Sports: can Artificial Intelligence help improve the viewing experience?

With sports fans wanting more and more diverse content from their teams, can Artificial Intelligence technology produce the volume of content needed? And can it open up other opportunities?

By Luke Gaydon, Head of Marketing, Solutions and Innovation, Accedo

Can sports providers keep up?

For sports fans, a team can feel like an extension of their family. Sports fans want content quickly and they want plenty of it. In an era of social media and OTT, consumers crave interactivity; sports entities can no longer expect their fans to sit and watch the action from start to finish on a television screen – they want to interact with their favorite teams and athletes in real time. However, with most sports being watched live, UX designers are facing a complex technical challenge; it’s easy to see why sports broadcasters are turning to AI technology to provide quick response content.

How can AI improve the viewing experience?

AI is able to offer fans with a chance to personalize what they watch; it can process data in seconds and deliver great content quickly, presenting fans with a wealth of interactivity which has been tricky to achieve in the past. Through the correct application of machine learning, AI can be trained to recognize relevant content, tag it appropriately and deliver it to the viewer within a matter of seconds.

Through AI, a fan can choose to track their favorite player’s vital stats or watch the last lap of a race in slow motion, with AI processing allowing fans to choose camera angles, replays, stream recommendations and live feedback of biometrics/stats all while watching a live match. Although live data analysis is not new in sports, AI can add another dimension to the content that is seen; it can detect things that aren’t visible to the human eye, i.e. who crosses the finish line first or whether a tennis serve is out. AI can make crucial decisions in a fraction of the time it would take a human to analyze the feed, resulting in a better and more seamless viewing experience and accurate results.

What can AI do behind the scenes?

Many sports rights holders are now seeing that AI is unlocking the potential to monetize their previously underutilized wealth of archive footage. There is a large market for sports nostalgia – you can see that by the number of views old matches get on YouTube. In the past, organizing this footage has been a costly and time-consuming task. AI is now providing sports entities with a cost-effective solution to manage their archives and allows them to deliver the content to fans in a user-friendly way. With the correct metadata, AI can allow users to search for specific content and then compile the results into an easy to use playlist.

AI doesn’t only help when it comes to organizing footage. Social media, viewing patterns and app engagement provides sports platforms with a hugely important commodity: data. When analyzed, the data explains how the fan has used the platform in the past and what they are most interested in. This can help determine how certain demographics tend to interact with certain technologies and in turn suggest which design features have been most successful and which might be received well in the future.

However, understanding data can be a complex and arduous task. Thankfully, advances in AI means that there is no need for an individual to spend time trawling through data to make sense of it – AI algorithms can be trained to analyze the data and feedback its findings within seconds. Not only does this provide sports rights providers with good knowledge of their fan base, but it also opens up other monetary opportunities such as sponsorship and advertising revenues.  

Ads: making them enjoyable

According to the ‘Future of Global Sport’ report, commissioned by ASOIF, sport entities now have a duty to capture and analyze data beyond straightforward interactions such as clicks and page views. User data generated from digital content can be monetized through sponsorship deals, targeted campaigns and branded content offerings. Ads have historically been an annoyance to most viewers, with many people choosing an ad break to go and make a coffee or a sandwich. However, with AI being trained to use its data to understand users’ preferences, it’s possible for AI to evaluate which adverts will be best received.

With fans seeing relevant and interesting content they are more likely to purchase or interact with the advert they’re seeing. Happy fans and relevant content have the potential to increase the return on investment and in turn increase ad revenue.

Invest in your fans and they’ll invest in you

AI is creating an in-depth viewing experience for sports fans. From the interactivity during live sports to the creation of behind the scenes footage and access to archives, AI provides fans with a user-friendly interaction. AI has the potential to increase fan loyalty and interactivity whilst also providing sports entities with a means of understanding user data and monetizing the results. With sports investing in creating UX and UI friendly content, fans are sure to respond well to tailored sponsorships and adverts being carefully placed to sit alongside data driven interactive content.

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