Just a few years ago a big screen high definition television was considered to be a luxury; not it is not the least bit unusual for there to be several of these devices in a home. As a result many football fans – 41% in a recent poll – prefer to watch the game from home rather than live at the stadium. Next up is a 4K ultra high def tv that will accelerate this movement, making it more difficult for stadium operators to sell out their tickets and maintain their revenues.

At the same time smartphones have gone from a device strictly for well paid traveling executives to the de facto standard, consisting of more than 90% of all phone sales worldwide. Consumers expect nothing less than fast, reliable service wherever they may be, with instant access to the internet and their favorite applications.

The New England Patriots are cognizant of these trends and are seeking ways to keep people in their seats by enhancing the stadium experience. VP of Content Fred Kirsch commented that the Patriots “are trying to give things here that you can’t get in your living room”. Last year the stadium teamed up with tech leader Enterasys to deploy a scalable networking solution that included a whopping 360 access points, to address the demand for bandwidth on game days that could not be met by conventional cell phone towers.

This year the Pats have added more, per an article in CIO Magazine:

Along with the Wi-Fi network, the Patriots developed a mobile app called Patriots Game Day Live, available to anyone attending a game at Gillette Stadium. The team tested a version of the app last season with fans in luxury club seats and although only 10 percent of those fans used it, Kirsch says the team hopes to see that number increase by offering content that’s only available through the app.

That will include live play-by-play, bathroom wait times, a tool for ordering concessions from your seat, and access to NFL RedZone, a live compilation of all the scoring plays from games around the league.

The Wi-Fi network is expected to allow 40 percent of the 70,000 fans in the stadium to connect simultaneously. Kirsch says that, down the line, the team hopes to add unique content such as audio from players wearing microphones and video from the sidelines or locker room.

Although the bathroom wait time app sounds a little hokey, the rest is a step in the right direction from a business viewpoint. If consumers are going to pay more for the in-stadium experience then they are rightfully going to expect more for their dollar – or they won’t return. It is not unlike a dining experience; people don’t mind spending extra for quality product and service. Go someplace where everything is well planned and perfectly executed, the entree arriving just as you put your fork down to finish the salad, a server anticipating every need, food is fresh rather than frozen and consistently tasty, and you don’t mind paying a few dollars more. If however the appetizer, salad and entree all arrive at the same time, the soup is cold, the appetizer tastes something purchased from Sam’s Club, and then your server disappears for twenty minutes, it is unlikely you will return.

It will be difficult for teams and to compete against television for a large live audiences over the comforts of television at home in the future – but those that are creative will find a way to keep their stadiums filled to capacity.

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2013-14 Calendar: Key Dates for the Patriots and the NFL

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