In the space of nine months, or thereabouts, the face of sports broadcasting has rapidly shifted to blend with the harsh reality. First came sport’s coronavirus-enforced postponements in mid-March, and then the prolonged period of “classic repeats”.
By late May, rights holders had adapted their setup to produce sports programming remotely as live events returned behind closed doors. By the end of the summer, the innovators who helped put sport back onto screens sat down to discuss what ideas were worth keeping.
Ahead of English soccer’s resumption in June, domestic Premier League rights holder BT Sport was among several linear subscription TV networks to introduce “shared viewing” to its digital offering, catering to fans forced to watch from home as stadia echoed in their absence.
Since then, as mixed reality technologies and virtual conferencing have enhanced the way sports properties can engage with online audiences, the UK broadcaster has introduced new innovations that could change the dynamic of sports entertainment forevermore.
Among the network's innovations, BT Sport has launched its new Match Day Experience, delivered in collaboration with EE’s new 5G network, which has thus far provided new augmented reality (AR) features during the network’s live Premier League coverage, including real-time and augmented match statistics. In addition, fans also have access to a 360-degree viewing experience – built and deployed in collaboration with Tiled Media and Deltatre – that gives them control of in-stadium cameras.
Designing the Future of Sports Fan Engagement With 5G: Rogers, Sportsnet, and University of Waterloo Team Up for Hockey Hackathon
Rogers Communications, Sportsnet, and the University of Waterloo announced the launch of the Sportsnet Hockey Hack: Powered by Rogers 5G. The virtual hackathon offers a unique opportunity for students to design applications to enhance the fan experience for Sportsnet viewers, using Rogers’s 5G technology and data from the NHL’s Puck and Player Tracking system during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The participating teams of students will also take advantage of Intel technology, software tools and expertise, including Intel Smart Edge and OpenVINO, to build applications designed to create fun, immersive viewing experiences for Sportsnet and NHL fans. Potential solutions may involve augmented reality and second screen experiences, as well as fantasy and other gaming or e-commerce applications.
“The next generation of sports fans will engage with and experience our broadcasts in ways we can’t even imagine today,” said Bart Yabsley, President, Sportsnet. “As Sportsnet continues to be a leader in sports technology innovation, we are excited to work with some of Canada’s top young minds at the University of Waterloo to discover how Rogers 5G technology can change the way millions of NHL fans watch and engage with the sport.”
Today Rogers also announced a 5G program dedicated to the research and development of sports and fan engagement. The new program is included in its three-year partnership agreement with the University of Waterloo to advance 5G research in the Toronto-Waterloo tech corridor. In September, Rogers also lit up the University of Waterloo’s 5G Smart Campus to support university researchers testing 5G applications in a real-world setting such as smart city infrastructure monitoring and alerting systems, asset tracking technologies, and more.
“5G is at our doorstep and it’s poised to change the world as we know it. Fan engagement is a very interesting use-case and one that will really benefit from the ultra-low latency of this next generation technology,” said Jorge Fernandes, Chief Technology and Information Officer, Rogers Communications. “Our work with the University of Waterloo focuses on bringing together our country’s brightest minds to advance Canada’s 5G roadmap and I’m excited to see what the students come up with at this hackathon.”
With the guidance of experts, mentors, and feedback from stakeholders, each student team will work throughout the week to create a working prototype of their application and showcase their idea to a panel of judges in hopes of earning prizes, job placement opportunities, and potential funding to transform the prototype into reality. The judges are Bart Yabsley (President, Sportsnet), Mina Chan (VP Video and Entertainment Services, Rogers Communications), Jonathan Kyle (Engineering Director, Intel), Grant Nodine (Senior Vice President, Technology, NHL), and Marisa Benjamin (Research Communications Officer, University of Waterloo).
"The University of Waterloo is very proud to be working with Rogers, Sportsnet, and the NHL to make the experience of watching a game on TV more interesting and interactive for hockey fans," said Bridget Moloney, Managing Director of Waterloo's Gateway for Enterprises to Discover Innovation (GEDI).
"Waterloo has a proud tradition of student innovation. This project will give our students the chance to interact with cutting-edge 5G technology and will really showcase how these bright young people will shape the future of corporate Canada," said Carly Cameron, Manager of Entrepreneurship Experience at Concept, the campus-focused entrepreneurship unit leading the hackathon.
