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4 Tech Takeaways from Extreme’s End of Season Recap

Ryan Hall Manager, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 11 Mar 2020

Recently, we held an exciting webinar: Tech Talk: ’19 – 20 NFL Season Recap, where we had the chance to sit down with several technology leaders from the NFL, Seattle Seahawks, and the University of Southern California for a season ‘tech’ recap, where our panel discussed fan engagement, IT networking solutions and in-stadium technology trends from this year.  Speakers included:

  • Aaron Amendolia: VP of IT, National Football League
  • Hemant Patel: Director of Stadium Technology and Architecture, National Football League
  • Chip Suttles: VP of Technology, Seattle Seahawks
  • Frank Juarez: Chief Technology Officer of Auxiliary Services: University of Southern California

Game day is every day. Whether you’re in a stadium or even another industry, a positive user experience starts with an initial connection that’s seamless and simple. Let’s walk through four takeaways from the panel discussion based on the experiences and best practices of the pros.

4 Key Tech Takeaways from the NFL End of Season Webinar

1.  Mobile ticketing is on the rise.

Adoption of the digital ticket is becoming a regular practice, with many venues going completely mobile in the last year. Increasingly, IT leadership is encouraging decision-makers to stop printing tickets and aim for a more mobile experience. It’s a better way to handle ticketing and a better experience for fans.

Now that mobile ticketing is standard practice, it’s important to improve the experience continually. For example, venues can focus on increasing connectivity at entry gates and ensuring there are no bottlenecks, allowing fans to access tickets and seamless entry.

From an operations and infrastructure perspective, IT and networking leadership should prepare to make changes to effectively support mobile ticketing. Increasing the number of access points and implementing or evolving Wi-Fi mobile coach programs to include ticketing support is helpful.

“Now that mobile ticketing is here to stay, we need to continue to improve that experience.” -Chip Suttles, VP of Technology, Seattle Seahawks

2.  In-game apps: they’re not just above performance—they’re about what fans are doing in venue.

One of the top sports apps by bandwidth client count is YinzCam: a game day app used frequently by NFL teams, designed to meet the needs of fans and offer in-stadium replays. Usage is increasing steadily across NFL stadiums, whether for mobile ticketing or purchasing capabilities.

Some of the top apps used within stadiums:

  • NFL
  • ESPN
  • Bitmoji

When stadiums detect a spike in usage for a particular app, opportunities such as building an engagement strategy arise. From a business perspective, this dynamic is only increasing. Knowing what fans are bringing into the stadium organically makes it possible to identify engagement programs.

“We’re certainly passing [application engagement] information onto our business at the League-level. We want them to be aware of what we see fans bringing into the stadium organically. I think a lot of times there’s discussions about what are the hottest apps, what’s out on the internet…so we really want them to know what shows up on game day.” -Aaron Amendolia, VP of Information Technology, NFL

3. Wi-Fi analytics are critical for understanding fan behavior and preferences.

Wi-Fi analytics and intelligence enable the ability to measure network performance, understand behaviors of connected users and improve customer and organizational outcomes. To make intelligent decisions, determine what applications are important to fans and plan future investments, Wi-Fi analytics are a critical part of the strategy.

Utilizing Wi-Fi analytics can help stadiums uncover the following insights:

  • Number of fans joining the network
  • Amount of data transferred
  • Apps used to transfer data
  • Differentiate active and passive fan behavior

These metrics allow sports venues to improve, identify and modify guidelines for a better fan experience. Identifying what an attendee brings into the stadium by virtue of being a mobile user provides insights into how to create the right network to accommodate those behaviors.

“It really started off as a benchmark against the technology. It’s evolved into understanding our customers, fans, and behavior within a stadium.” -Aaron Amendolia, VP of Information Technology, NFL

4.  Over the next two to three years, it’s likely that many stadiums will move to the Wi-Fi 6 platform, resulting in significantly increased efficiency.

Data consumption in stadiums has grown at an unprecedented rate. Some NFL teams report experiencing over 4.5 terabytes of data transfer per game.

As a result of the massive growth in data consumption, it makes sense for stadiums to invest in Wi-Fi 6 in advance to be prepared for continued surges.

Sports fans are reliant on the use of their mobile devices and it’s important for stadiums to remove barriers, and excuses to stay at home to watch the game.  Advanced networking technologies such as Wi-Fi 6 allow sports venues to be forward-thinking and enhance the game experience.

“We put a lot of emphasis, money and focus on having a great game live experience, but we don’t want fans to say, ‘Well, I didn’t come because they don’t have good Wi-Fi,’ or ‘I couldn’t get all my apps’ or ‘I couldn’t check in with my babysitter.’ Wi-Fi 6 will help supplement that.” -Chip Suttles, VP of Technology, Seattle Seahawks

Growing Value of Wi-Fi Across Industries

The fact of the matter is Wi-Fi supports the services and conveniences available to strengthen the NFL’s broader technology strategy. At the same time, in-stadium networking initiatives and technologies relate widely to business drivers and IT pain points in other industries. Fundamental network competencies are common goals and challenges regardless of the industry or business environment.

From a business perspective, stadiums are a hub of external and internal users, devices, and applications that help people connect. For technology leaders today across all industries, it’s relevant. Game day is every day.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a stadium or another vertical or industry that’s part of it. On game day, a positive user experience starts with an initial connection that’s seamless and simple. That’s table stakes.” -John Brams, Director of Sports Hospitality, Extreme Networks

To get the full details on fan engagement trends from the ’19-’20 football season, watch the full Tech Talk: End of Football Season Recap.  For more information regarding Extreme’s relationship with the NFL, visit our partner landing page.

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