M&E Daily

AI is Changing the Game for Sports Organisations

Sports teams have always been about entertainment, since their primary mandate – their very reason for existence, if you will – is to compete and win exciting games for their fans. And now, fans have gone through serious sports withdrawals during quarantine.

With baseball, basketball and most recently, football back in full swing, fans are getting their virtual fix –– but we’re still a long way from the pre-COVID-19, in-person ballpark or arena experience.

But there’s a highly lucrative by-product of all that great action from past seasons: an enormous volume of recorded content that is primed for monetisation and leveraging in many different ways. And this content leads to untapped potential for teams and broadcasters to think outside of the box to keep fans engaged as they watch the return to live sports from home in our new normal.

For the world’s most prominent sports teams, leagues and federations, the idea of leveraging digital content isn’t a new one. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, for instance, started way back in 2000 to capitalise on the content licensing opportunities presented by the internet, even when the Web was in its infancy compared to today. And just think of how far we’ve come in terms of monetisation opportunities across social media channels and display ads.

Changing the pace of the game

Fast forward two decades, and the sports media landscape is now vastly different. Consumer demand has exploded for all types of sports content, from live gameplay to highlights, interviews and profiles on teams and players – and they want to consume it on the platform and device of their choice. That dynamic is driving fragmentation of the media landscape, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Consider that only 10 years ago the primary means of consuming sports programming was broadcast TV. Online platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and TikTok have levelled the playing field, so to speak, for sports teams by giving them the same ability to distribute rich media as the big broadcasters.

But here’s the catch: most sports organisations are sitting on a huge cache of valuable, monetisable content that they can’t utilise, because they lack the technology and expertise to do so effectively. For instance, take a popular MLB team that has a wealth of content, including more than two million photos. Until recently, these photos were being stored on many different computers, drives, and folders without an effective or efficient means of finding and accessing them.

AI to the rescue

The game-changer for this team, and many others like it, is their ability to leverage AI that enables the hyper-indexing of content. These automated tools use advanced, AI-driven cognitive processing techniques such as facial and object recognition, OCR, logo recognition and transcription to extract intelligent, structured metadata. This means sports teams can instantly unlock the value within their video, audio and image assets in order to maximise monetisation opportunities afforded to them in the new sports economy.

With this technology in place, sports teams and broadcasters can then do just about anything in terms of content creation. Here are a few sports examples of AI in action:

• Inter Milan. Italy’s Internazionale Milano (Inter Milan) is leveraging a powerful combination of Veritone aiWARE and the Evolphin Zoom MAM platform to index, manage, and monetise the team’s massive library of archived and current content. By tagging and identifying key assets within the library, Inter Milan is enabling video editors, journalists and designers to find the content they need quickly and deliver their work faster than ever.

• San Francisco Giants. To celebrate the 2020 anniversary of 20 years at its home stadium, this team planned a full schedule of fan engagement campaigns – social, digital, and in-stadium – supported by its vast library of 20,000 hours of content and more than 17,000 assets. The team used Veritone aiWARE to replace a formerly manually content tagging and indexing process that was requiring a full-time crew of 13 people, enabling the team to meet its deadlines and goals for the anniversary celebration. Being able to easily access this content on the cloud has been a game changer for the production team with the current distributed, remote work environment as they are still able to create an engaging fan experience through content.

In short, these teams are among the growing lineup of sports teams and broadcasters that are maximising the value yield of their vast storehouses of content by leveraging AI to turn historical content and live moments into actionable content to engage fans. Although we’re a long way away from returning to stadiums and arenas and experiencing pre-pandemic sporting events, leaning on technology can allow fans to stay engaged with their favourite teams and players from the comfort of their own homes.

By Logan Ketchum, Director of Sales & Strategic Partnerships, Veritone