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Sony to help trick out 49ers' new Levi's Stadium

May 31, 2013|By Dawn C. Chmielewski
  • San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York, left, and Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai talk about modernizing the fan experience at the new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, scheduled to open in 2014.
San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York, left, and Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai talk about… (Asa Mathat / D: All Things…)

The San Francisco 49ers are looking for a little digital magic to lure fans to the new Levi's Stadium, which opens next year in Santa Clara.

After all, the team ranked 12th in attendance -- out of 32 teams -- in 2012, in a year when one of the NFL's most exciting quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick, took the 49ers to the Super Bowl. (We will not revisit the pain of the loss to the Baltimore Ravens). 

The Niners trailed football-crazy Dallas, both New York teams, Washington Redskins, Denver and a host of others when it comes to putting fans in seats last year, according to the NFL's attendance figures.

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So 49ers Chief Executive Jed York looked to modernize the live sports experience, in partnership with consumer electronics giant Sony, to add a little pizazz. The team's website notes that the $1.2-billion stadium will showcase the best of Silicon Valley tech.

"This is all about making sure we bring a really new experience," said Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai, noting that the company, which has outfitted 25 stadiums in North America, expected this project to go "beyond what we've done, traditionally."

Hirai talked about adding technology that allows fans to tailor their experience at the game: delivering player statistics on-demand, offering multiple camera angles of the on-field play or an isolated close-up of a single player, like tight end Vernon Davis.

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Fans might choose to listen to their favorite sportscaster calling the game on TV or radio, as it unfolds in front of them in the stadium. Perhaps Bay Area types, who have become obsessed with devices that monitor sleep, exercise, heart rate and blood pressure, might want to keep tabs on a player's heart rate throughout the game.

York said the experience would be device agnostic: the experiences won't be restricted to Sony tablets or smartphones. Though Sony clearly views the partnership as a branding exercise.

Sony plans to showcase its budding 4K televisions, which afford even more lush picture quality than high-definition TVs and Blu-ray discs. There may also be opportunities for Niners fans to test new Xperia smartphone or tablet (which Hirai joked is both waterproof, and presumably beer-resistant, too).

"Getting that branding out there is important," Hirai said.


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