Why the USA ‘gets’ stadium WiFi

As with so many technological and sociocultural innovations before, the USA isn’t just taking baby steps towards better stadium WiFi and connectivity, it is trailblazing at full speed. The UK can learn a lot from its cousins across the pond.

‘Whether by building from scratch, or retrofitting existing facilities, stadiums are in a fierce competition with each other to add the latest technologies,’ says TechRepublic’s Teena Hammond, commenting on the recent proliferation of connected stadiums across the USA.

Stadium connectivity in the US: a step beyond*

Teams with Stadium WiFi network

  • Major League Baseball (MLB) 73%
  • National Football League (NFL) 70%
  • National Basketball Association (NBA) 83%
  • National Hockey League (NHL) 63%
  • Major League Soccer (MLS) 65%

Teams with mobile app

  • National Football League (NFL) 100%
  • National Basketball Association (NBA) 97%
  • National Hockey League (NHL) 100%
  • Major League Soccer (MLS) 60%

The reason why? Rather than rest on their laurels and coast along as mere ringmasters of live sport action, stadium owners are getting savvy on the revolutions taking place, both among their consumer base and in the marketplace.

The ‘millenial’ demographic

First there is the rise of the elusive ‘millennial’ – a youthful consumer group, born between the early 1980s and late 1990s – who have grown up in a world filled with electronics, and live in one that is increasingly online and social-network-driven.

Connectivity is paramount to millennials and – in the USA – studies have indicated that the availability of robust stadium WiFi during a football or basketball game (allowing access to the web or uploading of social media posts) can mean the difference between staying or leaving at half-time. Some have compared stadium connectivity to running water for the younger generation of fans and, with each new generation coming through, getting online efficiently, quickly and seamlessly within a stadium will shift from being a desire, to an expectation, to second nature.

Doing battle – with the sofa…

Recent years have seen a boom in the affordability of huge, flat screen TVs and surround sound systems – both in the USA and UK – to the point that the ‘stay at home’ live sports experience is becoming far more appealing. While watching a game from the comfort of a sofa is never going to replicate the sounds, smells and atmosphere of a live fixture, the combination of increasingly higher definitions of screens and sounds, together with the readily available cold beer, hot food and toilet facilities of the home – and not to mention the savings on the ticket price – is in danger of shifting the balance away from stadium attendance.

In response, major league sports teams in the USA are boosting connectivity in their arenas with the added services of smartphone apps to push offers and promotions, order food and drink from the comfort of a seat, stream instant replays and alternative camera angles and – crucially – find a toilet without a queue.

Maximising revenues

Getting fans online within a stadium during a game is a fast-track ticket to making money for venue and club owners, and – in the USA – this is a certainly not a fact that has been overlooked.

Connecting a stadium with an efficient, free WiFi network opens up a plethora of potential new revenue streams in areas from ticketing to the sale of food and drink or merchandise.

The collection of data being passed over a stadium WiFi network, too, can provide a means of revenue generation. By harnessing this data, stadium owners can get to know fans better (what they are buying, where they are going within the venue, etc.), which can help to tailor future marketing efforts for more targeted, bespoke promotions.

Finally, a large proportion of teams across the five major leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS) have rolled-out a bespoke smartphone application for fans inside and outside the stadium. With scope for promotion and sponsorship opportunities alongside the up-to-the-minute news and updates fans want to access, these apps are providing yet another source of revenue for USA-based teams embracing the in-stadium connectivity package.

Stadium for WiFi – time for action in the UK

The progress and innovation taking place across the USA in the stadium WiFi arena is plain to see. Clubs and arena managers are clearly keeping a close eye on their fans’ expectations for ‘always on’ connectivity and acting accordingly to harness the latest technology for their venues, while also rolling out smartphone apps to deliver a great corresponding content experience.

With the number of mobile-connected devices now exceeding the world’s population, and more than 10 billion devices predicted by 2018, why wouldn’t they be rushing to meet this unbelievable market need?

So, UK, what are you waiting for?


Natalie Duffield

Natalie has spent 20 years working in the IT and Telecommunications industries alongside leading tech entrepreneur Peter Wilkinson. A confident, tactical, strategic thinker, and a dynamic CEO, Natalie has experience in a wealth of areas, including managed services, cloud computing, hosted services and outsourced infrastructure, data centre space, virtual server storage environments, telephony and networks.

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