While fan experiences at live events continue to evolve due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19, today, Visa and the National Football League (NFL) finalized plans for safer and more secure payments via a cash-free future for the Super Bowl. Visa, the “Official Payment Services Technology Partner” of the NFL, will now enable seamless, safe and secure digital payments at the big game this season and beyond.
As we all work towards a safe and secure return to large venues and events, Super Bowl LV will offer 100 percent digital payment acceptance for fans throughout the stadium on game day, including parking, concessions, retail, mobile ordering, and more. Beyond game day, “Super Bowl Experience presented by Lowe’s” will be 100 percent cash-free for the first time. For fans who require assistance, ATMs that exchange cash and dispense Visa-branded pre-paid cards up to $500 will be available, with no load fees. Visa pre-paid cards dispensed in-stadium will also work outside the venue, demonstrating ways to create a more inclusive environment for all fans to participate in the emerging digital economy.
“Visa is one of our key partners in helping us imagine how our fans will experience the NFL in years to come,” said Renie Anderson, Executive Vice President of Partnerships & Chief Revenue Officer for the NFL. “We’re excited to announce that for our biggest event the future is here and we thank Visa for the innovative approach to enable a more secure way to pay at Super Bowl LV. This move will not only make the game more enjoyable and efficient for our fans, but most importantly, safer for all involved.”
“Long before the pandemic sparked demand for safe, touchless experiences, Visa has been at the forefront of in-stadium digital payment innovation. Teaming up with the NFL to now make payments completely digital at the Super Bowl not only achieves a primary goal of our partnership, but is transformative for the future of sporting events,” said Mary Ann Reilly, Senior Vice President, Head of North America Marketing, Visa. “Visa will continue to lead the point of sale digital transformation at stadiums nationwide, because converting to touchless, digital payments is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for fans and concessionaires alike.”
The Super Bowl news highlights a long history of Visa delivering innovative payment enhancements to NFL fans in stadiums across the country. In recent years, Visa assisted six stadiums in upgrading their point of sale infrastructure to accept contactless payments. Now with Visa’s counsel, the NFL stadium landscape is taking it a step further and rapidly transforming to a primarily digital environment. More than 20 stadiums nationwide are moving to a cash-free model or plan to do so in the near term, including Visa partners the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens. With over 75 percent1 of consumers surveyed stating they have changed how they pay in order to reduce contact since the pandemic, minimizing touchpoints in-stadium will make fans feel safer and provide a better purchase experience overall.
“While working on re-opening plans, one area Visa urges venue operators to no longer discount is their digital commerce infrastructure. Improving efficiencies, maximizing return and ultimately providing a more touchless environment for fans are just a few benefits of digital payments Visa has uncovered and best of all, digital payment execution does not have to be a daunting task,” continued Reilly. “Our new step by step guide is designed to provide even the digital novice the right tools to start their digital journey and prepare their venues to be ready to welcome fans back. “
Visa is committed to helping venues around the globe prepare for reopening with digital-first operations. Collaborating with third-party partners, the new “Touchless Payments: A Key to the Return of Live Events” guide ensures live entertainment venue operators feel equipped to accommodate the growing expectation for touchless commerce experiences and provide actionable guidance on how venues can adopt payment innovations and implement new processes. Visa uncovered four primary benefits to encourage venues to go digital:
The Sacramento Kings NBA basketball franchise has claimed a first for a professional sports team with the launch of a new Discord server that will create a virtual arena experience for fans.
The Discord server will allow Kings fans to gather online to interact and expand access to exclusive experiences that usually take place in-person at the team’s Golden 1 Center home arena.
Discord is an instant messaging platform and focused on gaming when launching in 2012. It has since grown to cover areas such as music and sports and currently has over 100 million active users.
Through its partnership with Discord, the Kings will host a range of live Q&As directly with fans on the server, featuring access to Kings front office executives, players and broadcast personalities. General manager Monte McNair yesterday (Wednesday) hosted one of the first Q&As as part of the Kings’ NBA Virtual Draft Party.
The server will also feature merchandise updates, real-time game and topic discussions and other initiatives. The server can be accessed on the Discord desktop or mobile app or via Discord.gg/sacramentokings.
FOR TEAM USA ATHLETES, DATA ANALYTICS OFFER NEW ANSWERS TO TRAINING AND INJURY PREVENTION CHALLENGES
In February, when temperatures at home in Carbondale, Illinois, regularly dip below 30 degrees, Deanna Price packs her bags and heads to the Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, California.
