As the NFL continues its struggle with TV ratings — some viewers still have not returned now that the presidential election is over — teams are turning to advanced technology amenities to lure fans into their stadiums.
The Washington Redskins debuted a Wi-Fi updgrade at FedExField on November 20 during a primetime Sunday night game against the Green Bay Packers. The stadium’s bandwidth increased to 10 gigabit per second, making in-venue online engagement faster than ever — and in some cases, better than what fans could get at home. Oddly enough, season ticket holders also receive free NFL RedZone and NFL Game Pass access, which encourages them to watch any NFL game they want while remaining in their seats watching the Redskins.
“In the current digital and Gen Z era, it is becoming more common to see team owners, professional sports leagues and college athletic departments embracing technology upgrades — like Wi-Fi — to support the fan experience, even if it’s not as explicit as the Redskins,” reports SportsTechie.com. “There are still others, such as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who are opposed to fans having their phones out during game action.”
Cuban told an audience at the Consumer Electronics Show in January that technology can work against teams, especially in an arena environment. “You have to be very careful that you don’t do anything that will take the game away.”
Meanwhile, the New England Patriots have made similar enhancements at Gillette Stadium, partnering with Extreme Networks Inc. (the NFL’s official Wi-Fi solutions provider) to launch advanced flow-based 802.11ac Wave 2 wireless technology. The move tripled the number of Wi-Fi access points in the stadium and provides the Patriots with the technology to incorporate augmented reality in which fans likely would use phones or glasses to better identify players on the field or first-down markers.
Looking ahead, we’re confident that we’re prepared to meet our fans’ increasing connectivity demands,” Fred Kirsch, vice president of content for the Patriots and Kraft Sports Productions, said in a statement. “Whether it’s wearables, augmented reality or accessing next-gen player stats, we’ll be ready with the best available technology to support our fans.”
Wi-Fi access in sports facilities has been a bone of contention in recent years. In 2015, several major hotel chains, sports facilities, convention centers and management companies ran afoul of the Federal Communications Commission after fed-up consumers complained about being unable to access Wi-Fi without paying exorbitant rates.
Perhaps by offering fans greater flexibility in both their digital and real-world experiences, the Redskins and Patriots will help usher in a new era of Wi-Fi compatibility.