-speed internet access? Particularly when some sports franchises are already looking beyond this and capitalising on other tech trends (foremost the San Francisco-based franchises http://cnet.co/1FKk4Ke ).

Mark Cuban, tech-guru and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is well known for his stance against the use of mobile phones by fans at games. He told Businessweek earlier last year that there is “no question people use their phones and devices at games, but they use them when they are bored (http://bloom.bg/1zTNYLs )”. He did later soften his stance in the wake of his teams’ home, the American Airlines Centre, unveiling its new wi-fi system but he retains a focus on improving the core product on the court (http://bit.ly/1DsscQ9 ).

A connected stadium that enables spectators to indiscriminately share match content for which official broadcasters have paid top dollar for exclusivity can cause headaches for some sports property owners. But there is little doubt most fans want to be connected, particularly to share the live sport experience.

This leaves those sports teams or events not adapting to this new reality with the prospect of alienating an entire generation of fans (and losing out on opportunities to gather rich information about their most loyal fans as well as providing their sponsors with added value).

Even the most avid detractor of the connected stadium (aligned with emerging smartphone technologies) has to concede that connectivity can be used to good effect. For example, mobile payment and access can ease the fan journey through the stadium and motion sensors, already used to good effect to get fans closer to the action by some sports (http://usat.ly/1vu8f55 ), have the potential to transform a smartphone into a device fans can use to express (or ‘shake’) support for their team.

Of course, if fans are coming to watch your team or event for the free wi-fi, then you need to take a look at your value proposition. I’m with Mark Cuban on this. Connect your stadium but put most of your focus on what happens on the court.

To read the full KPCB report go to: http://bit.ly/174N3N3

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