Sports Companies Eye 5G for Add-On Sales, Immersive Fan Experience

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By Victoria Graham

Sports businesses are banking on next-generation wireless networks as a sales tool.

Stadium operators and fantasy sports companies envision using fast 5G network technologies to generate more add-on sales at game venues and create a more immersive experience that could fuel fan enthusiasm and advertising opportunities.

U.S. wireless carriers, such as Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. plan to introduce 5G services later this year, but consumers won’t likely see them nationally until about 2020. Meanwhile, stadiums, mindful of their phone-staring fans, have improved their WiFi connections to accommodate multi-tasking customers.

New technologies, when introduced, often fall short of the hype leading up to them, and 5G, too, will have growing pains. But its potential for speedy data transmission and cutting down on network traffic bottlenecks, if harnessed properly, could deliver new revenue opportunities for carriers, their suppliers and business customers.

“It’s all about reducing friction,” Jason Elliott, 5G market development manager with Nokia OYJ, told Bloomberg Law. “This really is the first time that I have seen players outside of the core telecommunications industry engaged in wanting to understand 5G and how they can influence and prepare for 5G and what is coming up.”

Sports companies eyeing 5G are particularly focusing on:

  • Fan Experience: Stadium operators plan to use 5G to deliver more seamless streaming of game-day action. They envision fans in nosebleed seats seeing play-by-play action up in real time through WiFi streaming that can be made faster by 5G, Elliott said. Fans at the 2018 winter Olympics in Peyongchang, Korea, used a trial 5G network in the country to see athletes take the slopes from a 360-degree perspective, a feature enabled by Intel Corp’s multi-angle image capture and virtual reality technology. In a trial at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, Nokia and Intel Corp. partnered to deliver higher-quality streaming to fans and geo-location services for fans to find friends and family in the crowded arena.
  • New Revenue Sources: Faster networks likely will also improve indoor mapping and location based-services. Stadium or event vendors could use such information and existing consumer data to deliver more tailored ads and coupons. That will lead to “an in-depth relationship with their customers,” Elliott said. Sports leagues, such as the National Basketball Association, also may introduce or broaden their partnerships with carriers for exclusive streaming services, said Umair Hussain, associate principal with the Red Chalk Group, a consulting firm.
  • More Fantasy Content: Fantasy sports operators also see opportunities to boost their offerings through 5G by adding instant video and other data-intensive content on top of game stats."5G technology will enable the consumer to access this information at a much faster and more seamless rate,” DraftKings Inc. told Bloomberg Law in an e-mail. The technology will also make their back-end processes, such as caching and pagination, more efficient, Jeremy Pippin, senior director of product management for mobile and emerging platforms at FanDuel Inc., told Bloomberg Law.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Graham in Washington at vgraham@bloomberglaw.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Roger Yu at ryu@bloomberglaw.com

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