News & Views

OnDeck / Sports & Tech Conference

by Contagious Team

Contagious' notes from SeatGeek's day-long innovation conference

Forget second screen technology. Digital innovators need to start thinking of smartphones as the first screen and television as playing second fiddle, says Bob Bowman. Speaking in the keynote conversation of SeatGeek's first annual OnDeck Sports and Technology Conference this week, the CEO of Major League Baseball Advanced Media envisioned the future of sports media, stressing the need for teams, leagues, and companies to think digitally first.

'It has to be stunningly good,' said Bowman about developing a companion app. 'Our contest every day is to ask our fans and customers to give us seven to ten minutes. To ask that same person to give us twice that, by doubling screens - it has to be so good. The companion apps that we've seen so far have been, in general, mediocre.'

Whether you rank them first or second, mobile screens were one of the hot topics at OnDeck, discussed by multi-national organizations and two-person startups alike. 'There is limitless potential for second screen experiences that we haven't yet explored,' said Matt Higgins of RSE Ventures. Scott O'Neill, former president of Madison Square Garden, thinks startups will lead the way in second screen experiences, rather than teams and leagues. 'Your best bet [as a team or league] is to engage thought leaders and make sure people are seeing you as a place where you can grow and test a real business,' he says.

Andrew Daines, CEO of mobile sports gaming company PrePlay Sports, agrees. 'We believe that this market is going to be won by the people who actually care about what they're presenting,' he said during an afternoon session.

The second screen experience extends to in-stadium technology, which most conference participants found sorely lacking. 'We're not meeting the fans' expectations on how they can consume content. When you go to a live event, you expect to be able to interact with content the same way you would at home,' said Higgins. In particular, OnDeck speakers expressed their dissatisfaction with stadium WiFi, citing technological limitations.

'The solution is not ready yet,' said O'Neill. 'Money cannot solve this problem in the US.' He cited the fact that the 2013 Super Bowl, held in New Orleans' Superdome, could only handle 14,000 WiFi connections. Higgins, on the other hand, believes the technology is there, but will require larger spending on the part of league organizations to bring it to the masses. 'Until the leagues step in to organize the marketplace, it's not going to happen,' he said.

Ticketing was also a hot theme at the conference, with companies presenting tech to better manage customer relationships, improve ticket-selling, and enhance fan experience via ticketing. 'The mother's milk of this industry is getting people to buy tickets and go to the games,' said Bowman. Companies like LeapSeats and PogoSeat offered their perspective on ticket upgrades, while CrowdTwist offered teams new ways to reward season ticket holders. Jeff Bennett of Raptor Sports pointed at soccer clubs like FC Barcelona and Manchester City as leaders in the customer management space. 'They're starting to get smart about understanding and segmenting their fans. The way they're going is very innovative,' he said.

Beyond the headline talks, some of OnDeck's most compelling ideas came from a series of rapid-fire presentations in which sports tech startups outlined their apps, cameras, and data analytics. 

A full debrief is available to Contagious Feed subscribers. 

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