A main draw, of course, is the climate: a pleasant 67 degrees or so, offering an optimal training environment all winter long. Another benefit is TrackMan, the high-technology analytical program that helped Price win the country’s first-ever world championships medal in hammer throw — a gold — at last year’s event in Doha, Qatar.
“It’s very, very cool — they do a camera in the back (of the throwing circle) and a camera in the front, and they have the TrackMan (device) right there on the side,” said Price, a 2016 Olympian.
“Every time you throw, it hooks up directly to the computer. Whenever you take a throw, you walk over and see the metrics and then look at your video and it shows your release angle. ... It’s just very, very cool.”
Price is one of scores of athletes who have benefitted from the cutting-edge resources offered by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s sports technology team, whose mission is to discover and integrate applied technologies into training regimens and help athletes and coaches better assess and enhance performance.
If there is a silver lining for the sports industry from COVID, it’s that many of the outdated business practices in the sector are going to have to disappear. Most of these came from taking the status quo for granted: that the fans would always be there, that sponsors would be happy with loose media value metrics and viewers would keep lapping up whatever content they were given. There was limited incentive to do things differently.
But the world has changed. As a result, sports organisations are going to have to change and will need to significantly improve their commercial operations. That will mean working in new ways and valuing different skill sets in their people. For example, an ability to understand data or the willingness to learn from trying things will both be important. It may also mean sports organisations radically changing their approach to budgeting. The overall marketing & sales budget at a team or league may now be smaller than it was but the proportion given to digital and data is likely to grow significantly. It also means that teams and leagues will need to invest in tools to help them work more effectively and offer better experiences to fans, rather than viewing such tools as a “nice to have”.
IBM and the Masters Tournament Bring New Watson-Powered Personalized Experience to Golf Fans Worldwide on Masters Digital Properties
IBM and the Masters Tournament, of which IBM is an exclusive digital partner, are unveiling My Group, an innovative digital feature enabling new levels of fan engagement and revolutionizing the digital viewing experience for the 2020 Masters Tournament. The new feature will allow patrons, anywhere in the world, to create personalized groups of players, and watch every shot, on every hole, from all of their favorite golfers from the 2020 Masters Tournament. My Group, which runs on IBM Cloud with Red Hat OpenShift, will be available globally in the Masters Tournament app and on Masters.com.
Additionally, IBM is proud to partner with Augusta National Golf Club on a redevelopment project in the Harrisburg and Laney Walker neighborhoods in Augusta, Ga, alongside AT&T and Bank of America. The $2.5 million cash grant contribution from IBM and each of the partners, resulting in a combined $10 million contribution, will provide the majority of funding for this phase of the transformational project, which includes the construction of an innovative community center, and a new headquarters for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the CSRA. IBM will also offer resources and expertise on alternative forms of education that quickly deliver in-demand digital skills, with the goal of improving income and economic opportunity in the community for generations to come.
My Group with Watson on the IBM Cloud
This marks the first time ever in professional golf that patrons will be able to create customized "feature groups" of golfers in the app, and access video of every shot by those players throughout the Tournament. With more than 90 golfers from dozens of countries around the world competing in the 2020 Masters, My Group offers a personalized video feed, giving patrons access to every player's rounds in near real time. My Group also features highlights and regular updates from the Tournament leaders, and must-see shots from other golfers, as they happen. As part of My Group's customized viewing experiences, IBM is leveraging Watson's artificial intelligence (AI) to curate highlights of exciting play. My Group is one of the first applications of Watson to bring customized viewing experiences to millions of people, globally.
The technology being used for the Tournament this year builds on IBM's Watson-powered solutions developed for previous Masters, which have analyzed data including traditional golf statistics, ball tracking data, crowd noise and more. During the 2019 Tournament, nearly 20,000 individual video clips of players' shots were captured and analyzed by Watson. This year, new AI models were developed using data from last year's Tournament. The data includes the excitement ranking of shots and other data points like player ID, round, hole, score, and tracking stats such as shot length. In total, 16 distinct models were trained to provide personalized and important content of popular players and top performers for My Group users.
