Erik Linask : Sports Technology
Erik Linask
writer

Amazon Fire Phone Should be a Laptop

I’ve written a lot of headlines in my life but this one is among the oddest. Why on earth does a phone...

Full Story »

Apple Pay Vs. Google Wallet

Replacing credit cards can likely only be done if the new system is dead-easy to use and it moreover has to be...

Full Story »

Signaling Offers Great Differentiation for Mobile Value-Added Service Offerings

We’ve all heard that some Value Added Services (VAS) revenue such as Short Message Service (SMS) are starting to decline in...

Full Story »

Birdstep Improves Wireless User Experience, Reduces Churn

A smartphone user can get tripped up easily when in motion as today’s smartphones look for WiFi networks to connect to and...

Full Story »

Sonos BOOST, For Music in Tough to Reach Places

I’ve been using Sonos as an in-home streaming solution for many years and since it relies on WiFi it provides infinite levels...

Full Story »

IOT tests do NOT tell the whole story

Service providers typically have infrastructure from multiple vendors installed in their networks.  Mostly this is by design since they don’t want...

Full Story »

Notes from Connections 2014 Part Deux

More notes from BSFT Connections 2014 in the desert by friends of my at the show. These notes are from ANPI's...

Full Story »

Should Yahoo Have to Pay the NFL Union for Fantasy Football Stats?

June 4, 2009


In one of the weirder sports technology stories to cross the wire in a while, the National Football League's players union reportedly is being sued by search engine Yahoo! Inc. because the popular Web site doesn't believe it should pay royalties to use data such as players' stats and photos for online fantasy football.   Steve Karnowski of that venerable news service - The Associated Press - tells us that the last of Yahoo's licensing agreements with the NFL Players Association expired three months ago, and the players union is threatening to sue Yahoo if the company doesn't pay for the information.   Where to start?   First off, I would love to see a cost-benefit analysis here: How much has Yahoo paid in the past for those rights, and how much interest does Yahoo-hosted fantasy football generate in the game.   I'd also love to know how long the licensing agreement was in place - especially since fantasy sports have grown exponentially in the past few years, and promise to continue growing as players (fantasy owners, that is) have greater access to the Internet through smartphones, netbooks and other popular, portable Web-ready devices.   Yahoo could not immediately be reached for comment, but you can bet I'll post on this issue again when I hear back from them.   Yahoo's argument is that it doesn't need authorization to use the information on NFL players, and it's probably preparing to cite a court decision that settled a suit two months ago between the NFL Players Inc. and CBS Interactive Inc.   In its argument, Yahoo may also be able to appear to what's called "net neutrality" - the idea that the Internet and its contents are part of the public domain. That's a divisive issue, and one that the rapidly forming Federal Communications Commission grapples with.   Another recent example of that arose recently when eBay-owned Internet calling service Skype launched its iPhone application. The iPhone, from Apple, is carried only by AT&T, and a group called Free Press - a nonprofit with offices in Florence, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. - asked the FCC to look into whether whether the two companies are breaking federal rules by effectively disallowing widespread use of the service on the iPhone.

Opening Soon: the New Cowboys Stadium, Another Wonder of Sports Technology

June 3, 2009

    

 
 "Our main competition is the home media center. We wanted to offer a real experience that you can't have at home, but to see it with the technology that you do have at home." - Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, while unveiling his team's new stadium design in 2006   At about $1.6 billion, London's Wembley Stadium is said to the most expensive sports arena ever built. (I saw a rugby match there, once, in 1995, though the two things that always pop into my mind at the mention of Wembley are that anxious, frizz-haired "Fraggle Rock" character of the same name, and Mick Jagger.)   Next on the most-expensive list comes the new Yankee Stadium, at $1.5 billion. I've been there, too, and I like it, even if a New York assemblyman says Bronx Bombers brass hasn't complied with requests to show that the two rounds of city-issued tax-exempt bonds - worth $1.2 billion - were sought and used on the up-and-up.   This weekend, the new, $1.15 billion home of "America's Team," the Dallas Cowboys, opens with a George Strait concert - and, like the new Yankee Stadium, it is a marvel of modern technology (see Jerry Jones quote in epigram above).   It has 10 retractable roofs, flat-screen TV monitors throughout, a 159-by-71-foot scoreboard that hangs over the 50-yard-line (see picture) and - this will sound familiar to New York baseball fans - dozens of technology-equipped luxury suites.   Football - football that counts - is still an entire summer away, and I'm sure that just like the Yanks and New York Mets, who opened their new home, Citi Field, in Flushing in April, the Cowboys will disclose the new stadium's features seep out over time, staying in the news cycle and luring potential season-ticket buyers.   If you use the New York baseball stadiums as a measuring stick, the new Cowboys Stadium has a lot to live up to.   Take the building in the Bronx.


Pro Sports Cable TV Packages: The End of the One-Team Fan?

