Artificial Intelligence is already changing the way people watch sports – Sportico.com
Courtesy Sports Genius
Today’s guest columnist is Steve Bornstein, President of North America, Genius Sports.
I am a futurist. It’s how I see life, how I see our business, and I think that’s how we should all be. Staying curious and unafraid to push boundaries as we delve deeper into what’s new, exciting, and what’s on the horizon that can make the sports we love to watch, play, and interact with even more interesting. If you hesitate, if you want to stick with the status quo, you will find yourself mired in the fog of the rearview mirror. I think we have to keep moving forward, because the windshield of the future is much larger than the windshield of looking back.
That’s why when we were asked this time last year what’s next, we at Genius were bullish on AI as our end-to-end point of engagement. We didn’t worry that machine learning would cause chaos; We viewed AI as a tool to unlock engagement, activity and progress in every aspect of our business. Those building the foundational layers of next-gen technology, like our team at Genius Sports, must stay true to the tactical plan to create the final entertainment product.
Here we are a year later, heading to the Super Bowl, and I’m happy to say that we believe the future is getting closer.
From highly personalized videos and data used by coaches and analysts, to the use of predictive data to improve performance, to management tools, AI is playing an increasingly important role across the sports industry.
People might call it a revolution; In fact, it is a development on a larger scale, just like the yellow line, instant replay, drones, small cameras, immersive gaming tools, and all other aspects of immersive technology.
The Evolution of NFL Broadcasting
The highest level of sport in this country, if not the world, is the NFL. We know the numbers… 94 of the top 100 most watched broadcasts in 2023, Peacock’s average of 23 million viewers for an NFL Wild Card game, etc.
And let’s not forget this audience, too. There has never been a time in media history when so many different age groups were simultaneous consumers of the same live content experience, such as an NFL game. Boomers. Gen. X. Millennials. Gen Z. and even Gen Alpha (thanks in part to Taylor Swift). The expectations these generations bring to NFL broadcasts vary depending on their age.
Today’s NFL is driving the effort forward in everything from global expansion to fan engagement, and that includes innovation in broadcasting. Live game data informs and entertains fans, keeps them excited and challenged, and leaves them wanting more.
This new wave of data-driven insights began with replay analysis with Emmy Award-winning sports show RomoVision. The second step has now brought amazing achievements to Amazon Key insight with next generation statistics, It is widely viewed as a pioneer in AI-powered sports broadcasting.
What then? Putting the fans in the stadium. Prime Vision has gone beyond providing a data-driven broadcast with a wealth of team and player statistics, to put them in a position to see what’s happening from a player’s perspective in real time, without compromising any of the integrity of the pitch.
Using Next Generation Statistics, “Prime Targets” showed viewers the quarterback’s open receivers to pass with a green circle below the player in question. “Defensive Alerts” highlights players before the shot with a high probability of hitting the passer with a red circle. These well-thought-out, highly sophisticated additions to the streaming arsenal have brought “next-gen” to “this-gen,” perhaps faster than we thought possible a year ago.
The role of mathematical genius
The complexity of using live game data to inform and entertain each generation differently presents enormous challenges, both for the game rendering and the engine that makes it possible.
Like all other projects I’ve been involved in, there’s a risk and reward factor. Balancing engagement and new features that excite casual fans and don’t drive away the hardcore core is a challenge. Combining live data and real-time video, while ensuring an authentic user experience, requires a specific and advanced technology stack. This is where Genius Sports was invented.
Our work last year was to build a streaming augmentation pipeline that combines in-depth tracking data, computer vision, and machine learning capabilities to automatically track and understand what’s happening on the field or field. Working with our partners, we’re delivering new insights that fans have come to expect. We feel their emotions and use data to access their interests, passions and touchpoints in real time. It’s fun and fluid, and we think it’s extremely important for enhancing the live game experience in the future.
After that time, this question will be closed. The lessons on the NFL field have already led to what’s next in basketball, as we grow our offerings with CBS tied to college basketball, with more nuances on the horizon, all of which put fans and the integrity of the game first.
Sit and rest? Not in your life. Embracing the unpredictability of technology, not fearing it, will allow global sports properties to transcend the current single-screen confines. It’s how we’ll make the final entertainment product.
Let’s keep learning and moving forward. The future is here, and we love not only what we see, but also what we feel and interact with, and we’re just getting started.
Prior to joining Genius Sports, Bornstein was the founder, president and CEO of NFL Network, and chairman and CEO of ESPN.