For patrons familiar with the Tournament, the "Masters roar" is an iconic indicator of an important shot. Without patrons onsite this year, broadcasters and digital content teams would face a new challenge: quickly and accurately identifying the most important shots. Using IBM Watson Studio and its AutoAI and machine learning capabilities, data from those past shots will serve as a baseline for Watson to generate a hypothetical patron excitement score to identify this year's "must-see shots." These excitement rankings models will be used to automatically determine which live shots, of similar situations in past videos, a viewer is presented to watch as highlights in their My Group channel. This information will go on to power the new My Group feature as well as editorial content, including "Round in 3 Minutes" video summaries, and more on the Masters app and Masters.com.
For the first time, IBM will power the 2020 Masters using a hybrid cloud approach enabled by Red Hat OpenShift, the industry's leading enterprise Kubernetes platform, with on-premises data and workloads running on multiple public and private clouds operating seamlessly. In previous years, many workloads were already operating in the cloud, but some, including publishing, scoring and staging for the Tournament remained on-premises for latency reasons. In reaction to the pandemic, which necessitated more data and workloads being housed in the cloud to boost efficiency, IBM worked closely with the Masters Tournament to pivot those workloads to IBM public cloud, and used a hybrid cloud architecture to bring them together. The flexibility and hyper-scalability of Red Hat OpenShift, built on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, enables both the larger Tournament technology and features like My Group to exist on a consistent foundation across IT environments.
"The digital experience of sports has never been more important than it is right now," said Rob Thomas, Senior Vice President, IBM Cloud and Data Platforms. "We're proud to put the power of IBM's hybrid cloud and AI technologies on display through the My Group feature on the Masters app and website. And we are honored to enable millions of Masters patrons around the world to enjoy the storied tradition of this magical Tournament."
Google Assistant Portfolio Companies Satisfi Labs and StatMuse Partner to Provide NFL Fans Instant Answers around Stats and Player Info
Satisfi Labs, the conversational AI platform for destinations and experiences, announced today a partnership with StatMuse, the leader in Search for sports stats and information. The two Google Assistant portfolio companies partnered to provide NFL teams instant access to comprehensive statistics and player information, from real-time all the way back to the inaugural season (1920). NFL teams such as the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are enhancing the fan experience with conversational access to stats, scores, odds, recaps & more.
With more than half of the NFL stadiums playing games this season without spectators, fans are looking for new ways to connect with their favorite teams and players from home. The integration of StatMuse’s Sports Search API into Satisfi Labs’ Interactive Answer Engines platform will allow fans of the home team to receive instant answers to their most pressing sports questions via webchat, app, messaging channels and voice.
Fans can now ask directly in a conversation with their team’s virtual assistant for a player’s career stats against a specific team, how their team is performing, post-game recaps for players and teams, head-to-head match-up questions, historical player and franchise information, and more.
“We’re thrilled for the opportunity to partner with Satisfi Labs and integrate our industry-leading Sports Search API in Satisfi’s platform. Whether it’s to follow the home team, dominate their fantasy league, or beat the book, we’re excited to deliver personalized, on-demand stats and info for passionate NFL fans,” said Eli Dawson, Co-founder and CEO of StatMuse.
“Our integration with StatMuse brings fans closer to the game, even when they aren’t in the stadium,” said Don White, CEO and Co-founder of Satisfi Labs. “Our Interactive Answer Engines are expanding in capabilities for each team, and will continue to be a valuable resource for fans, whether they are in-stadium or at home watching the game.”
The integration of StatMuse Sports Search into the Satisfi Labs’ platform is available for select NFL teams during the 2020 season. Expansion of the Search stats and info databases will be available for NBA and NHL by the end of 2020, and EPL by early 2021.
SSB, a leading data management and analytics company, and Legend Labs, a renowned brand and communications consulting firm, have partnered to create FanLab, a collaborative offering that drives fan engagement to yield revenue growth for professional and collegiate sports organizations. By combining innovative expertise in operational systems, business intelligence and communications strategy, FanLab allows sports organizations to create new revenue streams and bolster existing ones by individually connecting with modern sports fans in a meaningful way.
Professional and collegiate sports organizations are experiencing rapid changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fan engagement from traditional channels such as game attendance and TV viewership have plummeted, causing a significant decline in revenue. The need for personalized digital fan engagement to sustain organizations and fuel revenue generation has never been higher.
