By adaptive - February 8th, 2016

Startup VenueNext may hit paydirt and score new customers after its platform powered the NFL’s Super Bowl 50 Stadium App. There’s no bigger stage in North America, especially as the game was played in Silicon Valley at two-year-old Levi’s Stadium.

The arena was built for broadband and Bluetooth and is home to the San Francisco 49ers. The NFL team’s owners backed and spun off VenueNext to unleash its fan experience service on sports venues and beyond.
Before the game kicked off, VenueNext founder and CEO John Paul told Open Mobile Media about the opportunities and perils of performing under pressure…

OMM: Do you feel added pressure given the game is in Silicon Valley so the tech is expected to be perfect?
 The good news is the infrastructure has worked for two years. We’ve had 70,000 people at games and they’ll use their phones more because they want to let everyone know they’re at the Super Bowl, but we're confident the network will hold up.

OMM: How will this app make the Super Bowl experience different for fans than at previous Super Bowls?
The average Super Bowl fan has probably never experienced a game at Levi’s Stadium. The vast majority of people coming will see the network is great at Levi’s. Your phone works and it’s fast. We spent extra money upgrading the LTE network before the Super Bowl; it’s the best network ever. I’m sure we’ll break the record for most bandwidth used. We have 40 gigabits ready to go. Half the stadium could stream video at the same time. Before Levi’s, the most I heard stadiums have was one gigabit.

OMM: VenueNext charges an annual license fee for its white label platform which is also being used by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, MLB’s New York Yankees, and the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Efficiencies aside, does the service create in-app revenue-generating opportunities?
The biggest area is sponsorship revenue. Today sponsors pay for their brands being shown (on signage, video boards, etc.) around the stadium. In the future they’ll pay for placement in the app because that’s where people are interacting.
eSurance did that with the 49ers, part of its deal was sponsoring in the app. The Magic have sponsored inside the app, you’ll see more sponsorships move into the app space as long as you keep usage up.
With 30 percent of people in-venue using the app you have the chance for sponsors to have their brand associated with the app and service. Orlando has SunPass (electronic highway toll payments) as the sponsor for the Express Lines to have the brand associated with express pickup. They have the branding physically on the Express Order lines and on the app.
The teams keep this revenue at the moment. We find most teams like a fixed, budgetable license fee and they keep the upside. I think we’ll show enough case studies.

OMM: What about privacy concerns?
We feel like we’re doing the right balance between privacy and utility. I think as time goes on, people are giving up privacy for convenience. 80 percent of fans at Levi’s have location services and Bluetooth turned on. Without that, we don’t know where you are. If you opt in and let us know where you are, you get better service.

OMM: What new features can fans look for next?
Meet-ups. When you go to a stadium, it can be hard to meet a few friends. They can’t come sit with you, but you can meet at this place at this time. In our app you’ll be able to pull up Facebook friends, your address book, a set of friends you think or know are at the game and pick a point on the map where you can meet and we’ll send a notification that let’s meet up at this place. It will give everyone their own walking directions and see little dots on the screen where they are on their way to the meet-up.
The teams like that because they get more data about you. All of these features improve the fan experience but the most important thing for the team or venue is to know who’s there and they can build a profile over time and create a better market.

OMM: The technology seems transferrable to other major sports and beyond. Where might you go next?
We’re having lots of conversations from Australia to Europe, all the places you’d expect. We view a venue as a piece of property, a hotel is a venue with the same problems as a stadium. They’re an easier problem as they’re not as dense, so it’s easier to put a good network in; healthcare and transportation are opportunities and airports are a venue. We haven’t announced these yet, but this year you’ll see it in hospitality and healthcare because they’re just as interested in the guest experiences as sports teams and it’s a much bigger market.

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