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FanVision: A dream gadget for NFL stadiums?

An in-stadium video-streaming handheld device is ready to launch at a handful of NFL stadiums, hoping to take the TV experience into the stands.

If you're a Miami Dolphins fan, FanVision might not be news. The handheld device, which rocks a 4.3-inch screen, was available to Dolphins fans all of last year, because it's Dolphins co-owner Stephen Ross' company. An attempt to answer back to high-quality HDTV feeds and interactive tools available at home, FanVision is an NFL technology debuting in a handful of stadiums starting with the imminent 2010 season. So far it'll be available in only 12 stadiums (for Cardinals, Bills, Dolphins, Broncos, Browns, Bears, Vikings, Jets, Eagles, Redskins, and Seahawks fans, specifically), in addition to being offered at the University of Michigan for its college football season.

FanVision hits NFL stadiums this season.
FanVision hits NFL stadiums this season. FanVision

This little smartphone-like dedicated device is a hybrid of Wi-Fi and locally broadcast UHF video technologies, receiving multiple angles of live broadcast game TV, the NFL Red Zone highlight channel, simultaneously played in-division games, radio broadcasts, and stat feeds into a little gadget with 6 hours of battery life. According to FanVision's executives, the device can receive its signal in the parking lot as well as the stadium, making it a potential tailgating tool as well as a new-age portable TV.

FanVision hopes to spread into other sports eventually (the technology, originally named Kangaroo TV, was first used at Nascar events), but this year's NFL launch is the chief focus. The devices cost $199 in exchange for a season's worth of service. The device will be owned by the fan, but future seasons of service will likely cost an additional fee. For some higher-priced ticket holders, they'll be given away for free depending on the stadium (this is the case with the Jets in the New Meadowlands Stadium).

The price for the 2010 season isn't bad, especially compared with the prices of most stadium tickets/concessions. FanVision's advertised capability to cache multiple views of plays for handheld instant-replay could be a great fan tool, especially in the cheap seats. Though smartphone apps could also replicate these functions, the bandwidth of Wi-Fi or 3G service in a packed stadium could be a weak link as far as reliability. FanVision uses broadcast UHF video channels for its video feeds, bypassing concerns of bandwidth clogging.

So, NFL season ticket owners, what do you think? Would you get one of these? I'll be trying one out myself when it goes live at the New Meadowlands Stadium, so stay tuned in a week or so for a hands-on report.