The Orlando Magic are still looking to break through and become one of the NBA’s elite teams, but there’s no doubt they’re leading the way when it comes to incorporating technology into their game presentation.
Comprehensive Technical Group (CTG) of Atlanta has a longstanding relationship with the Magic, including digital signage and other upgrades at the Amway Center. Heading into the 2015-2016 season, the Magic targeted its IPTV system for upgrade, says CTG integration manager/project manager John Curtis.
“They wanted to push the envelope,” says Curtis, noting CTG was charged with creating customized channels with future plans for streaming video content, video on-demand and video replay and other tools from mobile platforms.
For this project, CTG started talking to Magic officials in the spring of 2015 and worked from June to right before the season opener in October on the installation, with most of the work coming in August and September.
The installation was part of an upgrade to the arena’s video and signage systems, during which the organization decided to change from an all-signage system with more than 1,000 displays to a hybrid IPTV solution and dedicated digital signage system.
VITEC’s EZ TV IPTV system includes real-time network DVRs, Electronic Program Guide for TV and PC users that provides programming information for all TV channels and local feeds and the ability to extend the reach of the IPTV streams to desktops, laptops, tablets and phones.
Photos: Inside the Amway Center Upgrade
EZ TV delivers content for the team’s 20 live channels and manages 60 broadcast cable channels going to more than 300 VITEC set-top boxes throughout the Amway Center, including courtside, back-of-house positions (team management, locker rooms, production) and Club and Founders level suites. Content also goes out to 700 Four Winds digital signage screens.
The first phase involved bringing new head-end encoders online, says Curtis. The changeover happened during the Microsoft MSX event in August, he says, and the system was offline “for a matter of seconds overnight,” he says.
From there, CTG pulled out and replaced 900 edge devices, swapping out HDMI cables and installing hundreds of VITEC Amino set-top boxes and hundreds of Four Winds Interactive digital signage content players.
CTG had targeted areas where they did pieces of the overhaul during concerts and other events at Amway during the Magic’s offseason.
“There was a lot to keep track of, but the Amway Center has a nice numbering system of its monitors that allows non-technical people to quickly relay information to technical staff,” says Curtis. That’s where all of the pre-planning paid off. We did all of the worrying at the front of the project so we didn’t have to worry at the end.
“This was far and away the largest project we’ve done. It’s a sheer logistics game,” he says.
During the planning and installation, CTG and Amway Center staffers met daily.
“Everyone was confident in the middle of September about what we were doing,” says Curtis. There was no CTG technical staff needed for the Magic season opener after Amway Center staff learned how to use their new toys.
The Magic also revamped its mobile app in time for the season opener to allow fans to find their seats, order food and access parking lots. The new app allows fans to order concessions and pay on the app and have food delivered to their seats. Magic CEO Alex Martins says the options will be the first of their kind in the NBA.
“It’s the most significant enhancement to a fan experience in our industry in decades,” he said. “What we are doing is putting a remote control in the hands of guests and fans to direct their in-arena experience.”
The Magic’s deal with VenueNext, which debuted the technology at NFL venue Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco last year, ran “in the seven figures,” Martins told the Orlando Sentinel. A new loyalty program in the app will allow season-ticket holders to turn in unused tickets for merchandise vouchers, with the team then able to put returned tickets back on sale.
The effort to enable Amway Center to physically handle the new app included the installation of 900 beacons, which aid in communication between Wi-Fi-enabled devices. They also increased bandwidth capacity for Wi-Fi services to 10 times what it was. To combat that, the team has about 70 people throughout the arena to receive feedback, help customers use the app and answer fan questions.