Even seeing the unfinished construction of the MSG Sphere during CES in January, it was impossible not to perceive that you were witnessing the biggest change in live entertainment since 1929, when the NFL first turned on floodlights for night games.
The Las Vegas venue, which opened to the public on September 29, is that monumental. By bringing together hybrid digital and physical media in such a massive setting, the MSG Sphere is a canvas for new ways of immersing the audience in sports and events.
Just the outside skin of the venue is groundbreaking. "The Exosphere is more than a screen or a billboard – it is living architecture, and unlike anything that exists anywhere in the world," said MSG Sphere Senior Vice President Guy Barnett.
It’s Okay To Get Excited
Excuse me if this sounds like hype. Certain advances are still worth getting excited about. But don’t mistake my point: the potential is exciting. But as with everything in media, success comes down to execution. Either way, MSG Sphere is a pioneering venue at least in the near term, it will quickly influence how events, concerts, sports, and even out of home advertising will be performed, packaged and showcased.
When I put on a hard hat and toured the MSG Sphere, our group was overwhelmed by a long list of specs: outdoor high-resolution LED screen encompasses a record-breaking 580,000 square feet with a completely visual and circular “exoskeleton.”
The interior of the 366-foot-tall spherical structure will have a record-breaking 160,000 foot LED screen that will surround the audience. The screen, which is larger than three football fields, will be enhanced by more than 164,000 individual speakers.
The place screams “spectacular.” So it’s fitting that a band as iconic as U2 is currently serving as the MSG Sphere’s debut act. Bono and the band hit the Sphere’s interactive stage the last week of September for a 25-show residency that runs through mid-December.
“This will be a quantum leap forward in the sense of what a concert can be,” U2 guitarist the Edge told Rolling Stone. “It gives you the opportunity to bring people back in time, and to worlds that are completely computer-generated, but completely believable. It’s a new genre of immersive experience, and a new art form.”
Big Changes Are Coming
After almost a year of disappointments and dismissals of concepts like web3 and the metaverse, recent developments like the MSG Sphere and Apple’s introduction of spatial computing have provided this area of emerging tech with a strong confidence boost.
This all comes as the media and tech worlds appear to be on the precipice of … something. There’s the phenomenon of generative artificial intelligence becoming mainstream amid months of continued economic uncertainty.
Although the writer’s strike recently ended, the prolonged labor strife has disrupted Hollywood in ways the industry will take years to sort out.
Gaming is also driving a paradigm shift in media consumption and immersive advertising is finally poised to catch up with it, especially following Microsoft’s legal victory against the FTC in its $69 billion bid for Activision Blizzard.
That’s a lot to take in as we all settle into Q4 and look ahead to 2024.
Compared to all the media touchpoints I mentioned, live, in-person events might be the last frontier. From movie theaters to music clubs to conference stages to arena shows, the experience has largely remained the same for the past 100 years.
Hybrid digital and physical media will very quickly be catapulted into the future. The timing couldn’t be better. As the pandemic finally appeared in our collective rearview mirror this year, the pent-up demand for communal, out-of-this world (or at least out-of-our-living room) gatherings remains insatiable.
So while it doesn’t take much for venues to attract an audience, there are expectations that do need to be met.
A MSG Sphere is introducing several advancements, including multi-sensory 4D technologies that enhance storytelling and create an immersive "somewhere else" experience for the audience. The venue’s 10,000 immersive seats come with an”infrasound haptic system” that will use deep vibrations so guests can “feel” the experience — such as the rumble of thunder or a roaring motorcycle.
Sphere will also deploy environmental effects to rouse the senses with changing temperatures to give audiences the feeling of a cool breeze, or familiar scents.
At the moment, companies in Asia and the Middle East are prepping their own immersive venue complexes. So the pressure will be on Live Nation and individual stadium owners to begin to add similar hybrid features. As to the popular tagline that says, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” the MSG Sphere’s influence is sure to be the exception.
Posted at MediaVillage through the Thought Leadership self-publishing platform.
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The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.org/MyersBizNet.