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Go Big or Go Home: Navigating the Large Venue Integration Market

Technology, customer service and content creation demand are predictably big in this high-pressure market.

In large venues, the operative word for integrators is “large.” It’s a market in which you go large with system design or go home. A professional football team isn’t likely to grab headlines with its new “moderately sized” scoreboard and a concert venue isn’t likely to brag about its budget-friendly sound system.

Sports venues in particular “are driven to invest in pro AV technology in order to provide a high level customer experience,” writes InfoComm and Acclaro Growth Partners in their Global Market Definition and Segmentation Study. “AV vendors selling to venues/events face mounting pressure to deliver spectacular results. Customers continue to raise the bar because they are aware of what can be achieved with AV technology, and they want the ‘wow’ effect.”

Behind the large venue scenes, however, the customer service challenges are perhaps even more daunting for integrators.

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“One of the problems we’re running into right now is we probably don’t get paid enough for all the things we do, because a lot of times we do things the customer doesn’t even know we’re doing [it],” says Jerry Cifarelli, president, CEO and co-founder of ANC Sports, a division of Learfield Sports.

For these reasons, not every integrator is cut out for the large venue market. There is a lot of upside for large venue integrators, however. InfoComm and Acclaro call venues/events the second largest customer segment in the global pro AV market with 14 percent of the $91.8 billion pie in 2014.

Market Chatter

We asked some folks with first-hand knowledge of what it takes to succeed in large venues the following.

Where are the opportunities for integrators in terms of creating content for clients where they also install digital signage, video boards and menu boards?

Jerry Cifarelli, president, CEO and co-founder of ANC Sports, a division of Learfield Sports: “Everyone talks about wanting and being turnkey solutions, and that’s what we are. That means we’re the razors and the razor blades. We don’t just give our customers our 800 number and tell them to call us when they need us. We like to be involved.

“In some markets, there’s a need for someone to do it all for them. They don’t want to be a technology company.”

That includes the retail market, for which ANC has been known to sign five- to 10-year service contracts. ANC also works largely in the professional sports venue market and has been making inroads in the college sports venue market, a push that should get a boost from its new parent company.

“One of the problems we’re running into right now is we probably don’t get paid enough for all the things we do, because a lot of times we do things the customer doesn’t even know we’re doing [it]. We have a design studio with 20 graphic designers and an operations group with 150 people in the field.”

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Kevin Goldsmith, director of digital media operations at Ping HD: “[Creating your own content] helps you to truly provide the turnkey solutions more and more customers want and are asking for. Because content is a very visual thing, we use our in-house design team to put together concepts ahead of many sales presentations. That goes a long way in showing what we can do and what the customer can expect.”

When customers sign a deal with Ping HD, everything — from hardware to content design to training and everything in between — is covered for three years, says Goldsmith. About 75 percent, if not more, of customers who see Ping HD’s content creation capabilities incorporate the concepts they’ve seen in sales presentations as part of their projects, says Goldsmith.

The San Francisco Giants, who have been a Ping HD client for about four years, will continue to use the company’s content creation capabilities as they add nine menu boards and three new concessions in time for the 2015 baseball season.

There’s still more Ping HD can do to get better, says Goldsmith. “As our content team gets better and faster, we can put together custom animation for our customers,” he says.

Key Takeaways

  1. The global venues/events market is growing in line with the overall pro AV industry, with 11 percent CAGR from 2012 to 2016, according to InfoComm/Acclaro.
  2. The analog-to-digital conversion represents significant opportunity in the venues market, especially for performing arts centers and theaters as they upgrade equipment, according to InfoComm/Acclaro.
  3. It’s not a big recurring revenue market. High-level customer service is often just expected.
  4. With scoreboards and ribbon signage so prominent in so many sports venues, content for those displays is very much in demand, creating opportunities and challenges for integrators.
  5. Karaoke clubs are part of this market and driving much of the growth in Asia.
  6. Soccer infrastructure in South America and Middle East is boosting the sports arena portion of the market.

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