Four Days in the Life of Digital Signage

  • I can’t remember when a market was evolving so rapidly: the use of digital signage in the fans’ sports event experience is happening so fast, I don’t know where to begin.
  • OK, I’ll just take the last four days before I sat down to write this:
  • Last Saturday, I attended the much-anticipated college football game in Austin, TX between the Texas Longhorns and Texas Tech. The next day, Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys played their first-ever regular season home game in the new Cowboys Stadium. Monday morning, the new video boards at the Cowboys Stadium makes page 5 of the Wall Street Journal, and Jerry Jones is hailed as an innovator. Monday night, the Miami Dolphins unveiled Cisco TelePresence and Cisco digital signage at Land Shark Stadium. Let’s take these one at a time… and see what’s going on with digital signage in sports. Is this a trend, or the wild-west of AV technology playing out in disparate venues each with a different agenda?
  • Saturday, Sept. 19: I was in the stands at the Texas vs. Texas Tech game, at the Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Installed in 2006, the 55-foot high by 134-foot wide (7,370 sq ft) LED wall (Daktronics) was the largest video display in the Western hemisphere and was the largest high-definition video display in the world at the time of its creation. It’s dubbed variously the “Godzillatron” by locals, or more disturbingly, as another “Jumbotron” (we all fight this–decades after the last Sony Jumbotron was sold anywhere, most of the public and mainstream press still today call an LED wall a “Jumbotron”). Saturday, that Dak LED wall displayed an dizzying array of digital signage in the form of ads, as well as serving as a “broadcast” screen”, and occasionally was used for IMAG (image magnification of live goings-on on the field. The most prominent use of the screen was for digital signage–advertising, in short spots created for the venue. But note: the most important trend in digital signage is interactive digital signage– in a large space, this means the use of cell phones to interact with the content (contests, games, etc). What happened Saturday? Some games and contests were launched on the big screen. But IPhones and Blackberries could not send out text messages– the networks were clogged by so many users in one tower location. Digital signage grade: C-. Too much TV, and interactive messaging did not work.
  • Sunday, Sept. 20: Dallas Cowboys first-ever regular season home game in the new Cowboys Stadium. All eyes on the gargantuan, 160 x 72 ft, center-hung $40 million Mitsubishi Diamond Vision LED screen. (Background: Some five years ago, members of the AV press, myself included, were given a VIP performance at Ceasars Palace in Las Vegas by Celine Dion. The auditorium of course featured a new Mitsubishi Diamond Vision LED wall. Soon after that, Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, saw that same Celine Dion performance. He later commented: “I don’t remember what I saw on the screen, and what I saw on the stage.”) The most prominent use of the screen during the Cowboys game: IMAG (image magnification). Most stadium screens show some combination of replays and digital signage advertising. Jerry Jones is doing something different: showing live IMAG of the game in progress. Digital Signage, in the form of advertising on the big screen was downplayed… but note: The newly opened 3 million-square-foot Dallas Cowboys stadium has been outfitted with Cisco Connected Sports technologies. The Cisco Connected Sports solution, deployed through a project with AT&T will help the Cowboys create new revenue streams and provide the flexibility to adapt the stadium to support any number of events. Cisco StadiumVision integrates high-definition video, digital content and interactive fan services into one seamless network that according to Cisco, “transcends sports operations and connects the Cowboys, and the stadium, to its fans in entirely new ways.” It seems Jerry Jones is looking to avoid the “TV” experience on the huge LED screen above the field… he wants to keep digital signage in the others areas of the stadium. That stadium-wide digital signage system has not been fully utilized yet… Future developments from Mr. Jones should be interesting.
  • Monday morning, Sept. 21: The new video boards at the Cowboys Stadium makes page 5 of the Wall Street Journal. Jerry Jones is hailed as an innovator. The story of stadium itself, with its billion dollar plus price tag, centers on the LED screen, and changing consumer habits as a new generation of fans brings new technology expectations to the stadium.
  • Monday night, Sept. 21: At a pre-Monday Night Football press conference, the Miami Dolphins announced that they have deployed Cisco TelePresence and Cisco StadiumVision technology to give fans an immersive game-day experience. The Dolphins are the first sports franchise to deploy Cisco TelePresence, allowing the multifaceted venue to double as a meeting center as well as providing the game day interaction.
  • Land Shark Stadium hosts a wide variety of events including Miami Dolphins football, Florida Marlins baseball, University of Miami football and the upcoming 2010 Super Bowl and Pro Bowl, and if they can unleash digital signage to not only change the sports experience but create a separate-use meeting facility, they could shake up the digital signage provider market.
  • But first things first: how will digital signage be used in stadiums? Judging by four days this last week, it’s the wild west out there.