Viewpoint: A Return to (and Improvement on) Live

Sean Wargo, Senior Director of Market Intelligence, AVIXA offers this perspective on the increasing role for Pro AV in venues:

Game On!

What better way than that memorable line from the old Wayne’s World films to summarise the gradual emergence from the dark, spectator-less days of the pandemic!

Though in truth, while many sporting events never stopped, it’s been a long pause in the visceral enjoyment we all experience from the true social phenomenon that is in-person attendance. And for venue operators, the slowdown in commensurate revenues clearly could be described as stoppage time!

Evidence of that stoppage can be seen in the slumped spending on technology installations and upgrades in the venue and events markets. As the trade association focused on the professional audiovisual provider channel, AVIXA (The Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association) puts forward a revised forecast every year showing the spending by market. The latest version shows global spending on pro AV declined by 40% in 2020 after reaching a peak in 2019. North America fared a bit better, but still felt a 36% pullback.

With no spectators in the stands, one might wonder why pro AV spend in 2020 wasn’t even worse?

With essentially no spectators in the stands for the majority of 2020, one might wonder why pro AV spend wasn’t even worse? There are a couple of things in play here. The first is of course just simple timing. Some of the larger installation projects were already underway at the start of the pandemic and as much of the work continued, spending followed along with it. Though in our not-so-distant past, it’s important to remember that the first few months of 2020 were economically strong before mandates and guidelines wiped out the crowds and our sense of togetherness.

But the bigger and more important contributor is reflected in the core attributes we admire in athletes as a whole – agility and perseverance. As the games went on in the stadiums and arenas, facility operators got creative in the ways they used technology to keep fans engaged. Witness the indoor arenas that installed flat panel displays and additional networking back-ends to give the appearance of fans filling the seats. Or in other cases, usage of a larger direct-view LED display facing into the areas around a stadium to broadcast out to tailgating fans. Perhaps more mundane but equally important was the stepped-up capture, production, and streaming of the games out to remote spectators.

In all, these trends required and supported continued spending on back-end infrastructure within a venue. AVIXA captures this as both content management hardware, or media servers and storage, and cloud-based services. Combined, these represented nearly well over a third of the total technology spend within the venues market, or nearly $10bn globally.

The question on everyone’s minds now, across all parts of the value chain, is whether and how much of the changes brought about by the pandemic will leave a lasting impact? While we can probably all agree that few, if any, would prefer to stay in the spectator-free mode, there are perhaps some aspects we would want to keep or expand upon. This includes continuing to re-imagine how the game experience can be augmented and extended beyond the bounds of the venues themselves.

Re-imagine how the game experience can be augmented and extended beyond the bounds of the venue

Broadcast is a part of this, but perhaps not just in the traditional sense of one-way consumption of the material during a specific time slot. Even the one-way consumption may change as fans select their own preferred viewing angle or choose to watch from an outdoor screen instead of from a seat inside the stadium.

Whatever the case, one positive takeaway from the strictest times of the pandemic is the forced innovation that comes from needing to figure out how we persist when something stands in the way of doing things the old way. All of us, technologists and fans included, look forward to seeing how that innovation shapes the fan experience of the future. Here at AVIXA, we will certainly be watching with interest as we move towards a more dynamic and engaging new normal.

Stadium image: Clair Global Integration/LA Rams

>> Meet AVIXA and explore best in venue Pro AV solutions at TheStadiumBusiness Summit 2021, 30 Nov – 1 Dec, Manchester