Extreme Networks, Partners See Big Opportunities In Pro Sports Vertical


Professional sports organizations like the National Football League (NFL) are turning to technology more than ever to transform and improve the in-stadium experience for their fans. And, as they do, Extreme Networks and its Wi-Fi-savvy partners are finding major opportunities in the professional sports vertical.

After bolstering its wireless portfolio through its $180 million acquisition of Enterasys last year, Extreme in January was named the official Wi-Fi Analytics Provider of the NFL. Today the San Jose, Calif.-based vendor's technology is already in one out of three NFL stadiums across the country, including those belonging to the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions and the New York Giants and Jets.

Extreme, in some cases, not only provides the basic wireless connectivity for the stadiums, but also its Purview analytics platform, allowing the NFL to monitor fans' mobile activity, application performance and other key metrics during the games.

[Related: Extreme, Enterasys Formalize Joint Partner Program, Expect Big Channel Growth Ahead]

Technology executives from the NFL and local Boston sports teams said during Extreme's CIO Summit this week at the New England Patriot's Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. that their appetite for in-stadium Wi-Fi and customer analytics is bigger than ever.

One of the reasons for that shift is a recent change in fan expectations, said Jessica Gelman, VP of customer marketing and strategy for Patriots owner The Kraft Sports Group.

The season ticket renewal rate for the Patriots three years ago was the lowest it's been in a decade, Gelman said. One of the reasons for that, Gelman said, was more and more ticket holders opting to watch games at home. 

"We saw it coming three years ago," Gelman said. "We obviously are well aware of the comforts of watching [games] from your couch on a huge TV. We knew we needed to do some very big things and this is, of course, where Extreme Networks comes in -- we started testing with them three years ago.  That was part of what we were being cognizant of as an organization."

Gelman said Extreme's Wi-Fi services were rolled out in the Patriots' Gillette Stadium in 2012. The venue today also leverages Extreme's Purview analytics platform and a location-based service to help fans, for example, check on wait times for the nearest restrooms. Gelman said the venue is also exploring capabilities for in-seat ordering of concessions via a mobile device.

The Extreme platform is also being used to support the Patriots' Gameday Live app, which gives users access to instant game replays, live field cameras, league scores and other statistics. The efforts have paid off; Gelman said the Patriots are now seeing their highest season ticket renewal rates ever.

Extreme, overall, said it sees a $1 billion opportunity in providing Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi analytics to sports venues. Its partners, meanwhile, also stand to gain big.

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