Wifi and Baseball

March 31, 2003

I went to my first baseball game of the year yesterday, a pre-season sleeper between the Giants and Mariners. As we wandered around looking for ice cream, I saw the Palm beaming station the Giants set up a few years ago. I don’t have a Palm myself, but assuming it works as advertised you can stand next to it and download into your PDA “schedules and other statistics.” If the Giants’ website is any indication of their investment in technology (being able to download a tab delimited schedule is “coming soon”) the statistics are probably not anything close to real-time.

The conventional wisdom reads that pornography is the first adopter of new technologies. I would assert that sports follows close behind. Back in the early days of the web, ESPN.com was always neck and neck with the technology sites (like HotWired and CNET) for breaking new technologies. ESPN.com is still a technology leader and I think has the nicest integration of broadband content of any website (but then, I don’t spend much time on porn sites…).

By the seventh inning of yesterday’s game, all of the starters were pulled and the crowd started to leave in droves. Since ballparks make a lot of their money on concessions, people leaving early means less revenue. I started to wonder why the Giants hadn’t installed a wifi network in PacBell Park. As ESPN has demonstrated, sports fans are early adopting technology fans. Sporting games generate huge amounts of real-time data that would be perfect for consumption on PDAs and laptops. And in slow late innings, you can always catch up on email.

If teams want to keep people in the seats, generate some extra revenue and appeal to the insatiable desire for More Data, they need to bring their technology up from the days of syncing a Palm and into the wifi world. It’s an application just waiting to happen.

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This post first appeared at http://ventureblog.com

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