Last week, 49ers CEO Jed York joined Sony CEO Kaz Hirai in appearing on All Things Digital to discuss technology and the 49ers new stadium. The video above is 43 minutes long, but there is some intriguing information about what we might see at Levi's Stadium in 2014. Thanks to McTee for pointing it out in the FanShots.
York has spoken frequently about how the franchise is focusing on technology (and the environment) as they build Levi's Stadium. In this Q&A, York goes into details on some potential ideas to improve the game experience. Among other things, the major focus would be on establishing greater convenience. This would include developing an entirely ticketless, cashless infrastructure. Through your mobile device, you could figure out everything you need to make your way around the stadium and enjoy the game, whether it be ordering food to your seats or finding the nearest bathrooms.
That being said, one of the key parts of the technological development is the ability to customize things to your own specifications. The 49ers will attempt provide opportunities to do as much or as little as you want. If you just want to sit and watch the game, you can just keep your phone in your pocket. If you want watch through specific cameras, follow instant replay and check out pertinent details about given players, you'll be able to do that as well.
The emphasis is on software, as opposed to hardware. Rather than build out a system of in-seat monitors that will get in the way of folks, people can bring their own device, or leave it at home. Even though a lot of people don't have a tablet, more than half of all Americans now own a smart phone. You'll be able to bring that to a game and use it however you'd like.
York discussed this ability to customize the experience, and if they can pull it off, it sounds pretty impressive. Using some of York's examples, if you want to spend the game focused on a specific player, or the offensive line battle, you will conceivably be able to do that from your mobile device. If you're not a big football fan but ended up at the game, you can spend the game learning more about Vernon Davis's art interests, or anything else like that. The experience will be fine-tuned for just about any kind of fan.
There was one question about the ability to provide these various camera angles in light of the NFL's television deal. According to York, the NFL carves in-stadium out of the TV deal. There have been questions in recent years about how to improve the in-stadium experience, given how great it can be watching a game at home. This could be one such example. Getting different angles probably won't guarantee someone will purchase season tickets, but if they have season tickets and are thinking about leaving, it could convince them to stick with their tickets.
There was a question from the audience about how the bandwidth would be able to handle all this technology. The fan in question mentioned it in conjunction with Century Link Field in Seattle. York responded with two points. The first is that the 49ers new stadium is opening over a decade after the CLink, so technology has advanced considerably in that time.
More importantly, the 49ers are building the wireless infrastructure with the stadium, as opposed to adding it after the fact. There have been reports the team wants to have the infrastructure to handle the mobile needs of the 68,000+ that will be in attendance each week. York discussed how the team is investing heavily in that area, as opposed to putting up a monstrous jumbotron like we see at the Cowboys stadium, and plenty others. The 49ers will obviously have a video board, but the real investment is in the much more important wireless bandwidth.
Speaking of that particular question, it came from a Seahawks fan at the 36:00 minute mark. This might have been the funniest moment of the program. The Seahawks fan wanted to provide an example of the struggles with bandwidth at Century Link. Naturally, he decided to troll Jed York a little bit, mentioning how, when Colin Kaepernick has been picked off for the fifth time and everybody is trying to upload a picture of it, there are bandwidth issues. York took it in stride, responding with, "Well we know that Silicon Valley is better than Seattle, to start with."
York was also asked how he views games, and of course he responded with (at 23:14), "By myself in a padded room." That honestly describes much of my viewing experience, albeit without the padded room. I don't really watch many games with other people. Part of that is because I'm keeping the site updated, but also, sometimes I just like focusing on the game on my own. That wasn't the case at the Super Bowl, but I can live with that.
After the Q&A, York took a couple quick questions from Katie Boehret of the Wall Street Journal. It included his first viewing experience, which happened to take place while sitting on Jennifer Montana's lap: