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How the new SoFi stadium in LA embodies the future of live sports and entertainment

Key Points
  • The new SoFi Stadium is set to open July 25 in Hollywood Park ahead of the 2020 season for Los Angeles' two NFL teams.
  • Technology that will make the stadium experience unique includes a 70,000-sq-ft Oculus display board that will have 4K double-sided video; Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of wireless to deliver faster speeds; and digital ticketing provided by Ticketmaster, called SafeTix.
  • Mobile consumers are looking for more immersive live social experiences, and that's driving innovation.
A rending of the new SoFi stadium for the LA Rams and Chargers to open in July.
Source: SoFi Stadium

When Taylor Swift hits the stage at the new SoFi Stadium this summer in Hollywood Park ahead of the 2020 season for Los Angeles' two NFL teams, it's expected that 70,000 fans will be cheering for two reasons: They will be rocking to the songbird's latest hits, while being awed by the design and technical wizardry of the venue, set to open July 25.

It will be the epicenter of one of the world's most expensive sports-and-entertainment complexes built in the U.S. and is estimated to cost about $5 billion. It includes a 70,240-seat stadium with a transparent dome that spans more than 3 million sq ft; a 6,000-seat performance center that will anchor a 298-acre complex of office buildings, shops, restaurants, residential units, hotels, movie theater and parks. In all, this smart city will be 3.5 times the size of Disneyland Park.

In addition to hosting the 2022 Super Bowl, the stadium, whose capacity can be stretched to 100,000 for mega-events, will host the 2023 College Football Playoff championship and the 2028 Olympics Opening and Closing ceremonies and is vying to hold 2026 World Cup matches.

CNBC Evolve will return, this time to Los Angeles, on Nov. 19. Visit cnbcevents.com/evolve to apply to attend.

Technology that will make the stadium experience unique includes a 70,000-sq-ft Oculus display board that will have 4K double-sided video; 5G communications network; Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of wireless to deliver faster speeds, and digital ticketing provided by Ticketmaster, called SafeTix. The technology uses a rotating entry token that refreshes an encrypted barcode every 15 seconds to prevent counterfeiting and improve security. The digital ticket will also send customized messages to the ticketholder on a host of things — from VIP events to updates on parking information and merchandising offers.

From a security perspective it has a key benefit: SafeTix will instantly notify ticketholders via their mobile device if there is any security issue at the venue.

SafeTix offers counterfeit-proof digital entry for ticket holders.
Source: Ticketmaster

"We are now living in the experiential economy, and consumers want entertainment on their terms. It needs to be better than what is being offered at home, and it needs to be personalized," said Kevin Demoff, COO of the Los Angeles Rams. He notes the sports complex project was the vision of Rams owner Stan Kroenke, a real estate and sports mogul who is developing and financing it.

"Live entertainment and sports events are not going away, despite the plethora of at-home options," according to Poppy Crum, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Dolby Laboratories and adjunct professor at Stanford University. "It's at the core of human connections, and people are elevated by these shared experiences."

Today fans control the entertainment experience from the time they leave the house. They have so many a la carte offerings that the challenge now is how to create that live social experience they are willing to pay a high price for, Demoff said.

We are now living in the experiential economy, and consumers want entertainment on their terms. It needs to be better than what is being offered at home, and it needs to be personalized.
Kevin Demoff
COO of the Los Angeles Rams

The LA Rams have seen this trend firsthand. There is so much pent-up demand among NFL fans to finally see their team play in their own new stadium, premier seats and seat licenses are selling for $7,500 per seat with season tickets at $150 per game.

Amy Howe, president and COO of Ticketmaster, agrees. She sees the future of entertainment quickly evolving to meet the needs of on-demand mobile consumers. For a snapshot of this trend, one only needs to look at NFL ticket sales. Last season two-thirds of NFL ticket purchases were made on mobile; three years ago it was 30%, according to Ticketmaster data.

But marketing has gotten tougher. The average consumer is getting bombarded with advertising, and providers of live entertainment need to find ways to cut through the clutter, Howe says. "When these experiences are memorable — like Hamilton on Broadway — there is no limit to what people will pay."

Phillipa Soo, Christopher Jackson, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Anthony Ramos attend Lin-Manuel Miranda's final performance of 'Hamilton' on Broadway at Richard Rodgers Theatre on July 9, 2016 in New York City
Nicholas Hunt | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

To address the new reality, Ticketmaster is working with many technology companies, including Apple and Google, to develop an entertainment platform that reinvents the old ticketing model.

SafeTix isn't just to prevent fraud. It's part of an overarching program called Ticketmaster Presence, which not only monitors access to venues but also gives teams and stadiums access to fans, providing real-time insights and analytics and those "personalized fan experiences" that mean getting sent a beer coupon for your next visit or whatever the marketing geniuses think fans want.

"In the future we will continue to add more experiences on the platform," Howe said. "I expect voice commerce platforms will take off at some point for the industry."

Voice commerce, which is also referred to as conversational commerce, isn't a new concept in the retail space. In fact, it accounted for more than $2 billion in e-commerce sales last year, according to a study by eMarketer. As the technology improves with machine learning, and as consumers who own voice assistants interact more with their devices, this has the potential to grow exponentially.

"The big voice commerce platforms are doing a number of innovations with this technology now," Howe said. "It gives one the ability to bundle music, merchandising, sports and ticketing all in one."

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Key Points
  • Nike's decision to stop selling merchandise to Amazon is the start of brands opting to go directly to consumers, says internet entrepreneur Tim Armstrong.
  • The direct-to-consumer movement is "another megatrend starting," says Armstrong, ex-CEO of AOL who started an online shopping disruptor.
  • Nike confirmed this week that a pilot program, to sell a limited product assortment to Amazon in exchange for better brand protections on the site, will end.