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Opinion: Full stream ahead

Bea Alonso, director of product marketing at Dalet, considers how the broadcast of Wimbledon has evolved

As with previous years, there was an abundance of live streams available to watch Wimbledon this year. Just one example is Virgin Media – the broadcast channel announced that it would be providing its customers with access to all of the big matches on Centre Court in 4K, with HDR.

Wimbledon has already pre-empted the rise in new technologies by setting up its own broadcast division a couple of years ago to future-proof its control over technology, content, and engagement.

Wimbledon’s broadcasting rights were previously outsourced to the BBC, which meant that the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), who organises Wimbledon, had limited access and control over The Championship’s content. Hence it was an obvious decision for the AELTC to announce in 2017 that Wimbledon Broadcasting Services (WBS) will have full control over the TV cameras and broadcast output worldwide. This was a wise choice, reflective of sports industry trends at the time, where rights holders wanted greater control over their own content supply chain.

The AELTC can now control its individual stakes and audience engagement in-house, build on its existing stakeholder relationships (while staying on good terms with the BBC), and look at newly available revenue streams.

Augmented viewing
This also permits the AELTC to be more creative with their content outside of the UK, as they no longer need to pay the BBC to exclusively broadcast the matches overseas, and instead invest in new technologies to increase revenue and audience engagement. For instance, the AELTC offers an augmented reality experience, which allows fans to watch the practice courts usually closed to public viewing, through its website and app. While IBM Watson AI is in charge of powering Wimbledon’s highlights and analytics, using new levels of engagement and user assistance, to deliver an enriched fan experience. The technology offers real-time match reports, which provides high quality news and insights about tennis players for fans everywhere; using 22 years of unstructured data to analyse an estimated 53,713,514 tennis data points.

“The AELTC offers an augmented reality experience, which allows fans to watch the practice courts usually closed to public viewing, through its website and app”

Last year Wimbledon fine-tuned its AI systems to automatically edit videos by analysing the crucial moments of each match – crowd noise, players’ emotional reactions, and match data. It only takes AI-supported technology a mere five to 10 minutes to package highlights from the six main show courts, which are then uploaded directly onto the AELTC’s official website, apps, and social media channels. In 2018 alone, there were 220 million views of highlights across Wimbledon’s digital platforms.

2019 took this to the next level, as the technology can now recognise the exact moment when the tennis ball hits the racquet. This means that video content producers are able to edit the highlight clips a lot more precisely, automate away unnecessary screen time, and publish the videos quicker than ever before. 

All-round experience
With the help of AI, the AELTC has successfully streamlined its content supply chain in a time- and cost-efficient manner. Rather than just localising content for the UK market, it is creating and distributing a significant number of original videos for different markets and delivering an all-round excellent user experience. The organisers will also reap the benefits of additional revenue coming in from sponsors and global broadcast partners, who now have an augmented library of content to engage with fans. 

The AELTC possesses much greater overview of its unique supply chain, which is tightly controlled and completely connected; video content producers now have an exceptional understanding of both the cost of production and the most well-received content. Visibility into these datasets enables AELTC to calculate return on investment in content production in ways no other sports broadcaster can.

The key to optimising speed and efficiency in a content supply chain is to connect and manage all its components, making it as flexible and organic as possible. However, it’s not an easy feat as Wimbledon and its technology partners have been developing their strategy to enhance the global fan experience for 30 years.