How AI Will Change Live Sports Broadcasting

Live Sports Broadcasting & How AI Will Change It

New innovations constantly change how fans watch their favorite live sports. Integral elements of today’s broadcasts like slow motion and instant replay didn’t exist before the 1950s. On-screen graphics are even more recent: Imagine watching a soccer game without the score in the top left corner of the screen, or a football game without the yellow first down line.

Now, emerging technologies like 3D and virtual reality are giving fans an entirely new perspective—and they may forever change how fans expect to experience the action.

But the real game-changer for live sports broadcasting is artificial intelligence. AI will not only affect viewers, but also advertisers, broadcasters—and even the athletes themselves. It will enrich video content with better insights and better recommendations, as outlined in this Uncovering Dark Video Data with AI white paperSoon, we may not recognize a sporting event without it.

AI in the producer’s chair

One of the problems faced when live streaming an event like a football game is closed captioning. Speech-to-text is a complex facet of AI, as it’s not just the words on the screen, but using those as data to tie in with other elements, like predictive analysis. For IBM’s Watson, it means a lot of time spent learning:

“We have to train Watson on the terms,” says Pete Mastin, who directs Watson Media product marketing and market strategy for IBM. “For instance, with tennis, you have to be able to understand the word ‘love’ in context. Once you do that, the accuracy rate is quite high.”

In this example, Watson can instantly pull relevant clips based around the word love—and correctly identify the tennis plays. Watson can also pull highlight clips based on a crowd’s response, such as louder than usual clapping, players high-fiving or even an excited tone in the announcer’s voice.

“Live sports is one of the major use-cases we’re targeting,” Mastin says. “You’ve got a broadcaster talking directly into a microphone, so speech to text is very distinct.”

Benefits for advertisers, players, coaches and fans

The ability to discern excitement levels in voices can be beneficial for advertisers, too. By identifying excitable moments, companies can quantify the impact of their ad-buys. They’re able to see not just when their company’s logo or ad aired, but also whether viewers were more likely to be paying close attention at that time.

IBM’s David Clevinger adds that with AI, predictive analysis will eventually be able to identify patterns to anticipate when the most exciting moments of a game will take place—information that leagues and advertisers could leverage to get the most impact from banner ads that run alongside the stream or other forms of advertising, including those in the stream itself.

Players and coaches, meanwhile, will be able to use AI technology to identify opponent patterns they might have otherwise missed. This technology even opens up the ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of individual players. For instance, a wide receiver might tend to run to the right when facing a third down in the Red Zone. Knowing this, opposing coaches could build plays that would prevent their opponents from getting a first down. As the technology advances, coaches could have access to real-time predictive analysis, which they could integrate into play calls.

Recommendation Uplift

While this predictive technology might not sound like something that’s especially useful to the sports fan, imagine if viewers could get digital nudges to tune in when a game is of particular importance. It’s coming—and it’s called Recommendation Uplift.

Imagine, for instance, you watch the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Tour religiously. Watson might recommend other tennis tournaments for you to watch—and, crucially, learn from your choices. If you opt not to tune in, the system could examine the metadata of the matches you watched and look for commonalities. Ultimately, it might realize that you’re most interested in Andy Murray and recommend his upcoming matches.

Ultimately, by learning your habits and knowing every element of what’s going on during a game, tournament or match, artificial intelligence could make streaming sports the modern day equivalent of Must See TV.


AI has the ability to be a real game changer for sports content. This is not just enhancing the viewer experience, or leading them to content most relevant to them, but to actually impact the game as well. Giving coaches and other a chance to aid them in decision making, or offer this deep insight for announcers and presenters to add this level of detail to their commentary.

Interested in learning more about how IBM’s Watson could benefit your video strategies? Check out our Outsmart your Video Competition with Watson white paper to learn more about this technology and how it will change the video landscape.