In a convergence of forces including the power of 5G connectivity, an obsession with mobile consumer experience and the retooling of live sports venues for pandemic era fans, Verizon and the NFL are renewing their 10-year technology alliance just in time for the 2021 kickoff.
In a statement issued Thursday (Sept. 9) hours before game one of the 2021 season between Super Bowl 2020 champs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys, Verizon and the NFL detailed the 5G scrimmage in NFL stadiums, online gaming and more in a new 10-year deal.
Touting “5G to support innovation and technology adoption throughout the league,” Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg said “… swift delivery of 5G connectivity in 25 stadiums has created new ways to bring fans even closer to the action,” with a focus on transforming “not only the fan experience, but also has the potential to improve player training and overall venue operations.”
What started in 2017 as enhanced mobile streaming of NFL games graduated to 5G Ultra Wideband Service in 13 NFL Stadiums in 2019 and was accelerated in late 2020. Verizon invested over $80 million in permanent 5G deployments in the Tampa environs — specifically its Raymond James Stadium, site of Super Bowl LV — setting the stage for all manner of uses of the technology, from fan viewing to player stat tracking, in-app experiences and more.
Starting with tonight’s game, fans will get a shot at Verizon 5G Multi-View. As CNBC reported, “The 5G digital streaming platform provides seven simultaneous camera angles that can be watched on mobile devices in seven different stadiums on the home team’s app.”
As of now, Verizon’s 5G Multi-View tech is active at Gillette Stadium (New England Patriots)
Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, New York’s MetLife Stadium, U.S. Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium, and SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, site of Super Bowl 2021.
Per this week’s announcement, “The goal is to expand the 5G viewing option to all stadiums and teams, but the companies do not have a timeline.”
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A Touchdown for Touchless Live Football
For Verizon, contactless payments at 5G speeds are a part of the new tech mix as well. In July the telecom giant partnered with Mastercard on contactless payments, months after the NFL and Visa proffered the first “cashless Super Bowl” at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.
And the reupped NFL-Verizon pact is about more than cool ways to see games on your phone.
Noting, “Verizon is working with collaborator technology companies to bring to life brand new experiences within stadiums and venues around the country,” the announcement says the tech upgrade will include pairing “LIDAR technology with Verizon 5G Edge to help venue owners gain real-time information on crowd patterns, so they can make immediate decisions to help improve the flow of people.”
That has implications for concessions and merchandising at games, and mobile experience.
News site Sport Techie also reported in May that “The Verizon 5G Performance Center in Arizona … has installed ShotTracker, a shooting analytics system that received investment from Verizon in January. With the speed of 5G computing, Verizon envisions game data from ShotTracker being delivered in real-time to coaches, broadcasters, and fans using smartphones inside arenas,” adding, “The goal is to compute such metrics as expected field goal percentage in real-time, as the player is taking the shot.”
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Expanding the Huddle on Football’s Digital Future
Saying, “Over the next decade, Verizon and the NFL will utilize 5G to unlock advancements that could have the ability to impact management, scouting, training, health and safety and game day operations,” the announcement promises a more immersive mobile NFL experience.
Calling Verizon “one of our key technology partners, helping with everything from digital distribution of NFL content, engaging our fans at the NFL’s biggest events, enhancing communications throughout the NFL ecosystem and upgrading technology within stadiums across the League,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “As we look to the next decade with our trusted partner, Verizon will help us capitalize on the promise of 5G technology, paving the way for the future of the game and delivering incredible experiences for millions of NFL fans.”
Not that Verizon is alone in its quest for virtual domination of football franchises.
In July PYMNTS reported on industry buzz that its discussions with the NFL on securing rights to stream Sunday football games are proceeding.
“Apple has been in discussions with the NFL to get hold of the Sunday Ticket rights,” PYMNTS reported, adding that “talks with the NFL follow Apple’s hiring last year of Amazon executive James DeLorenzo to lead sports for Apple TV+. DeLorenzo was responsible for working out a deal to grant Amazon streaming rights to some live NFL football games.”