FanLab leverages SSB’s Central Intelligence platform, the industry leading hub for fan data integration and analysis, which also includes an innovative new fan segmentation technology called Fan Factors. Informed by decades of experience with hundreds of sports organizations, Fan Factors defines the behavioral and brand engagement attributes of successful teams across the entire fan universe. Taking millions of data points from ticketing, donation, merchandise and CRM systems, Fan Factors classifies fans into three core segments - Disengaged, Casual, or Avid.
“Every fan differs in enthusiasm and devotion, which translates to variations in spending, engagement, attendance, advocacy and more,” states Steve Hank, SSB’s Senior Vice-President for Sports and Entertainment, Collegiate Athletics and Higher Education. “FanLab distills a database of thousands or millions into distinct fan segments, allowing for unprecedented segmentation and the development of meaningful fan communication strategies.”
Segments can be broken down into fan personas, allowing for further personalization. This information informs and drives strategic brand and communications initiatives.
“Fan segmentation is a critical first step in building engagement strategies that grow loyalty and revenue,” explains Jeff Hunt, Partner at Legend Labs. “How disengaged fans feel and think varies compared to Avid or Casual fans, and each group needs to be communicated with differently. With the right fan intelligence and a communications function built to tell great stories with rich content, organizations can personalize engagement, measure results and continuously optimize."
To help organizations prioritize how and where they invest to drive fan engagement, FanLab has developed a free and easy Organizational Readiness Assessment that delivers actionable recommendations. The assessment is built on FanLab’s understanding of attributes successful organizations share, and a growing recognition that all leaders need to be well versed in the operational systems they use, how data can be leveraged, and how branding, storytelling and reputation management can meaningfully impact business results.
To learn more about FanLab’s offerings and capabilities, join SSB and Legend Labs for the first of a series of hourlong webinars on Thursday, November 19th at 1 p.m. CT. To complete a complementary Organizational Readiness Assessment, read more about FanLab, or to register for the upcoming webinar, visit FanLab.us.
Press Sports, a sports social media app that istransforming the way fans, athletes, coaches, and teams build their brands and engage with sportshighlights, today announced the closing of its $750,000 pre-seed funding round.
Press Sports was founded in 2018 with the goal of becoming the leading global sports social
network that brings athletes, fans, coaches and teams from all levels closer together. Press Sports offers unique features for the sports community like live-updating leaderboards and
individualized Hypezone feeds that the community curates by “hyping up” videos. The app
recently released the new Breakdown feature that allows fans and coaches to easily add their
feedback or reaction to an athlete’s original post.
“Growing up playing just about every sport together, Drew and I never had a place to compile
and share footage of our favorite moments as athletes,” said Conrad Cornell, CEO and co-founder of Press Sports App. “We created Press Sports for the over eight million high school
and college athletes out there that are just like us—who don’t have a chance to showcase their
career in a way that can be used to create opportunities and one day look back on. It was clear
that the mainstream social media platforms would never cater to the specific needs of the sports community, so we started building a healthy alternative for modern day athletes and fans to interact in a sports-focused atmosphere.”
The funding round was led by Overline, an Atlanta-based seed-stage venture capital firm that
primarily focuses on startups in the Southeast, and included Central Piedmont Investment Group and Sound Media Ventures, an Atlanta-based fund that focuses on high tech firms that power tomorrow’s media experiences.
Sean O’Brien, Managing Partner of Overline said, “We have tracked the growing popularity of
vertical social networks that build community among people with shared interests and passions, enabling them to share highly relevant content and to make more meaningful connections around their common interests. We are thrilled to partner with the Press Sports team in its mission of creating the world’s leading sports-centric social network for athletes and fans.”
Drew Williams, Head of Growth and co-founder of Press Sports continued, “We’re proud to
have built an engaged community that includes thousands of the country's most highly recruited athletes alongside their fans and friends. Press Sports gives players a platform where it is not only acceptable, but encouraged, to promote their personal achievements. As they build their fanbase on the app, student athletes will be well positioned for the NCAA NIL rule changes expected to take effect next Fall, which will allow college players to monetize their name, image and likeness directly through our app.”
“We have been working with the Press Sports team since early this year, and we continue to be
impressed by their understanding of today’s sports markets,” said Michael Cohn, Managing Partner of Overline. “With the recent additions of both the technical co-founder and the CTO from YikYak, which previously generated social media success at scale, we see the Press Sports team as having all the ingredients needed to build a world-class company.”