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Upgraded NBA in arena Wi-Fi — it’s coming no matter what

Aug 14, 2013, 12:51 PM EDT

A man holds up a Samsung S4 smartphone against a video screen with an Twitter and a Facebook logo in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica Reuters

Heat and Lakers fans get blasted for this all the time on twitter, but frankly I’ve seen this at every game I’ve been to anywhere in the country — fans looking down from the game at their smartphone to check in on Facebook or answer a work email that comes in.

But it’s more than that — at a Nets game last year at the Barclay’s Center, fans in the arena could launch an app and watch different camera angles of the game with Cisco’s StadiumVision Mobile (other teams are toying with this idea). The Golden State Warriors owners have talked about wanting to be able to send text messages to season ticket holders at the game about shorter concession lines or specials at the gift shop.

Technology and the NBA are now married, for better or worse (depending on your view). We all live on our smartphones now, this is not changing. And when fans go to an NBA game now they expect to be as connected as they are at work or at home.

Which is why upgrading in arena Wi-Fi for fans is becoming a big business, as is putting in special apps and steps to reach those fans, something covered by an article at Sports Business Daily, via, where Steve Aschburner talked to NBA officials about it such as Steve Hellmuth, the NBA VP of operations and technology.

“You have to set that table and provide them with everything they’re accustomed to,” Hellmuth said. “It’s not just about Facebook and Instagram – it’s the fact that they have a babysitter at home. They have a business that they’re operating. And we’re all expected to be connected and to be available these days.”

But what really is driving the need for dramatic in-arena Wi-Fi upgrades is video — fans want it, but it takes up more bandwidth. The SBD article gets into a lot of details on in-arena upgrades.

The challenge is to augment the fan experience in the arena without having what “head down” moments where fans are looking at their phones and missing the action they paid to see. It’s a balancing act, and it’s stuff fans in the arena can often already get.

“Both the Spurs and the Heat fans proved that in The Finals,” Hellmuth said. “They were really functioning as a sixth man. That’s the reason you go to an NBA venue.

“We don’t want to create more ‘heads down’ experiences around video. It’s nice to have but when you look at the investments our teams have made in HD video screens, for me, I want to look up and enjoy a replay with the person I came to the game with, right?”

  1. beach305 - Aug 14, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Actually I don’t even think Miami’s Arena even has free Wi-Fi. I went to game six (yes I am one of those that left with 28 seconds on the clock and no it wasn’t because I wanted to beat traffic) remembered trying to check twitter. I like follow the Heat beat writers during the game to find out any tidbits.

    • dezglobal - Aug 14, 2013 at 1:56 PM

      You give me (A real fan) a bad name.

      • beach305 - Aug 14, 2013 at 4:30 PM

        What makes you think your a better “Fan” than I am? Because I didn’t want to watch them celebrate? Do you know it was less than a 1% chance that the Heat were going to tie the game at that point. Call me a sore loser, but not less of a fan.

  2. captainwisdom8888 - Aug 14, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    This will prove hazardous when a gigantic man goes flying into the stands after a loose ball and your uninterested girlfriend is thumbing away on her cell.

  3. km9000 - Aug 14, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    They make it sound like fans have no choice when they miss a great play because they’re too distracted by texting a friend about what’s for dinner.

  4. jimeejohnson - Aug 14, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    So today’s fans want to be able to watch the game on their smart phones while attending a game in person. Sounds kind of IDIOTIC probably because I was alive before cell phones were even invented and people actually watched the game on the court, field, or ice, and not on some DumboJumboTron or even more pathetic, their God damn stupid phones.

    “What a drag it is
    getting old.”

    • beach305 - Aug 14, 2013 at 1:42 PM

      Dude, they want to catch replays or hear about in game strategies, injury’s, etc. Stuff that you don’t get while you are at a game. Also, some people may have kids at home and want to keep tabs.

      Don’t hate, appreciate :)

  5. mickdamill - Aug 14, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Why not take this multi million dollar project and lower ticket prices so the real fans can attend the games? Besides, you dont need wifi to check that stuff these days.

    • spursareold - Aug 14, 2013 at 3:22 PM

      You ever try to have 18,000 cell phones connect to one or two towers all at once and stay connected for 3 hours? It’s not pretty, or realistic.

      • mickdamill - Aug 14, 2013 at 5:57 PM

        Whatever will you do without a working phone and some of the best athletes in the world competing right in front of your face?

  6. beach305 - Aug 14, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    There is perception out there that if you’re using a smartphone at a game, that somehow you are not a “real fan”. It usually comes from people who are to cheap to buy a ticket.

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