MAD Perspectives Blog

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 Data Lessons Learned From Sports Broadcasting

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I attended the Sports Video Group Summit with a client this week. SVG as indicated by its name, focuses on the business and technology of creating and distributing sports content. Everyone is a sports fan at some level. That doesn't mean you participate in fantasy leagues or count down the moment until the next SportsCenter broadcast, but it does mean you might have kids participating in soccer, swimming, gymnastics or even fencing and archery. 

Sports is all about the statistics. Sure, you thought it was about athleticism. But think about it - avid sports fans can reel off volumes of statistics in the form of batting averages, rushing yards, split times, win/loss records, etc. Those stats are data. Sports is flooded with data and those fans who participate in fantasy leagues, live for the data. However, what about those fans who just want to enjoy a game on TV? Do they love the stats? Do they love seeing their screen covered with mounds of data?

This was part of the conversation at this week's SVG Summit. As live sports producers consider the technology available to them (e.g., 4K cameras that allow them to show you the sweat on the lineman's brow) graphics is a big part of how  sports broadcasting has evolved. Graphics highlight boundaries, player movements, optimal trajectories, and they are the tool to portray data (aka statistics) on air.

It's no wonder that large screen TVs are popular, you need a large screen just to incorporate all that data! The question is - does all that data enhance the fan experience? Is the data complementary or intrusive? Producers have to make decisions about how the event is portrayed. Directors make decisions about camera angles. Producers own the look, feel and context. Yep, context.

Sports broadcasting is storytelling in a, usually, fast paced environment.  Decisions are made about how to add data that provides context to a given moment. This is contextual data. In the retail space this is data about where you might be as a consumer about to make a purchase. In sports productions, this is data that illuminates the viewers understanding of what just happened (or is about to happen) on the field of play. 

The challenge is to avoid crossing the line where the data becomes intrusive and no longer enhances the experience. This is a lesson we can all learn from, data is fantastic when we have a well-defined reason for collecting and analyzing it. Data for the sake of data is overwhelming, and perhaps a bit boring. When there is intention and context, data becomes insightful, helpful and hopefully - actionable.

What's your perspective?