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25 October 2006

Cisco at the ballpark, in your home, etc...

There's a lot of mystery surrounding Cisco's intentions regarding the ballpark. Now that the Arena in Oakland has been renamed "Oracle" would a new ballpark be named simply "Cisco"? Cisco Field? Cisco Park? Cisco Grounds? Cisco Yard(s)? Cisco Athletics Park? There's the remote possibility that Cisco won't be involved in the naming rights - but if Mark Purdy is right, Cisco is in it deep.

The innards of the ballpark will serve as a major showcase of Cisco technologies. While most acknowledge Cisco's role as a manufacturer of infrastructure products such as routers and switches, Cisco has been making inroads into the home market with its Linksys brand of networking gear and last year's purchase of set top box manufacturer Scientific Atlanta. They've also gone extremely high end when yesterday
Cisco unveiled their six-figure video conferencing product, TeleConference. The Bentley-Rolls version has three huge, 1080p (full HD) screens on one side of a table while "you and your team" are on the other side of the table. This will be a trial balloon for eventually cheaper, consumer-focused video conferencing and VoIP (Voice over IP) telephony products.

How could this stuff be featured in a ballpark? I'm no marketing whiz, but besides the obvious high tech touches such as WiFi and in-seat ordering, there's potential for other interesting uses:

  • Alternate Broadcasts. Do you think you can do a better job than the A's current TV play-by-play men, Tim Roye and Glen Kuiper? How about using a special booth set up to stream your version of play-by-play and commentary to a select audience? Want to have a broadcast entirely from the bleachers? It would be possible. Broadcast pros would no doubt wince at the idea, but it's a novel way to hit a niche audience (and prove how difficult the job really is).
  • "TiVo" at your seat. A fan could bring or rent an iPod-like device (with WiFi and a bigger screen, of course) that would have the entire game broadcast streamed and archived to it. Want to see that controversial replay they won't show on the big screen? No problem. Interested to see if The Gambler had pine tar on his left hand when he stunk up the joint in his last regular season start against the Blue Jays (hmmm, look at that picture)? It's available instantly from MLB.TV's archives.
Cisco CEO John Chambers brought up technology in a ballpark setting in a speech at Oracle's OpenWorld on Tuesday:

The individual would gain entry to the ballpark via an e-ticket on their smart phone. Digital signs inside the ballpark, if authorized by the smart phone, could display advertising tailored to the person's likes. Once in the game, the individual could use their wireless-enabled ultramobile PC to keep score on the device's electronic scorecard or hit its instant replay icon to view a contentious play.

Restaurants at the ballpark could use Cisco's newly announced TelePresence videoconferencing system to show the game on huge screens and allow diners to contact remote friends to watch along with them.
Cisco is partnering with AT&T on TeleConference, and the cable market has been turned upside down since the Governator signed AB 2987, which opens the doors for all sorts of competition in the cable TV market - including phone companies that sponsored the bill.

A video of the Cisco's presentation at OpenWorld is available at cnet. The preso is awash in A's logos and imagery, enough to make me think that they might try some of this stuff out in the Coliseum first.

11 comments:

jonclaude4 said...

Superb again ML!

While I drool at the prospects, one has to cringe at the potential ticket prices. Looking across the bay, looks like we're in for some nasty increases between now and Cisco opening day.

Thanks again.

Kevin said...

If you go to cnet.com, there is a link on their homepage to view part of Cisco's presentation of "The ballpark of the future". Pretty neat stuff.

I tried copying the link but for some reason it didn't work.

catfish said...

Whoh. Exciting and cool stuff! While I am what most would consider a baseball "purist" I think this could be a cool move to bost the A's in the bay area market. If the team is really trying to allign itself with Silicon Valley then they might as well go all in and "tech-out" the whole ballpark and use it as a platform to introduce new technologies. My only concern is the same as jonclaude4's...ticket prices could be real bad. I've always loved the fact that the A's were such a family team and made it affordable for even lower income families to come and enjoy a game, but clearly that business model isn't working. And the only way they can justfiy marking up tickets is with a new ballpark with fancy new features that the Giants don't have. When competing with SF for fans, if the A's have the better team on the field (which they always do year in and year out) the better ballpark, and potentially better location, maybe they could dominate the Bay Area market.

bartleby66 said...

Tickets at the high end will probably go up quite a bit at a new A's ballpark. However, based on prices at other new, West Coast ballparks (including SF), tickets at the low end will likely stay about the same, or may even go down. In SF and other new parks that have been around a few years you can still buy a cheap seat and "self-upgrade" fairly easily. Also, it's not tough to go on Craigslist on gameday and score good seats for less than face value, especially for weeknight games. So the reality is it'll get a little tougher, but lower income folks who are motivated will still be able to take in a ballgame.

Kevin said...

Though nothing has been announced, it sure seems as though a deal has been struck between the A's and Cisco. I mean for Cisco to use the A's name, logo and video footage in their presentation speaks volumes.

jrbh said...

Linksys is Cisco? god, I've had the worst experience this week dealing with one of their routers and their all-Indian, all-the-time customer service.

Leaving aside for the moment that the low tech, family friendly economic model has worked out quite well for the A's, I think, the Cisco high tech vision struck me as not particularly progressive technologically speaking, a bit like one of those things we'll laugh about ten years after the park has opened and new, new technologies make the place look like a white elephant. (Pun intended.)

I was intrigued, though, by the guy's electronic scorebook. I haven't seen anything that really works in that area, and I'd be very interested to know if there's something on the market.

Mike said...

All very interesting stuff!

NASCAR races already feature the Nextel "Fan View" which allows people at the race to not only listen (via headset) to communications between pit crews and drivers for any driver they choose, but the unit also comes with a small video screen that allows the fan to look at track stats and replays on the screen that is on the unit.

Why MLB and the NFL don't offer something like this is beyond me. NASCAR is way ahead of the game on high tech amenities for the fans in the stands.

peanut gallery said...

That's a really good point, jrbh. The advantage of a retro look (if done right) is that it's already intended to look like it's from a bygone era. You have much more room for error (although some of the recent stuff has missed IMO). But something banking on being the latest and greatest will be dated very quickly, unless you plan to constantly upgrade everything. That can definitely be overcome, but they have to do this very carefully. Because I doubt Lew plans to update the stadium every other season.

Anonymous said...

Why am I not finding the presentation on cnet.com? Can someone tell me where on the homepage it is?

Thanks.

Bleacher Dave said...

Interesting stuff. Didn't someone come out with a dedicated, ballpark device a couple of years ago for mlb.tv clips and stats?

What was that electronic thing we used to get at A's games? You left your drivers license for a deposit.

Constance said...

Just give us instant replay and let the fans in the stands vote on whether the umpire made the right call or not.