Whatever your thoughts may be on ESPN College GameDay, the Huskies are in the national spotlight today.
I’m not really a college football fan, so I wanted to put a spotlight on an interesting trend I learned about recently.
Empty seats at college football games – less exciting games than today’s game against the Ducks – are becoming a problem at campuses around the country. Fans are just not showing up for games like they used to, The Wall Street Journal reported last month.
One of the reasons for the declining attendance really surprised me: Some students said they are skipping games because they can’t use social media at stadiums.
Stadiums are notorious for having bad cellular connectivity. Recognizing the problem, football programs all over the country are looking for ways to allow their fans to Instagram and tweet to their hearts’ content.
Many schools are considering stadium-wide Wi-Fi networks that cost at least $2 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. Data shows that the upload traffic at crowded events is double that of downloads. In other words: People attending games are sharing their experience online, in real time.
It’s a similar story with the NFL. The New England Patriots’ and Philadelphia Eagles’ stadiums already have been outfitted with wireless networks.
So why would sports teams spend money to encourage people attending a game to not watch the game? Because they believe mobile apps and other tools are coming in the near future that will deliver content not available to anyone who isn’t at the stadium, said Jonathan Kraft, president of The Kraft Group and the New England Patriots. The goal is to make the stadium experience different.
Washington Huskies are on top of this trend. Access to mobile Internet was a key consideration during the renovation of the stadium, said Carter Henderson, assistant athletic director for public relations at UW Athletics.
“We are kind off in a wait-and-see mode,” he said. “We didn’t want to invest in Wi-Fi because, in the next couple of years, there will be a cellular connectivity solution that would be the best investment.”
Meanwhile, Henderson said connectivity has improved at the stadium. The Huskies, too, want to offer exclusive content and features to fans using social media at the game. For example, a screen displays what people are saying on social media during the game. The content is compiled using the hashtag aggregator tagboard.
“It’s really cool how people cover their experience,” he said. “The user-generated content is just as good or better than our photographer’s.”
Not all sports fans want to bring social media into their Husky experience. Shayne Moore, a senior in chemical engineering, said he was surprised to hear that bad connection could be a factor in attending a game.
“If I’m at the game, it’s because I want to watch the game, not socialize,” he said.