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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

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Sports Business

Colts viewers to get 3-D perspective on games at Lucas Oil Stadium

July 14, 2017
KEYWORDS Sports Business

Indianapolis Colts fans—at least those watching the game at home—will get a new perspective on the action this upcoming season.

On Friday, the city’s Capital Improvement Board approved a three-year deal with Intel to allow the company to install a new system of 3-D video replay cameras inside Lucas Oil Stadium and sell the feeds from those cameras to broadcast networks airing Colts games.

The new cameras, part of Intel’s "freeD" technology—or Free Dimensional Video—will allow the NFL’s broadcast partners to show game replays to media viewers from all angles, including aerial views and viewpoints from various player positions. The technology—which first hit the airwaves in 2016—is most commonly seen during basketball games. The NBA has increasingly used it during the 2016-17 season.

Intel debuted the technology at NFL stadiums in Baltimore, Houston and San Francisco last season. The technology also was showcased at last season’s Super Bowl. After positive reviews from fans, Intel and the NFL are working to expand use of the technology in the upcoming season.

CIB officials on Friday said the installation at Lucas Oil Stadium would be complete before the Colts’ Sept. 17 regular season home opener.

CIB President Melina Kennedy explained that the deal carries “no risk” for the CIB, the quasi-governmental city agency that owns and operates Lucas Oil Stadium. 

Intel will pay to have the system installed and will pay $40,000 to the CIB in the first year of the deal. In the following two years, the CIB will get one-third of the revenue from the networks. Kennedy estimated the CIB will score $60,000 to $70,000 over the last two years of the deal.

While Colts officials favor the installation of the system, Kennedy noted the team won’t get any money from the deal.

It’s not clear how much it will cost Intel to install the system, but a source familiar with the system told IBJ it would be “a solid six-figure investment and could potentially be higher depending on the complexities of the set-up.” Intel officials weren’t available Friday morning for comment.

Intel, CIB officials said, hope to recoup their investment by selling the 360-degree, 3-D replays to the NFL’s broadcast partners such as ESPN, NBC and Fox, who have already shown an interest in broadcasting these types of replays to their sports-loving viewers.

Indiana University, working with Intel, has also become a leader in using the technology, becoming the first U.S. college to install at its basketball arena last year. And this offseason the school is installing Intel’s 3-D replay system at Memorial Stadium, becoming the first school to have the system installed at both its basketball and football venues.

Basketball venues are a somewhat more comfortable fit for installing and operating the Intel system, IU officials told IBJ, because they typically are smaller than football venues. In Bloomington, Intel is installing 34 cameras around the top of Memorial Stadium that will provide shots that can be stitched together to create 360-degree views on both ends of the field.  

A source familiar with Intel’s plans for Lucas Oil Stadium said 38 cameras will likely be installed there and coupled with Intel servers capable of processing up to 1 terabyte of data every 15 to 30 seconds.

Unlike at the IU facilities, the 3-D replays generated by Intel’s system will not be available to fans watching the game live at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Kennedy said she’s hopeful the 3-D replays will be shown on Lucas Oil Stadium’s big-screen monitors in the coming years. But there’s nothing in Intel’s current contract that compels the company to do so.

NFL officials, however, told IBJ it is their desire to have these replays available on stadiums’ big screens and video monitors to enhance the live viewing experience. They added that the NFL is committed to working with Intel and NFL teams and broadcasters to expand the use of freeD technology.

In addition to being available in-stadium and for NFL live broadcasts, highlights from Intel freeD-equipped stadiums will be available to fans on NFL.com, NFL Mobile and the NFL YouTube channel, NFL officials said.

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