Arena Media Networks serves (video) to hungry fans

By Carolyn Braff
The days of waiting in the hot dog line with nothing better to look at than the back of the guy in front of you are over, thanks to digital advertising screens provided by Arena Media Networks. AMN offers sight, sound, and motion via flat-panel displays to hungry sports fans in stadiums across the country.

Our primary goal is to give fans a welcome distraction while they re standing in line, says Tom Kiernan, president of Arena Media Networks. AMN currently provides those welcome distractions to MLB, NBA, and NHL fans in 22 facilities across the country, including Yankee, Shea, and Dodger stadiums, and NBA and combination NBA/NHL arenas in Boston, Dallas, and Washington D.C. The company also has approximately 20 new deals in the works with various MLB, NBA, and NHL venues.

The staff at AMN has fine-tuned the complicated process of determining the most strategic locations for the video screens. And, with an innovative revenue-sharing plan in place, the screens and related hardware are free.

We work with the team s operation people to walk the building and determine which areas are getting the largest dwell times, Kiernan explains. Team operations folks know the flow of traffic throughout the building and they identify premium areas within the building. Depending on the venue, sometimes there is a family fun area, or breakout areas, where people are standing watching the game. We try to find the areas with the most dwell time and most traffic main entrances, exits, escalators to suite floors and determine the best locations to put them in.

AMN s advertising boards can be customized at any time, allowing for arenas like the Fleet Center in Boston to present Bruins-specific ads and statistics during Bruins games, and Celtics-specific ads and statistics during Celtics games. With AMN s customizable screens, advertisers are able to take advantage of all audiences entering a given arena or stadium, from courting NHL fans with NHL-specific advertising, to reaching out to music lovers attending a concert in the arena, or families arriving for a performance of the circus.

In addition to shifting the venue s advertising between events, AMN allows advertisers to shift the content of their advertising during events. All of AMN s screens are wired to a server inside the arena in which they are located. Those servers are wired to a centralized head end that distributes content to every screen in the country. The screens are usually set to run an 8-10-minute advertising loop, amendable based on the average amount of time sports fans spend in front of the screens, but those loops can be interrupted with custom instructions sent at the click of a mouse from the AMN office.

We maintain a high-speed connection all the way back to our network operations center, Kiernan says. That enables us to, at a click of a button, send instructions to push a piece of video to any screen, anywhere around the country, in real time.

The network not only allows real-time updates for scrolling information, like out-of-town scoreboards, weather forecasts, and news headlines, but also the content of the advertisements themselves.

We can change an ad in the second half versus the first half, or the seventh inning versus the ninth inning, Kiernan says. We can get a new ad produced and up on our network in less than 48 hours, which presents unprecedented flexibility.

AMN also maintains a server log for its advertisers, detailing how many times a given ad ran on a given date. Every advertiser is demanding more accountability from the media companies they buy from, Kiernan explains. Boasting recall rates three times those of static media, AMN is able to give advertisers that accountability.

As the planning stages of stadium design begin to incorporate advertising more prominently, Kiernan sees media companies like his own playing an increasingly large part in the stadium experience.

I don t think any company is going about designing any stadium without taking careful consideration into building a network that s going to support things like what we do, Kiernan explains. It s critical to the stadium design experience. In the future, I think we ll see more interesting and more compelling placement of the screens, new screen technology, and buildings delivering a more compelling product.