With the Super Bowl just a week away, Comcast has started playing ball with the San Francisco 49ers.
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) announced a wide-ranging agreement with the NFL team Thursday to wire the 49ers' new football stadium for WiFi, high-speed Ethernet links, HD video, and cloud-based voice services for fans and team employees. Under the 10-year pact, Comcast will install dual, fiber-based 10Gbit/s Ethernet lines to support all of these advanced services in the new Levi's Stadium, which is now going up in the Silicon Valley city of Santa Clara, south of San Francisco.
"From a bandwidth perspective, it's such an interesting case," said Michael Tighe, executive director of data services for Comcast Business Services. "There's a huge amount of bandwidth needed at one particular time, so it must be scalable and cost-effective."
Further, Comcast will offer free WiFi access to fans during football games and concerts at the new stadium, which will open next fall and host the Super Bowl in two years. In addition, Comcast's cable regional sports network, CSN Bay Area, will build a 1,000-square-foot TV studio at the stadium to produce game-day broadcasts and other 49ers programming for both the sports network and KNTV, the local NBC station that Comcast owns through its NBC Universal division.
Moreover, Comcast will provide the in-house video feed to all TV monitors in the stadium and feed programming to the venue's large video boards. Finally, the MSO said it will set up Xfinity-branded kiosks throughout the stadium to hawk its various Xfinity cable services and "showcase Silicon Valley innovation."
The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
In essence, the sweeping deal gives Comcast just about all the sponsorship goodies possible except for the naming rights to the football stadium itself. As a result, it should give the cable operator a boost in the Bay Area marketing wars with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), which has its name plastered on the San Francisco Giants' baseball stadium on the San Francisco waterfront.
Although this may be the most sweeping deal yet with a pro sports team for Comcast, it's certainly not the first. The company has already struck similar service and marketing pacts with five baseball, football, and basketball teams in four other major US markets where it operates, including the Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics, Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals, and Denver Broncos. In addition, it provides Ethernet services for one other pro sports team, the Oakland As.(See Red Sox Play Ball With Comcast's MetroE.)
"We're doing really well with major league sports teams," said Tighe, depicting them as a new vertical. "It's been a good roll."
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading