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Whether you’re training to run a marathon or gearing up for a marathon of binge-watching TV, both athletes and casual sports fans can benefit from advances in sports video. Due to its widespread appeal, high demand, and abundance of related data, sports video is a prime candidate for innovation. Cognitive technology is teed up to enhance the viewer experience and maximize advertising revenue. What’s more, AI technology can disrupt the game itself. Here are the three main players in sports broadcasting that stand to gain the most from cognitive advancements in video technology.

Advertisers: Use AI to score quality, not quantity 

3… 2…1… The whistle blows, and the quarterback throws a Hail Mary pass from 60 yards out. The camera follows the football as it tumbles through mid-air and lands in the receiver’s hands, right in front of a sponsor’s banner. Sure, the receiver successfully caught it in the end zone to tie the game, but more importantly for media buyers, the sponsor’s logo was in the direct line of sight.

It’s no surprise that sponsorships visible during the most exciting moments of a game achieve increased return on investment (ROI). Viewers are more likely to be paying attention, and the clips ultimately reach a larger audience due to highlight reel replays and social media shares. So how can brands actually quantify the impact of these sponsorship buys? With video analytics and AI technology.

First, by tuning an algorithm to look for specific entities — in this case sponsors’ logos — cognitive technology can find and quantify brand placements in a video. This allows advertisers to identify where and for how long a placement is visible. By analyzing inputs like social media feeds, commentators’ tone of voice, and crowd noise, AI technology can also determine excitement levels. When these are taken together, advertisers can measure the impact of product placement. For instance, brands could determine that 70 percent of a given match’s top plays were broadcast with their logo in full view. From here, they could determine this was a successful investment.

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AI technology can anticipate when those exciting moments will take place. Based on these insights, AI could then proactively recommend the most effective moment for product placement. We’ve primed AI technology to become not only a measurement tool but also a strategic advisor for advertisers seeking to maximize revenue and reach more viewers.

Production teams: Replay the greatest hits 

We often hear commentators saying, “This is just like Game 4 of the 1996 playoffs when…” The commentator goes on to describe the scenario, but this still leaves viewers without a visual source to revisit. What if sports networks had the technology to transport the viewer back in time to relive those historic plays within seconds? With AI technology, production teams could efficiently source relevant content to integrate past segments into the current broadcast.

It’s both time- and labor-intensive for production teams to manually sift through the massive stockpile of sports film to find a given clip. AI addresses this problem by making sense of unstructured video data. By extracting metadata to make a video searchable, AI technology enables editors to discover and use archival assets more quickly. With a streamlined workflow, production teams can identify pertinent content in near real time to provide a more dynamic and comprehensive viewer experience.

Looking ahead, AI technology could progress beyond simply pulling relevant content for highlight reels or historical comparisons. It could actually create the reel itself in real time. This approach would save production teams time that could be better spent on critical activities like increasing audience engagement.

Coaches: Advanced data, actionable insights, can’t lose

Picture a team in the huddle for its final time-out. The players await instructions, not from their coach, but from an algorithm tuned to understand both the team’s tendencies and those of its current opponent. Given the advancements in AI technology, this reimagined team huddle is not far from becoming reality.

By quickly analyzing endless hours of video, AI technology could identify complex patterns in massive datasets. For instance, AI technology can already evaluate players’ strengths and weaknesses, which gives coaches an advantage when assembling a roster. Beyond player performance, it follows that AI could soon leverage those insights to help coaches devise a strategy. With machine learning, post-game analysis is transformed into predictive analysis, which offers playmakers an invaluable benefit. If a football coach can predict how likely the opposing team is to pass in the third quarter, they can plan a more effective defense.

As cognitive technology advances, predictions will likely become more specific and closer to instantaneous. In future seasons, coaches will have access to real-time predictive analysis. This will allow them to gain insights into what each player will do next from moment to moment.

AI technology is leading the way for editing teams, advertisers, and coaches to optimize sports video. To beat the competition, sports networks can utilize AI technology to provide an engaging viewer experience. By leveraging AI capabilities, playmakers can upgrade their coaching strategies, and advertisers can extend their brands’ reach. By unlocking a new realm of video strategy, AI technology is changing the game, literally and figuratively, to usher in a new era for sports fans.

David Clevinger is the senior director of product management and strategy at IBM Cloud Video. 

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