Leeder Speaks: “Canadian Tire Centre Vision”

Although their Twitter account had essentially verified what today's press conference would be about days in advance, today the Senators officially unveiled the launch of Canadian Tire Centre Vision.

In a nutshell, this vision is a multimedia vision that provides Canadian Tire Centre patrons with video and digital content through an expansive network of televisions located throughout the arena. 

See the press release for more details.

To help promote this innovation, Senators President Cyril Leeder's appeared on In the Box this afternoon to explain how the system and its potential impact. 

You can check out the full interview here, or via the embed below.

As always, my thoughts are in bold

On the exciting day…

“Yes, this is pretty exciting news for us. It’s a hi-definition video and digital content system and that’s a big buzz word to say. We’re stringing together over 700 TV monitors, HDTV monitors, throughout the building and public spaces – so when fans are outside of the bowl in the arena, they’ll never be farther than 10 feet from a monitor. They won’t miss any of the action and they’ll be getting all kinds of great real-time content like out of town scores, out of town highlights, Twitter feeds, game stats and right now, we’re just limited on the ability to deliver those through technology. And we’re investing $5 million here in this new system to really upgrade the technology throughout the whole building.”

In a technology-driven world, it's exciting to hear that the Senators are catering to a fan base that craves information. I mean, when I watch any game from home, I'm plugged in on my laptop following Twitter and checking the statistics provided by sites like NHL.com, ExtraSkater.com and etc., so if this in-game experience allows me to bring some of my at-home experience to the Canadian Tire Centre, it probably will entice me and other fans to go to more games. 

But at the same time, let's not kid ourselves here. As much as this is a mechanism to help improve the in-game experience for fans, this is also an opportunity to opportunity for the organization to generate more ad revenue and increase their bottom line. The fact that the organization can do both at the same time is just gravy. 

On Canadian Tire procuring the naming rights of the arena and whether they helped facilitate changes to the building…

“This is definitely part of it. As the name would suggest, Canadian Tire Centre Vision, wouldn’t have been possible without the Canadian Tire’s support. We’ve had a number of great partners on this including Samsung, Bell, and Cisco as well, but Canadian Tire are really at the forefront and they made a commitment to us when they became our naming rights partner to work with us to bring enhancements that would help the fan experience. And certainly, this is certainly one of those. It’s great technology and it’s also pretty cool stuff too, so we’re looking forward to being able to showcase it and really seeing the fan reaction to it.”

I believe that Chris Lund, the man runs the Senators' Twitter account and digital content for the Sens website, should be updating fans on the full capabilities of this Canadian Tire Centre Vision at some point in the near future, so keep an eye out for that. 

On improvements to the press box technology…

“Yeah, this system will certainly finds its way to the press box and the television monitors there are long overdue. Some of them are original with the building – 18 years old – so they’re standard-def and 27 inch. As part of this system, they’ll all be getting new Samsung HD, the best quality screens we can buy, and they’ll be double the surface area so they’ll be bigger and even Doni Brennan won’t miss a moment of this stuff now.”

On other big name places where this technology is used…

“Yeah, the four places that this technology went in… and Cisco brands it as Cisco Stadium Vision… although, we’re calling it Canadian Tire Centre Vision, but the newest hockey arena that’s been built is the Consol Energy Centre in Pittsburgh, it has the system. The newest football stadium in Dallas has the system. The newest baseball stadium, Yankee Stadium, has it and as you mentioned, the newest basketball facility, the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, has it as well. And not too many places outside of (these places have it). It’s fairly cutting edge. As I’ve said, it’s a big nut. It’s a big investment, so you’ve got to have good partners and have a good business plan. It took us two years. We’ve been working with the Cisco team locally here for two years to get this put in place and we’ve got a few screens up now. As fans come in to the game tomorrow, our main lobby will be lit up at gate one at the main entrance. There will be 35 screens in there that will be deployed and the rest of it will take place over the months of December and January, so all 700 screens will be functional, we hope, by the end of January.”

I read on Twitter that the Senators are looking to have this investment fully paid off within three years, so by then, hopefully this is an innovation that can continue to be updated and used to maximize their revenue stream. 

On how important this experience will be to keep fans at the rink…

“It’s really important. Fans today and just in general, consumers today expect the latest and greatest in technology and they expect something new and fresh every year. Obviously our first job is to put the best possible team on the ice, but after that, we’ve got to keep it fresh and you’ve got to keep it current, so we’ve made over $15 million worth in investments on the facility here over the past 24 months. And all of that really with a view to saying to our fans, ‘You are important. We know that you’ve been asking for some of these innovations – a new scoreboard, new digital signage – that we’ll be implementing and we’re delivering that.”

I've seen a number of fans on Twitter commenting on how the organization is spending money on arena innovations when they could be investing it into payroll. Of course there's an argument to be made that reinvesting in payroll could invigorate the fan base and the players, hopefully leading to a better on-ice product and subsequently more fans in the stands, but during such a dreadful start to the campaign, can we avoid this payroll talk, right now? 

As it is, it probably doesn't make sense for the Senators to give up futures to bring in salary because that use of assets should be tied to the long-term future of Bobby Ryan and Jason Spezza. You would hate to see the team mortgage a part of their future without any guarantee that said players, any many others it should be noted, are candidates to leave via UFA in 2015. 

