It’s amazing how far we’ve come in 10 years…

Back in 2007, a group of Cisco executives gathered to discuss how Cisco might tap into the sports and entertainment business. The group of 15 self-identified sports fanatics recognized that the industry was ripe for disruption, and that by developing an innovative technology solution they would have the necessary catalyst to unlock an area of untapped potential.

That group of engineers and visionaries developed a product called StadiumVision (now Cisco Vision), which allows venue owners to push video and digital content, including targeted advertising, to fans in the stadium. Along with sales and marketing, the group won the business of the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys. A multimillion-dollar business was born in less than six months.

Fast forward a decade and Cisco Sports & Entertainment technology and solutions – high-density Wi-Fi, mobile video, 4k IPTV and more – have been deployed in 350+ venues in more than 40 countries around the world. From SunTrust Park in Atlanta to the O2 in London to the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia, Cisco has changed the game and created a more connected experience for hundreds of millions of fans.

Field of (Network) Dreams – The Future

As leagues and teams look out at the future, two key issues are at hand:

  1. How can we accelerate the personalization of the in-venue experience for fans?
  2. How do we securely control and distribute content to the rest of the world – particularly video?

The answers to those two questions will hinge on a trifecta of factors: IoT, video and security.

The IoT world continues to expand and shows no signs of slowing. The Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) forecasts that by 2021, there will be 4.6B global internet users and 27.1B networked devices and connections. As we move ever-closer to that digital reality, a league, team or venue that knows its consumer will deliver greater convenience (i.e. ease of entry, shortest lines, cashless pay, micro-consumption) while making the experience more customized (i.e. know who is in their venue/who is not, when they are there/watching, and what they like to do/consume). That data will be based on a fan choosing to offer it to the entity in return for a more personalized experience to augment the live action.

In the entertainment space, Cisco has been working with Live Nation to create a more convenient and enhanced live music experience. By installing Cisco HD Wi-Fi at 28 Live Nation amphitheaters across the country and at festivals like BottleRock Napa Valley, fans can pre-order food, or have food delivered to their seats, and ensure they don’t miss a minute of the show. In addition, Cisco has worked with the biggest tours (U2 Joshua Tree Tour, OneRepublic’s Oh My My Tour, and Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods Tour) to give them the ability to use digital ticketing or create a massive video screen on stage. Artists continually want to do something more spectacular that no one has seen before.

Similarly, as digital video delivery and consumption has exploded over the last decade, Cisco’s network allowed the National Basketball Association (NBA) to capitalize and bring statistics and highlights from the court to fans around the world in real time. Watch how it helped the NBA become the world’s most global league with one, strong unified, solution to help meet their demands, while providing unparalleled security.

That industry-leading security along with IP video contribution and distribution solutions was why NBC selected Cisco to provide the network for its production of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. NBC has used Cisco’s networking solutions for every Games over the last decade. However, as technology has evolved, NBC has been a leader in its adoption of cloud and IP technology to deliver any-screen digital experiences that are more viewer-driven, over-the-top, and cloud-based. By embracing it early, they are already riding the rapidly building wave of mobile consumption. According to the Cisco VNI, mobile data traffic will grow sevenfold from 2016 to 2021, and by 2021, 82 percent of all IP traffic will be video content.

Needless to say, it has been quite a decade! And I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years have in store for Cisco in the sports and entertainment space.


Ken Martin

General Manager and Director

Global Sales, Sports and Entertainment Solutions Group