June 1, 2009

I was talking to an old friend the other day, an editor from the newspaper where we both used to work.   She has an 11-year-old son who loves baseball - playing it and watching it - and together they sit in front of the TV to watch both the New York Mets and New York Yankees (though the boy's heart is with the Bronx Bombers).   My friend also is a baseball fan - but she says she doesn't know how someone from this area (Connecticut, about 30 miles north of New York City) can choose between the two baseball teams that represent the Big Apple.   I started to talk about how, for many baseball fans, it's about who your dad likes, which team you saw play in person first and who your favorite superstars are. Right now, I imagine there are a lot of aspiring David Wrights, Jose Reyeses and Derek Jeters on the playground.   But back when I became a baseball fan - in the early 1980s - we also didn't watch sports at home the same way we do now. Most nights, I find myself sitting in front of the TV with the picture-in-picture screens on, TV muted, a third game on the radio and still I'm flipping back to the new, blessed MLB network for live look-ins and updates.   In 1982, you pretty much had to get up and walk over to the TV to turn the channel. That alone could prevent me from watching more than one game these days.

Sports Technology Yields Ultra-Fast Swimming Suits: Another "*61"?

May 29, 2009

Where have you gone, Johnny Weissmuller? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, woo-woo-woo . . .   My father used to reminisce about skipping school as a kid and heading to the Bronx Zoo all day.

Could MLB Fans Help Umps with Flip Camcorders and iPhones?

May 28, 2009

Instant replay - it may be the most consequential in-game sports technology innovation that the United States' national pastime has seen since the Chicago Cubs discovered light bulbs, and today it's taking center stage.   Much of the sports talk in the New York area is revolving a controversial umpiring decision from last night's New York Mets-Washington Nationals game.   With a man on and nobody out in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Mets' Daniel Murphy smacked a Jordan Zimmerman pitch on a high arc out to right field - a position that Little Leagues designate for uncoordinated children, but which in the bigs usually calls for strong armed, power hitters like the Nats' Adam Dunn.  
Dunn drifted back on the ball and eventually turned around to face the outfield wall. The ball appeared to change direction in its descent, and the outfield umpire's initial call was that it was a double. That call, had it stood, would have changed the complexion of the inning and perhaps the outcome of the game, since the runner on base when Murphy connected - Gary Sheffield - was out trying to score on what he thought, as he loped around the bases, was a home run.   But the umpires - as they are allowed to this year, for the first time in baseball history - disappeared into a room with a monitor and came back to signal "home run." Apparently, the umps decided that the ball had hit a billboard that hangs over the lower decks in right at the Mets' new stadium, Citi Field. (That bit of construction is a tribute, some baseball historians say, to the one of the Mets' forerunners in New York City, the mighty New York Giants, whose home, Manhattan's Polo Grounds, featured an overhang.)   There are a lot of interesting things to talk about here.

Sports Technology and Baseball Attendance: Reversing the Curse of TV

May 27, 2009

   "If people don't want to come to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them." - Yogi Berra   The great New York Yankees backstop (a man who has earned the right, Joba, to visit the team's clubhouse and hang out, whenever he wants) uttered the words printed above in the 1950s, when one of the century's major technological innovations - the television - delivered baseball games to fans' living rooms, fueling a sharp decline in stadium attendance throughout the Major Leagues.   By the end of that decade, the decline became so severe that owners in cities that hosted two (Boston, Kansas City, Philadelphia, St. Louis) or even three (New York) teams were forced to find fans elsewhere, leading to the sometimes heartbreaking relocation of MLB teams throughout the Midwest and West. (See the picture of the wrecking ball hitting a dugout at Brooklyn's baseball shrine, the long-gone Ebbets Field, below.)   Today, a half-century later, hampered by an economic recession, competing sports interests and probably - though this hasn't been fleshed out - a performance-enhancing drug problem that MLB and the players' union can't seem to solve, attendance is down again.   We hear that overall attendance is down 4 percent while household ratings for Fox Saturday Baseball - even with the elimination of an annoying cartoon character called "Scooter" - are down 9 percent from this time last season.    
Let's be clear: Attendance for large market teams is holding steady and in some cases even improving this year over last.   But there's also at least one anomaly in attendance statistics that deserves a closer look: the San Francisco Giants. The team, though it's located in a large city, generally is considered a midmarket draw, and is subject to the same trends as clubs that have see attendance drop.   This season, however, attendance is up 1.7 percent in the Giants' ballpark overall, and the reason may be a new kind of sports technology. (As a side note: the Giants recently adopted a Shoretel VoIP-based UC systems, so we know they're not afraid to turn to technology to improve the team's bottom line.)   This season, the Giants are experimenting with a new pricing strategy that the live entertainment, hospitality and travel industries generally refer to as "dynamic pricing." What it means generally is that ticket prices are adjusted to reflect the value of a service given (translation: supply and demand).   In the case of baseball games, it means that a major league team can adjust ticket prices not only based on how close a seat is to the action (the traditional method), but also based on pitching matchups, standings, weather forecasts and other factors. It's a science that we'd expect to take into account such details as hitting streaks (think of Ryan Zimmerman's this year), in-game promotions and tourist trends in the home team's city.   The software that the Giants are using is developed by Austin, Texas-based Qcue, and we had a chance this week to interview the company's youthful chief executive officer, Barry Kahn.   Among the several major consequences for teams, fans, ticket-sellers and resellers is this: The dynamic pricing model - while it may raise prices for some hot games, such as Cubs-Cardinals or Mets-Braves - also likely lowers prices for less desirable games, such as weekday series or games that involve smaller-market teams.   Just a quick note here on raising prices based on the dynamic model: As Kahn points out, non-season ticketholders often pay exorbitant prices anyway for the hot tickets, because they're bought up by third-party arbitragers looking to make a buck.   One of the interesting things we learned from our talk with Kahn is that all teams (though to varying degrees) are subject to price sensitivity.