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NFL, NBA to tap into iPhone to boost fan experience in stadiums

Major sports leagues have to rely on technologies to make fans engage more with the games, as well as to offer more revenue-generating opportunities, the commissioners of the NBA and NFL have advised at the Sun Valley conference, with iPhones used by fans in stadiums a possible trove of data for managing sales and the overall visitor experience.

Speaking at the Allen & Co conference at Sun Valley, Idaho — an event where industry leaders including Apple's Tim Cook and Eddy Cue are in attendance — commissioners of two major sports leagues have suggested the use of technology could make watching games more attractive, in the face of competition from video streaming services.

Adam Silver, commissioner for the NBA, recognized the competition with "every other possible form of entertainment," reports CNBC, with leagues needing to make the sporting fixtures "more of a lean-in experience." Suggestions from Silver include providing statistics to fans during gameplay, more information about players, and alternate camera angles, as well as experiments with augmented and virtual reality.

Many of these elements could easily be baked into official apps produced by each league, which could give attendees at a stadium as much data as someone watching from a TV at home in an easy-to-consume manner.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suggested more could be done to track fans in stadiums, such as by managing ticket sales and ensuring they have a positive experience. It is even suggested the improvements could be as simple as providing Wi-Fi access points in the locations.

"Simply having Wi-Fi so that they can access their own devices when they come into the stadium is key," said Goodell, suggesting it would allow fans to buy memorabilia, concessions, and details about the league. More immediate concerns that could be alleviated with apps could be to provide the best routes to enter or exit a stadium, which could be powered by beacons to provide local positioning data to users.

The plethora of additional data would be useful to promote the leagues to those watching from home, with proposed augmented reality features such as the experience of standing behind Tom Brady looking downfield or how defenders attempt to defend a play. "It's going to be a new experience that I think is just another great potential for the growth of our league," said Goodell.

It is also suggested the legalization of sports betting in eight states may also be taken advantage of by future efforts, as bets on individual elements of a game such as quarter-end scores and rebounds could increase engagement during games.

While Apple does enable gambling apps to be listed in the App Store, so long as they have the necessary licensing and permissions in place, it is more likely that the leagues would offer data to sports betting outfits for gambling purposes, rather than offer gambling directly in the apps.