For nearly two decades, the dramatic Nasdaq video tower has illuminated Times Square in New York City with 19 million LEDs and seven stories of multimedia screens. The billboard is both an iconic landmark and a celebrated medium for live broadcasts, vibrant ads and real-time market information during major events for Nasdaq-listed companies.
From initial public offerings to market bell ceremonies, the visual spectacle includes photos, video and market data livestreamed on the tower and interactive screens throughout the large event space known as Nasdaq MarketSite. Opening and closing bell ceremonies are streamed online and via social media for people who can’t attend.
“The Nasdaq Tower and MarketSite have become globally recognized as the home of Nasdaq,” says Nelson Griggs, president of the Nasdaq Stock Exchange and executive vice president of Nasdaq corporate services.
“We host 200 to 300 events a year with clients, associations and other high-profile parties, but some of the most visible and exciting events for us are IPO days, when companies are going public, getting exposure to investors and expanding their brand,” says Griggs. “It’s a very momentous experience for the company.”
It’s also a uniquely New York City experience. To better serve its global clientele, which includes 4,000 listed companies, Nasdaq is moving its livestreaming services to Microsoft Azure and expanding them to Nasdaq offices in San Francisco, Stockholm, Sydney and Bangalore, India. The rollout is expected by the end of the year.
“We obviously love the Times Square location; it’s got a lot of eyeballs on it,” says Griggs. MarketSite also hosts a broadcast studio for financial reporters, who use a lively interior video wall as a backdrop. And by 2021, it will become Nasdaq’s global headquarters when the company moves from its current Wall Street location.
“But we’re a global market and our clients have a global audience,” Griggs says. “The question we get quite often from clients is, ‘OK, the Times Square audience gets to have this amazing experience, but we’re a company of thousands around the world.’”
The expansion will enable Nasdaq to create a visually powerful experience for clients across the globe, whether it’s a bell ceremony in Davos, Switzerland; an IPO at one of the company’s Nordic exchanges, or an event at Nasdaq’s Entrepreneurial Center in San Francisco. Popular MarketSite events include livestreamed product launches, listing anniversaries, and festive opening and closing market bell ceremonies involving hundreds of guests. There’s a live broadcast of a CEO pressing a bell button, and interactive displays of live photos and videos that people can access.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a very seasoned CEO or a guest of the company – it’s that ‘wow’ moment of seeing themselves on the seven-story tower. It’s an emotional moment when they’re here,” says Griggs.
“The more we’re able to broadly distribute content to a wider global audience, the more we can create a more dynamic experience that our customers have been asking for.”
Migrating video, graphics and visualization capabilities to Azure will enable Nasdaq to seamlessly scale the experience. The on-premises technology was already in a Windows environment, so moving to the Microsoft cloud was a natural fit, says Heather Abbott, Nasdaq senior vice president of corporate solutions technology.
Azure’s large global network and integrated services for resiliency were also valuable. Abbott says Nasdaq is exploring “broad use cases” in Azure, including machine learning and artificial intelligence as possibilities to differentiate the “MarketSite anywhere” experience. And the company wants to eventually make livestreaming services available at external customer locations.
But first, the priority is ensuring flawless video performance in Times Square and Nasdaq offices around the world.
“Because the Nasdaq Tower is such a visible landmark, it’s important that it works perfectly well 100 percent of the time,” Abbott says. “Azure gives us an extra level of reliability and resiliency that is a huge benefit to us.”
Top photo: The iconic Nasdaq video tower in New York City’s Times Square. (Photos courtesy of Nasdaq)