Nov 29 2018

AI Offers Personalization, Convenience for New Fan Experiences

Sports teams are embracing smart technology to offer fans the content they want, when they want it.

The use of artificial intelligence is rising in the sports world, helping professional coaches recruit and improve players, among other benefits. Now, stadiums and teams are beginning to use AI to improve the fan experience

Sports leagues have always been eager to tie the knot with technology to improve their business. In 2017, Intel and the NFL developed a partnership to deliver more immersive replays on the field, using Intel True View and the NFL mobile app to offer 360-degree views

The demand has shifted now. Fans seek content that is smart and personalized, and caters to their interests. Stadiums and broadcasters will find AI tools to be a boon for delivering such content.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: See how AI is transforming traditional industries and building new ones.

AI Integration Helps Boost Broadcasting Capabilities

Stadiums can only hold so many people, which means most fans will be supporting their favorite teams or players from the other side of a TV. Last year, an average of about 18 million people tuned in to Sunday Night Football, according to Nielsen

With such a heavy emphasis on reaching viewers through a screen, professional leagues are beginning to explore the marriage of technology and video to optimize the fan experience. 

At Wimbeldon this year, IBM’s AI interface Watson helped curate highlight videos based on spectator cheering and players’ reactions

“The U.S. Open is packed with so much action across so many courts that even the fastest video team is challenged to keep pace with what’s happening,” says Noah Syken, IBM vice president of sports and entertainment partnerships. “To meet that challenge, Watson is now watching the matches alongside the U.S. Tennis Association to help bring fans closer to the best moments across the courts, shortly after they happen. We’re seeing this technology come to life through tennis, but the entire IBM Watson Media portfolio has the potential to impact many industries.” 

Meanwhile, AI has made its way into motor racing after Intel and Ferrari announced a three-year partnership at the 2018 International Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, HPC Wire reports

The new AI systems, powered by the Intel Xeon Scalable platform, will be able to recognize cars on a race track more easily. This, in tandem with drone footage, will improve broadcasters’ analysis on TV and provide real-time data for insightful commentary. 


Intelligent Apps Deepen Connection with Fans Through Chatbots

Along with TV coverage, artificial intelligence can work on an individual level, offering personal service to millions of individuals in and out of the stadium.

The Sacramento Kings have created an AI bot that fans can interact with through Facebook messenger to get game updates and historical information on the team. 

Fans can ask KAI (for Kings Artificial Intelligence) anything, from who just sat out to when the Kings’ last championship was (1951). While the bot answers questions, the back end is running 1,500 automations per game across 10 applications, with outside app integrations, including Uber and Ticketmaster, according to Venture Beat

“This new app will be the fans’ remote control for the world’s most advanced arena, allowing them to customize and take control of their experience and engage with the team like never before,” said Kings Owner and Chairman Vivek Ranadive, in a statement. 

Other stadiums are now developing their own AI chatbots. The St. Louis Blues tested a similar program earlier this year, which team leaders are confident will help connect with fans by opening the lines of communication.

“Imagine quickly finding a seat to purchase for a game you want to attend on a certain day of the week or against a particular team, based on a conversation with a bot,” wrote Matt Gardner, the Blues’ vice president of digital media and emerging technology for the St. Louis Blues. “That communication continues as you enter the building with the bot helping you find concession items, restrooms and other amenities in the building, while also engaging with content on the video boards (that also creates fantastic inventory for your corporate partners).”

nycshooter/Getty Images

Become an Insider

Unlock white papers, personalized recommendations and other premium content for an in-depth look at evolving IT