Sports Illustrated launched bots on Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and Slack today to share its coverage from the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.
An additional bot will launch on Skype later this week. A complete list can be found on the GameOn website.
“Every hour on the hour you are going to be pushed the top trending Sports Illustrated (SI) Olympics article, [based on] whatever SI is able to glean from their user data, but if there’s breaking news, immediate coverage on that will come in between the hours,” said Alex Beckman, CEO of sports chat company GameOn. GameOn partnered with Sports Illustrated to create the bot.
The bot appears to take advantage of a Facebook Messenger policy change made Monday that allows news outlets and select other businesses to send messages on a subscription basis.
“So much of the pride, passion and glory of the Summer Games experience gets lost in simple scores and medal counts. Our chatbot partnership with GameOn opens up new audiences to the rich storytelling that is a hallmark of SI, without switching apps or dropping what they’re doing. The best brand in sports journalism is now the fastest,” said Patty Hirsch, vice president and general manager of Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated Group in a statement posted online Tuesday.
GameOn understands that apps are beginning to evolve to exist within chat apps, Beckman said. GameOn has had iOS and Android apps since the company was created in 2014, and he assures they aren’t going anywhere, but his company is beginning to spend more time developing bots, both for GameOn and partners like Sports Illustrated.
Beckman is an enthusiastic bot believer. When he was creating apps in 2008-2009, he recalls repurposing website content to create apps, and that it took a while for app creators to start making things that utilize the new medium and “really move the needle.” A similar trend may be happening now, he said.
“We know six to 12 months from now it’s going to look very little like it looks now,” he said.
GameOn apps combine official highlights and crowdsourced content to push snackable videos to fans, a feature Beckman is excited to see in bots during the coming college football and NFL seasons. During the NBA season, for example, an average of 25 video highlights were shared each game, Beckman said.
So far with the Olympics bot, engagement is strongest within groups. An automatic push to a group serves up the latest news without a group member needing to go find a link to share.
If sports fans want to use the SI bot and others, they better move fast: The Summer Olympics closing ceremony will be held Sunday.