In other words, be happy that the Senators are trying to improve their in-venue fan experience and most importantly, be grateful that their exhausting avenues looking for additional revenue streams that hopefully, will lead to them spending more money down the road.

On what’s next…

“Well there’s lots of great things happening. Next year we’ll be working with the AGCO to do an electronic 50/50 pilot, so you’ll have real-time 50/50 updates on where the jackpot is at. That’s one of the things that we’ll be doing. What fans, I think, will really appreciate most next year is that the ongoing Highway 417 expansion will get completed in time for the start of the next season, so that’s good news. And we’ve got a number of other major, significant investments that we have planned that we’ll be announcing over the months and weeks ahead. One of them of which, will be expanding our Capital Tickets network throughout the region and that will give more convenience and choice to the fans as well.”

Real-time updates on 50/50 jackpots sounds neat, especially if it leads to more money being raised for the Senators Foundation. Real-time updates on Milan Michalek's CF% would be neater though. 

On the status of ticket sales lately and where they align with projections…

“It’s good. A slight correction, we’re up over previous years. We’re not quite at where we’d hope to be at this point in time, but we’re right within striking distance on our ticket revenues. The Leafs game is obviously a big game, there’s going to be a big crowd here. It isn’t quite sold out yet but we know it will be – it’s down to a handful of tickets. The good news in December is that we’ve got some big games and some big opponents. And we’ve really only had one big game prior to the month of December and with Detroit and Toronto and Pittsburgh and Boston all coming in, those games will all be sold out and be big crowds. The bad news is that we have 11 home games in December, which is a record. Part of the fallout, I guess, from trying to cram an 82-game season in with a three-week Olympic break. So we’ll have some games where we won’t have the crowds we would have like to have in this month because we have 11 home games. All in all, we’re really pleased because the biggest barometer for ticketing is the season ticket base and that has grown this year to over 12,000 and we’re continuing to grow that season ticket base and that’s the most important thing for us and what we’re focused on.”

Interesting clarification that refers to comments he made during his last apperance on 1200 in which he said: 

“No. No, we’d like to be full obviously every night, but we’re right where we thought we’d be at this point of the year. And as I’ve said in two of the interviews this week that our revenues on tickets are up this year, year-over-year and compared to last year and compared to the last full year (in) ‘11/12. Just to change some of the promotions, and the discounting, and the policies we’ve had have really attributed to that.”
 
So ticket revenues aren't up from where they were, even though he told the newspapers and the radio that they were earlier in the year, hmmm…. that's never good.  

On winning hockey games being pretty important to selling tickets…

“Yeah, when you’re selling… with 12,000 season seats that means we have over 7,000 seats to sell on a casual, game-by-game basis. And winning is the best tonic and biggest marketing tool for that, for sure. But our job, with our off-ice team, is to make sure that the building is full whether we go 82-0 or 0-82, so we don’t really want to use that as an excuse from a ticket sales perspective. The job really for us is to build that season ticket base and with the team we have, we have a good young team and we know we’re headed in the right direction. Fans, I think, recognize and understand that and have been great to us and that’s why, I think, our season seat base has grown more than ten percent in the last year.”

The Senators are young, but it's not like there's been much growth from many of their players. Sure, Kyle Turris has improved, Mika Zibanejad looks like he could be a competent two-way top six forward and Robin Lehner looks like a future stud and it's nice to see Erik Karlsson rebound from a brutal Achilles injury, but with those four players aside, there's not a hell of a lot of upside to this current roster. Everyone else has seemingly depreciated in value. Furthermore, you have an owner who's been stigmatized as someone who is unwilling to take on salary to improve this team and make it more competitive. Throw in the impending UFA status of players like MacArthur, Ryan, Spezza, Methot and Anderson in 2015, and it's reasonable to believe that this team could be poised to take another step back. 

On how much it helps to get the extra television money from the Rogers/NHL agreement…

“Well first, I think it’s a great landmark deal for the league and for the teams. For fans it’s going to be great. What you’ll notice as a fan next year watching on Saturday night is you’ll have your choice of four or five or six different games like you would watching Sunday football. So you’ll get a lot more choice with this new system… this new agreement. What it will mean for us and the impact? We don’t know yet. I don’t want to dodge the question, but we have the (Board of Governors) meeting next week on Monday and Tuesday. We’ll get sort of the full detail, but certainly, it’s going to improve revenues for the teams and it will certainly help us. It will be a step forward for us on our business side, which is always important. It’s always good. Our job is to really run the organization as best we can to give Bryan Murray the resources that he needs to put the best team on the ice.”

I'll wait until more information is released following the Board of Governors meeting before commenting on this. 

On whether the regional broadcast rights being up come at a great time for the club to maximize another revenue stream…

“Yes, I think in this case, that’s probably a good thing. We’ve got our own media rights for the Senators becoming available and we’re one of the few teams that has… we’re the only team really in Canada that has any media rights coming due in the next eight years. So I think it’s fairly important for us. It’s an important agreement and we’re working away on that right now, and any time there’s competition, that’s a good thing. From our perspective, the timing is probably good for us to be going into those negotiations.”

Cha-ching!

On television ratings and their importance…

“Absolutely, the way you build the sport and the way that teams build their fan base is through (fans) going to games but it’s also through the broadcasts itself and how many people are watching them. We reach over 55 million people just with our local, regional broadcasts on TV each year, so that’s a really important way for us to tell the Senators story and build our fan base.”

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