In the sixth inning of a Phillies game earlier this month, this author sat in the 416 section of Citizens Bank Park and snapped a photo of the packed stadium as Cliff Lee led the Dodgers 2-0.
It was perhaps an unremarkable moment, simply another photo from another corner of the park, one of many taken personally in the past, but a marker of an experience worth saving, perhaps. After all, for this author, it’s not every day that one gets to attend a Major League game.
But it’s maybe more indicative of an increasing tendency — compulsion, maybe — to want to share these markers online.
For Frank Panko, a South Philly art director with an interest in sports and some extra time on his hands, these photographs are a business opportunity.
“Whenever I’m at a game, there’s a ton of people taking photos constantly, sharing on Facebook and Twitter,” says Panko, co-founder and developer of A View from My Seat, a product which collects photos submitted by users, of, quite literally, the view of the field from seats at sports venues.
Though it’s a Philly-born idea — the 36-year-old lives with his wife about two blocks from Pat’s and Geno’s cheesesteak restaurants — Panko says he’s looking beyond Citizens Bank Park.
He thinks that sharing photos at venues could be turned into a much more lucrative idea. A View from My Seat could be great for ticket sales, he says. As it exists now, purchasing tickets online leads users to plain seating charts, or for the more technologically advanced venues, photographs of empty fields, or virtual representations of those fields.
In a phone interview last week, shortly after this author unknowingly snapped a potential View from My Seat photo submission — Panko posited a question: What if, when purchasing tickets from sports teams, you could see real photos of games in progress, like the ones taken by his users?
“With the Phillies online ticket sales, you can click [to see what the view is like], but you don’t get a good idea of what it’s like during the game,” he says.
But that path, which could be the service’s primary revenue model, has resulted because the product itself is already building a strong user base.
Panko says that the service has collected photos from every Major League Baseball team, and nearly 90 percent of professional basketball and football teams. Logistically, Panko and his wife together oversee a database which stores more than a thousand venues across professional and collegiate teams.
Six thousand photos live in A View from My Seat, submitted by 25,000 registered users that have downloaded the Android app or logged on to the website. Panko, who is an art director for a local web development and design firm that he chose not to disclose, developed by himself the mobile application and the web site.
That’s after more than a year of availability. Beta versions of software were launched last July to a bumpy, buggy start, he says. But early this month, View from My Seat was officially pulled from beta status, now that those bugs have been fixed.
Still, in this local universe of startups, that kind of traction — which was achieved with little advertising and marketing — caught our eye. Panko says that a promotion in partnership with T-Mobile, which highlighted sports Android apps drove downloads this fall. And during baseball spring training this year, interest in the new season brought a big gain in submissions.
The product isn’t generating profit. Panko says that he’s committed to gaining a following, first. But he’s not blind to building relationships with ball parks, starting first with minor league teams, who often have more limited seating resources on their ticket sales sites. And he’s interested in ticket resellers, like StubHub.
But if Panko’s mission is true, then for now, that outlet for sharing experiences at professional sports venues is available, growing and built locally.
And the season’s just started.