Are we entering an era of ‘too much’ sports data?

17.10.19

by Hermione Wright

As technology advances and more and more data is available to fans – could the time come when viewers say ‘enough is enough’? Deltatre's Christian Holzer and Romain Rossi have their say

17.10.19

by Hermione Wright

As technology advances and more and more data is available to fans – could the time come when viewers say ‘enough is enough’? Deltatre's Christian Holzer and Romain Rossi have their say

Today, data is almost as integral to the sport viewing experience as the athletes themselves. Largely gone are the days when nail-biting moments are dictated by the referee, coach, or umpire alone. A world of information is at the fans’ fingertips, giving viewers more power than ever before to access information that otherwise would have been lost in the ether.

So much has changed in the past few years – and the acceleration of data in sports shows no sign of slowing. But the big question is – as technology advances and more and more information is unlocked, could we ever go ‘too far’? Could this data now so inextricably linked to the sporting industry actually hamper the purity of the game? Will fans hanker for a time when healthy debate hummed around stadiums before it was replaced by the certainty of computer programming?

Information overload is possible

It’s a difficult topic – and one that we must get right now as technology is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. “It could indeed be that the fan ends up feeling too much data is overlaid to their sport coverage, but there are different groups of fans,” says Romain Rossi, LIVE Division | SVP, Business Development & Account Management.

“Some may want to actually be able to access more data, follow it directly on broadcast or on a second screen, and even potentially view personalised data that is added to their match experience,” he says. In a data-led era, it’s about ensuring the viewing experience can best serve the needs and wants of the fans.

Different data for different audiences

And we’re not only talking about fans in the traditional sense. Sporting professionals including coaches, scouts, and sport directors are already utilising the data at their disposal – and their expectations are different. “More data could be as much about quantity than quality,” says Rossi.

Data used in this way may reflect a particular angle or positioning that a club, league, or federation has on its sport. It can even be used to analyse players’ performances to improve tactics for future games. “We are working on our data strategy with these various dimensions in mind in order to be able to service specifically and appropriately different types of end-users,” says Rossi.

I don’t think there will ever be too much data in sports because data is content. We’re talking about transforming pure, raw data into meaningful information.

Christian Holzer, Managing Director at Deltatre, Germany

But selection couldn’t be more important in order to ensure data adds to, rather than distracts from, the game in question. “Everyone wants data,” says Rossi, “but it has to be geared towards their needs.” The information required by fans, broadcasters, leagues, or even sports fantasy leagues or gambling are all similar in nature but different in output. “We are focusing on the process of ‘adding value’ to the data so it is contextualised for the benefit of the client and its end users,” says Rossi.

Data is just a new form of storytelling

Data isn’t consumed purely as a list of numbers, it’s up to broadcasters to use the information available to them to add to their viewer experience. “I don’t think there will ever be too much data in sports because data is content,” says Christian Holzer, Managing Director at Deltatre, Germany, who is also Managing Director of Sportec Solutions, a joint venture between DFL group and Deltatre which collects comprehensive world football live data using the latest technologies.

“We’re talking about transforming pure, raw data into meaningful information,” says Holzer. For as long as sport has been played and enjoyed, spectators have told stories – either by word of mouth, radio, or television. Digital data is simply the next stage of this storytelling.

For Holzer, the existence of historical data is what makes this information even more powerful. Rather than overwhelming viewers, it gives fans the ability to quickly and accurately understand the progress of a particular player or team by comparing with previous games. “At the end of the day, it’s content that allows you to tell stories,” he says.

Data is an inherent part of the expected coverage of sport. It is a way for sport stakeholders to add value, generate revenue, and impose their signature on their brand of sport.

Romain Rossi, LIVE Division | SVP, Business Development & Account Management

Aesthetics are key

Marrying relevant data-led stories with design is also key to ensuring this information complements the game. Holzer describes data as “the foundation of content” which must then be visualised in the right way according to user experience design.

“Data can be presented in a very attractive way,” he says. “A picture tells a thousand words, which is a symbol for the transformation of data into meaningful content.”

Data boosts sports’ purity

Rather than distracting from the game, Holzer believes data can, in fact, add more value to the sport viewing experience. “We are describing the purity of the game,” he says. “We are not taking away emotion, we are describing the game in a different way.”

He believes that even the minority of fans who may be fervently against data would subconsciously be calculating the game in order to understand it – whether it’s counting corners, or predicting if a defender has been successful or not. “We are helping people to get more insights rather than taking away from the purity of the game,” he says.

It’s going nowhere

For Rossi, data is here to stay. “It is an inherent part of the expected coverage of sport,” he says. “It is a way for sport stakeholders to add value, generate revenue, and impose their signature on their brand of sport.”

And, unsurprisingly, viewers’ and broadcasters’ expectations for data-rich viewing experiences are expected to do more that stagnate; they’re set to increase. “I think it will grow,” says Holzer, “because as a fan, when we’re watching a game, we’re discussing it. We can argue either with our own experience or we can argue with a more data-driven experience provided through the media.”

This thirst for data will also start to impact a wider range of sports, says Holzer. “As technology advances and we get more and more body area networks and wearable technology in place, the data gathering will be cheaper,” he says. Therefore, more in-depth data will become available to smaller sports with lower budgets. As camera resolutions improve, he believes the intentions of players will become even more essential to data gathering – something that is currently largely subjective and difficult to measure.

“There will be more and more data,” says Holzer. “The important function; namely to extract relevant, meaningful data from the data lake and translate it into information will become a decisive success factor in the future.”

But fans can still have their say!

In most cases, data is added for the benefit of the fan – and therefore it’s important they can have their say about their own viewing experience.

“Sport stakeholders have and will enable fans to make their own choice of what data they are interested in, and when and how they want it inserted in their sport experience,” says Rossi. “Taking on board the fan preference and offering them personalisation choices will be key in sport media experiences.”

Whether you work within a broadcaster, sport federation, confederation, league, or team, how do you ensure your data adds to the viewer experience? If you’re a fan, how do you think data impacts your favourite sports? Let us know your thoughts on LinkedIn or Twitter @deltatre.

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