The NBA took an equity stake in mobile app developer YinzCam, and the startup will rework 22 NBA teams’ apps to provide in-venue solutions to fans and teams. YinzCam, which provides a multitude of services including beacon technology (in-venue fan tracking through bluetooth), in-stadium replays, mobile loyalty programs and social games, is partnering with the NBA to provide the aforementioned services but will also add watch and listen options to its growing functionality. This ability will hopefully engage fans in-venue by providing them some of the comforts of home. It also provides greater ability to monetize the app and fan experience inside the stadium.
One of the biggest challenges in driving fans to the stadium is the fact that the in-home experience has become so advanced. 4K and HD TVs provide clear content, TV partners such as ESPN, Fox, NBC and Turner have increased production value by providing a product with amazing camera angles, great sound, and — in some cases — great in-game analysis from on-air talent. Why go to the stadium and pay $15 for food and drink when fans can just stay at home with a great product in their living room?
Although the new “Watch” functionality makes little sense — why go to the game to watch action on your phone? — the “Listen” functionality could be a big hit. If fans can get access to announcers, anything they missed while at the game can be substituted with the YinzCam app and headphones. No more wondering who a foul was on, or waiting for a stadium replay to see if something was a turnover. No more trying to figure out who is on the field of play if a fan is in section 300 row 35. The app can engage fans and provide some luxuries of home.
It can also be monetized. During timeouts, commercials could theoretically be run on the app. The app could also suggest that fans purchase concessions during breaks, or remind them that there is a deal on their favorite team’s hat or shirt at the pro shop. The app will also provide intelligence to teams through beacon and tracking technology. It’s a win-win for fans and teams alike.
Obviously this doesn’t answer the challenge of how to ensure functionality of the app. In-stadium Wi-Fi is notoriously slow and it is hard to imagine how the Watch or Listen functionality can be distributed without internet access. These app partners will have to work closely with internet service providers to figure out how to get service to the fan. In any case, the move to provide more to the fans in-stadium will be pushed heavily by the league as it has now invested in-stadium app providers.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.