Verizon and MSG Networks Eye Enhanced Fan Experiences

MSG Networks Verizon 5G
(Image credit: MSG Networks)

Verizon, which recently reached a multi-year carriage deal with MSG Networks that means Fios subscribers can continue to watch NBA and NHL games on the regional sports network, plans to use its 5G  to bring more experiences to fans in the famed New York arena and at home. 

The plan is to use Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband wireless service to deliver enhanced statistics, augmented reality, virtual reality and, eventually the ability to place bets to mobile devices.

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“We’ll really be leaning in with them to innovate around next-generation fan experiences,” said Erin McPherson, Verizon’s head of content and partnerships.

Verizon sees 5G connectivity changing game day from the time a consumer buys a ticket. Through their phones, they’ll be able to arrange for parking, find their seat and make sure there’s a cold beer waiting. With predictive technology, the arena would know they’re going to want nachos and another beer at halftime and, when the game’s over, it can deliver the kid-sized jersey the fan’s daughter is expecting.

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During the game, 5G can deliver the kind of advanced statistics fans are used to seeing during broadcasts when they’re at home. And at halftime the crowd can use Verizon’s bandwidth to compete in a virtual half-court shooting contest,. “We’re enabling everyone to do it at once and perhaps we’re offering prizes,” McPherson said. 

The fast speed of 5G Ultra Wideband also delivers that kind of low latency that makes it possible to do real-time in game betting. 

“The kinds of data-rich experiences that were hard to access in crowded venues will be easy and seamless,'' McPherson said.

Verizon also works with social media partners like Snapchat and McPherson said fans will be better able to share pictures of themselves rooting for their favorite teams using team filters. They also might be able to share highlight videos from the games, if those rights can be secured.

Some of those applications require multiple levels of rights and that is what makes MSG Networks a good partner, McPherson said. MSG Networks has rights not only to the arena but has ownership links to the Knicks and the Rangers. It also has ties to the leagues.

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MSG Networks is thrilled to work with a company like Verizon that stresses innovation at every turn,” said Andrea Greenberg, president and CEO, MSG Networks. “We have a celebrated history of innovation as well, and are ideally suited to work with Verizon Fios to bring unique experiences to fans and viewers.”

McPherson said she didn’t have a firm timeframe for when fans could start to see the new experiences at the Garden, but said Verizon was committed to providing them in 2022.

Verizon will be creating some experiences that will be unique for its subscribers, but other features will be available to anyone in the building with internet access. “We recognize that the venues have an interest in ensuring that all the fans get some level of assets. Verizon customers will get extra,” she said.

Having fans hooked up to the Verizon network would also create excellent opportunities for advertising and commerce, but those will wait. “In these early days, it’s really about engaging fans and learning from doing,” she said, adding that “the possibilities are endless. Longer term, this is a whole new world for brands and advertisers.”

While Verizon and MSG Networks will initially be focusing applications in the arena, they will also look to serve spectators at home.

“The plan would be to really enable a fan to feel like they’re part of the action,” McPherson said. 

The living room or family room is a viable place for viewers to wear a VR headset and feel like they’re right there at courtside or next to the glass.

While experiencing the excitement of the venue, those viewers can have social interactions with other fans. “So every fan of the Rangers or the Knicks can feel like they are in the arena,” she said.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.