During a Friday afternoon Zoom call, a QR code is posted on the screen and a Sports Business Journal reporter scans it with his phone. Moments later, his face appears on what, just a few days earlier, would have shown on the video board at Rocket Mortgage Center in Cleveland.
This is Famous Group’s Vixi Live. Staring at the phone, then the computer screen, the reporter is helpless to stop a goofy smile from spreading across his face.
Vixi Live’s “Is it gonna’ be me next?” factor “is cool,” said Matt Marcus, executive vice president at Famous Group. “The light goes on and says, ‘You’re live’ and they’re on the screen. It’s kind of a visceral experience.”
It’s something Marcus noticed during the height of the pandemic when the company’s Virtual Seat technology was deployed at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, and at the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center in the guise of DubHub. Those activations brought fans into venues that were closed to them because of the virus and helped Famous Group create Vixi Live, a web-based platform that uses QR codes to socially broadcast fans’ faces onto center-hung scoreboards or any other type of screen.
courtesy of famous group
“You understood the power of people having control of their own video and seeing themselves on the broadcast or in the venue,” said Marcus, who oversees Vixi Live, which debuted in late 2021 at the Portland Trail Blazers’ Moda Center. “As fans started piling back into the arena, we thought to ourselves, ‘Well, let’s try to create that feeling for the fans in the venue.’”
The technology is simple: The venue posts a QR code on a video board or scoreboard and fans scan the code, linking their phone to the video board. A moderator can see all of the fans that scanned the QR code on a grid and picks which ones to make public so the rest of the venue can see them.
“This is just the beginning of it too, just getting the videos on there,” said C.J. Davis, head of creative technology for Famous Group. “I really do believe it’s part of a post-pandemic familiarity [with QR codes], plus the mix of where social media is these days with so much video.”
So far, only the Blazers and Warriors are using Vixi Live regularly, but more teams in the biggest five North American sports leagues will be deploying it soon. The NBA also used Vixi Live at the All-Star Game in Cleveland last month, where roughly 30,000 people engaged with the platform over the course of several events. The platform has clear sponsorship and brand integration potential, and it addresses an issue that sports teams have tried to confront head-on during the past decade but usually failed.
“We’ve always had that debate of how we get people away from their cell phones and to focus on what’s going on inside the arena, but that’s not going away,” said Todd Bosma, the Blazers’ director of game operations and events.
How it’s being used
During discussions with Famous Group last year about Virtual Seat, the Blazers caught wind of Vixi Live and volunteered to trial the platform. The Blazers have used Vixi Live before games, usually beginning 45 minutes prior to tipoff as fans file into the building and running for 20 minutes. They have also used it during in-game timeouts. Pregame, the Blazers get between 800 and 1,200 people scanning the QR code, and that number jumps to between 2,500 and 3,000 during timeouts.
Having a moderator makes Vixi Live less risky than traditional in-game broadcast shots that have appeared on scoreboards and video boards for decades. The Blazers use five or six cameras for games at Moda Center.
“But now, with this, you’ve got 19,000 cameras,” Bosma said.
Pregame Vixi Live has worked better for the Blazers because it’s less strain on Moda Center’s WiFi and DAS cellular systems. But Famous Group has since made Vixi Live less data-consumptive. Video resolution was decreased, and the “click or kick” process of picking people to put on the scoreboard, or getting rid of inappropriate actors, was streamlined from several steps to one.
The Warriors have a massive Samsung center-hung video board — nearly 10,000 square feet and the biggest in the NBA — so Vixi Live made sense for them, too. The Warriors use the platform exclusively during in-game timeouts, and only once per game. About 4,000 fans scan the QR code per game on average, with roughly 60,000 total scanning since January.
“There was some thought to maybe embed this into our Chase mobile app, and it would perhaps adopt some new followers to that,” said Shawn Bennett, the Warriors’ executive producer for event presentation. “But as a beta program we thought it’d be easier to launch it to the masses.”
Fans scan a QR code with their cellphone and then a moderator can make them a scoreboard selfie star with Famous Group’s Vixi Live.courtesy of famous group
What could be next?
Over the recent NBA All-Star weekend, around 30,000 fans engaged with the Vixi Live platform, measurable exposure for an asset that’s imminently sponsorable, according to Davis. Yahoo Sports sponsored Vixi Live activations during the All-Star Game.
At Chase Center, Hewlett-Packard Enterprises is a founding partner, and the H-P subsidiary Aruba provided the WiFi system in the arena (Verizon led the DAS cellular effort). Furthering its pledge to connect fans, Hewlett-Packard decided to sponsor the team’s use of Vixi Live, which is officially called “HPE Fan Cam powered by Vixi Live.”
Vixi Live isn’t limited to just selfie videos, but can be used to poll the crowd, play trivia, or implement augmented and virtual reality filters. And in the future, Vixi Live use won’t be limited to fans in the seating bowl but could be used to show happenings in a venue’s concourse, or projected on a media wall, or used to connect fans watching from home with the in-venue experience via a QR code shown on the broadcast.
Besides their silly grins, fans who scan Vixi Live QR codes but don’t make it on the scoreboard still get a keepsake image. In coming months and years, the keepsake could become something else, possibly related to a sponsor.
“This is something we think is going to be a regular fan experience piece of the puzzle and there is a roadmap to see it get better and better along the way,” said Marcus.