One of the hardest hit industries from the COVID-19 pandemic is team sports. This year’s seasonal rhythm of March Madness, Major League Baseball (MLB), the Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, U.S. Open and more have all come to a sudden and grinding halt. Even live eSports events such as TwitchCon and the League of Legends European Championship took a hit with cancellations. When sporting leagues worldwide suspended their seasons in early March 2020, live-game revenues such as ticket and concession sales, broadcasting rights and advertising sponsorships evaporated overnight.
Many of these sports franchises are considering reopening with shortened seasons. However, with no or limited fans in the stands, how are they going to keep fans happy and make up for lost revenue? This hiatus is causing sporting organizations, content providers and advertisers to get creative to keep sporting brands visible, fans engaged and revenues flowing. As a result, high-performance network upgrades are required at the “metro edge” ̶ where the most venues and fans are located ̶ to deliver new and exciting digital experiences that will drive greater fan interaction and participation.
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Putting the “live” back into live sports
To help fill the live sports void, digitizing sports is now going mainstream. NASCAR was one of the first to switch gears with their online iRacing Series. The NFL held a virtual draft, and the NBA and ESPN have been broadcasting the NBA2K League. In Europe, a Quarantine Cup was held with no fans in the stadium that featured soccer stars of various clubs playing in a FIFA 20 tournament to determine a champion. At the local level, a Danish soccer team lined its stadium with a ring of TV monitors and streamed a live match via Zoom for its diehard fans.
Keeping fans engaged at home requires new apps and services that push interactive content to fans’ mobile devices about team news, game results, interviews and statistics — and that’s just the beginning. These apps can also create new revenue-generation opportunities by engaging fans with offers for club merchandise, contests and future in-stadium promotions. Advertisers can also take advantage of these online experiences to present individual fans with unique and relevant offers.
These examples just scratch the surface of programs that sports ecosystems are experimenting with to keep fans at the center of the action and generate new revenue streams. It will take a combination of imaginative content and network optimization to deliver the superior digital sports experiences needed to expand and grow the ecosystem.
Equinix and AT&T: Optimizing digital sports experiences
Reaching fans at home or via their mobile devices with digital sports content requires a new mindset for architecting network infrastructures. Proximate interconnection to a variety of network, cloud and content services for streaming sporting events to fans and giving them a high-quality, interactive experience is the name of this game. Simply put, the network infrastructure needs to be located as close as physically possible to where sporting action and fans are located.
By enabling data, content aggregation and processing at the metro edge (rather than backhauling it to a centralized data center), sporting event broadcasters can achieve bandwidth savings, reduce latency and improve reliability. And for the fans, it means direct access to real-time content—precisely when needed. Equinix and AT&T provide the critical network infrastructure necessary for content producers to deliver the ultimate quality experience.
Equinix’s global interconnection platform accelerates placing IT and interconnection services at the metro edge in 210+ IBX data centers across 56 markets and 26 countries. On Platform Equinix®, AT&T customers can utilize direct and highly secure interconnection to enterprise and business partner ecosystems, the public internet and internet exchanges, and cloud and SaaS providers. Equinix also provides on-demand access to AT&T Network services via physical and virtual connections adding greater value to AT&T customers and partners.
In addition to delivering point of presence within Equinix facilities around the globe, AT&T has “lit up” dual 10G dedicated fiber connections into many professional venues throughout the U.S. AT&T Global Video Services have also pre-provisioned fiber connectivity at venues for use as a Layer 2 network, with internet connections and connections directly to cloud providers via Platform Equinix.
The end-to-end metro edge infrastructure provided by Equinix and AT&T can help enable a consistent fan experience to live streaming and on-demand sports content. Robust and extensive networking coverage is also critical to delivering a robust user interaction with the content, especially for activities such as fantasy league drafts, online betting and interactive gaming. And when the fans return to the stands, the mobile/wireless network services can help deliver an enhanced digital experience even greater than they enjoy at home.
Schedule a meeting with Equinix and AT&T and let us share how you can use the metro edge to:
- Integrate and scale content
- Reduce network latency
- Improve network reliability
- Increase bandwidth savings