AI- the holy grail for the enhanced sports viewing experience

New NTT research shows over half of people aged 18-34 believe AI creates better engagement, but only a quarter know how it’s actually applied in sports.

Johannesburg, 24 Jul 2019
Read time 3min 30sec

As the need for fan engagement increases across major global sporting events, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning offers new ways to deliver more sophisticated and connected data experiences.

New research from NTT indicates that sporting organisations need to do more to create the types of experiences that digitally savvy fans demand. 46% of people indicated that their current data experience makes a sporting event more enjoyable. This shortfall exposes the need for the right technology infrastructure and solutions to deliver the sophisticated experiences sporting fans expect. And AI and machine learning is the answer.

The research of around 3,700 sports fans from across the globe shows that incorporating AI and machine learning is extremely effective in creating more engaging, data-rich experiences. It found:

  • Over half (54%) of people aged 18-34 believe AI is capable of successfully predicting the results of a sporting event.
  • Around the same amount (52%) said accurate predictions make a sporting event more engaging.
  • Yet, only a quarter (26%) of people across all age groups were aware of AI and machine learning actually being used at sporting events, exposing a huge opportunity to create greater engagement.

She added “Whether that’s through live analytics and data enhancements, AI-powered experiences, or connected stadiums – its clear ICT infrastructure, the cloud, and mobile services have a critical role to play as the sports industry evolves to meet the growing demands of digitally savvy supporters.”

New AI-led fan experiences at one of the world’s largest sporting events

This year’s Tour de France is the most data-rich in viewing history. Fans can now enjoy new #NTTPredictor AI and machine-learning features; truly revolutionising Le Tour’s viewing experience:

  • “Le Buzz” – a new machine-learning model trialled for the first time at the 2019 Tour de France, analysed the movements within the peloton to predict potential key moments, such as the increased likelihood of a crash, a split in the peloton or a change in race dynamics.
  • Live stage favourites – Machine-learning based stage favourite predictions were first successfully trialled in 2017. This year they’ve been improved to update live throughout the stage, based on the events occurring within the race.
  • “Catch the Break” predictor – enhanced to better account for the different race strategies in play at different points in a stage, through the creation of individual machine-learning models for every 10km section of the race.
Live data insights and predictions – from #NTTPredictor will be featured throughout the race on @letourdata on twitter.

Creating a more connected experience

Delving into the viewing habits and preferences of sports fans from across the globe, the NTT research also paints a compelling picture of the future digital and live sports experience. Central to this are the shifting habits of millennial fans. Over half (56%) of 18- to 34-year-olds said they would increase their use of “second screens” during live sporting events over the next three years.

And, with 51% of respondents across all age groups electing to track live updates from a sporting event via their second screen (mobile or tablet) – at a rate of once a week or more – the demand for a digital and connected experience is clearly on the rise. The primary motivation for using a second screen during a sporting event is access to data and stats (34%), with four in 10 people wanting even more statistics to enhance their digital experience.

Meanwhile, over half (55%) of 18- to 34-year-olds said more in-stadium experiences – such as improved connectivity and tech-enhanced facilities – would encourage them to attend live sporting events. This demonstrates a lucrative market exists for organisations willing to invest in connected stadiums and events. And the desire among millennials to be constantly connected clearly translates into the live sporting area, with almost three-quarters (73%) saying poor connectivity at a sporting venue reduces their enjoyment of an event.

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