The emerging world of AI-driven solutions in sports broadcasting

By 25th March 2020 No Comments

Paul Cramer, managing director, enterprise broadcast solutions, Veritone, reveals how the latest in AI technology can help sport broadcasters with advertising and more

It’s nothing short of astounding how much – and how quickly – artificial intelligence is transforming our world. Today’s most innovative AI solutions are the ones that amplify human effectiveness, taking people out of the equation for tasks that have typically been mundane, time-consuming, and resource intensive. It might sound a bit Orwellian, but in reality these solutions are liberating – freeing humans to focus on tasks that are much more personally fulfilling and also enable companies to optimise human capital for the highest and best use of resources.

AI-driven intelligence is accelerating sports broadcasting

Sports programming is a prime candidate for an AI-driven transformation because of one overriding factor: the tremendous volumes of content that are created every day, and the degree to which so much of that content is monetised with native advertising. We’re not just talking about traditional commercials, but all of the ways sponsored content is woven into a live or recorded sports broadcast – from sponsored instant replays to lower thirds with info about players or gameplay, or spoken advertiser mentions within the televised broadcast.

Proof of advertising performance is a necessity in sports media and a primary means for advertisers to calculate ROI and justify ad spend. But capturing the necessary data has traditionally been a very inefficient and manual process, requiring humans to physically watch hours of play-by-play video and document every campaign integration within the broadcast; for instance, every time a commercial airs, a sponsor is mentioned, or a logo appears.

This challenge lends itself perfectly to the core benefits of AI for automating and accelerating a labour-intensive workflow; in fact, it’s one of the first areas in which the technology has been successfully applied in a broadcasting scenario.

What previously took days or weeks for humans to accomplish can now be performed by AI in just mere hours, providing advertisers with the transparency, efficacy reports, and near-real time cadence that they have become accustomed to from digital media.

AI-powered applications have changed the game through automatic metadata creation, tagging, curation, and archiving of aired content. With advanced AI-based cognitive processing, intelligent metadata is applied in near real-time to every second of content using techniques such as natural language processing, transcription, logo detection, OCR, audio fingerprinting, facial recognition, and a host of other cognitive capabilities.

By automatically cataloging everything that was said and seen in a broadcast program, these AI tools make advertising proof of performance fast, simple, and accurate. Manual, labour-intensive, and time-consuming tagging processes are now automated and instant, freeing high-value personnel to focus their time and energy on more creative and strategic work and allowing broadcasters to recap more content without having to add to headcount and op ex.

The output is a curated recap detailing places in the content in which the sponsor’s name was mentioned or any sponsored content appeared in the broadcast. The compliance team can use the list to verify to advertisers that every component of a campaign was delivered as contracted and demonstrate each specific point in the video in which sponsored content appeared. Broadcasters can set up watch lists, create alerts, and generate reports based on each item that is discussed or shown during a televised broadcast

Ad intelligence and attribution

These capabilities aren’t limited to just proof-of-performance and delivery recaps. Once the previously unstructured broadcast content has been structured and indexed via AI, it can be correlated with third-party data sets such as broadcast ratings data, interest scoring, and other data to provide critical insights around audience behavior. In addition, new AI-enabled solutions for attribution tracking give advertising sales reps a quick and easy means of correlating ad delivery and mentions to an advertiser’s website analytics, showing consumer response to in-game advertising.

A real-world example

Take the example of a very large, multinational sports broadcaster operating across many different linear, digital, and social media platforms. With several distinctly branded channels, the broadcaster airs thousands of hours of content every month and relies heavily on content intelligence for everything from advertising verification for campaigns and recaps to live-read quality assurance, play-by-play integration, and audio/video air checks.

Previously, gaining the requisite data to support these activities required a team of at least a dozen people to watch hours of footage, timestamp the occurrence of certain events, and then clip out audio and video air checks to support proof of performance with advertisers. Even with the large team, it could take weeks for an entire program to be completely tagged and the proper reports to be generated.

In addition to giving the broadcaster a tremendous productivity boost, AI automation has shortened the proof-of-performance process for a given program from weeks to hours. This means the broadcaster is able to supply its advertisers with much more timely and relevant feedback, enabling brands to fine-tune a campaign almost in real time and highlight the messages that are resonating the most with target audiences. With much more immediate feedback, the advertisers have discovered that their ad spend is working more efficiently and effectively, leading to expanded revenues for the broadcaster.

The benefits extend beyond proof of ad performance. With the ability to correlate the as-run data with third-party data sets (such as the viewer data mentioned before), the broadcaster is able to provide a more holistic and insightful overview into how each advertiser is impacting its target audiences. As an added bonus, the broadcaster is able use the data to track and attribute internal compliance for its own brands, e.g. the number of times sub-brands for the broadcaster’s various digital properties appear onscreen and the corresponding web traffic response for each of those appearances.

Beyond advertising performance

Although ad verification and proof of performance is a beachhead application for AI-enabled content intelligence, the sky is really the limit for how these technologies can be applied by sports broadcasters. Armed with AI-driven tools and analytics, broadcasters can unlock their valuable content and create new opportunities for licensing by third parties and further monetisation. Take, for instance, a documentary producer that’s looking for a specific clip from the Super Bowl in 1994 – with AI-curated content, it’s easy to find and license the exact piece of content.

Beyond monetisation, coaches can access aired game footage for play-by-play analysis to help boost team performance. Also, AI-enabled production automation for content indexing is enabling broadcasters to leverage their vast archive of high-value content to bring new value to the viewer experience in virtually infinite number of ways. Putting together a recap show of highlights from last night’s game, previously an arduous manual process, is now fast and easy – in a matter of minutes producers can put together “snackable” bites of content and publish them out to the broadcaster’s social media channels and other digital outlets. Automatic translation of content into other languages is another huge use case for programs that are to be distributed in multiple countries.

The upshot? Traditional linear broadcasting has provided great reach and value for advertisers, but the advent of the digital age has meant that advertising has become much more data-driven. AI-based technologies are putting traditional, linear media on a more level playing field with digital media, giving broadcasters the analytics, transparency, efficiency, and immediacy they need to help their advertising customers measure sports media ROI. Broadcasters are able to command and retain a larger share of ad spend, and advertisers are getting the bang they need for their advertising buck. It’s a win-win-win for broadcasters, advertisers, and, ultimately, consumers.

Paul Cramer is managing director, enterprise broadcast solutions, Veritone.

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