This is the second part of our two-part series. You can read part one, here.
Hungry for data
For sports fans, technology and data are at the heart of the experience, from goal-line decision systems to TV analysis or fantasy league apps. One of the biggest players is Stats, whose London office is at Workspace’s Vestry Street Studios in Hackney.
Having started out 35 years ago in the US as a sports-analytics company aimed at improving team performance, Stats discovered there was a huge appetite for data among fans and broadcasters too. The company’s clients now include Premier League clubs, Google, Alexa and Snapchat. Stats collects data on more than 45 different sports and 600 leagues worldwide to an astonishing level of detail — to take football alone, the company records players’ location; how many times they touch the ball; how many passes they complete; and how far they run. As with fitness statistics, however, the key is using the data to tell interesting stories. Stats’s data scientists combine the data gathered to build up a picture of different playing styles — one of the company’s USPs — while their editorial research team creates bespoke reports for clients.
Wyndham Richardson, MD at Pulselive, would agree that data is nothing without storytelling. The company, which is based at Kennington Park, was founded in 2008 as a spin-off from Hawk-Eye, whose well-known tracking technology is now integral to tennis, football and rugby.
“Hawk-Eye collects huge amounts of data — we have 10 cameras on a tennis court,” says Richardson. “At Pulselive we’re interested in what stories we can tell with that data.” The company has operators at sports events who work closely with producers and directors to find interesting nuggets of analysis. So, if you’ve ever seen John McEnroe on TV at Wimbledon discussing the placement of Federer’s first serves, it’s thanks to the combination of Hawk-Eye technology and Pulselive’s data- storytelling capabilities.
When it launched, Pulselive initially sought to make live sport on TV more engaging by asking fans questions that they could vote on during broadcasts. Since then it’s diversified to help the world’s biggest leagues, organisations and clubs figure out how fans use digital media and consume content, to boost engagement rates and maximise profits. The English Premier League, World Rugby, International Cricket Council and Barcelona football club are just a few of Pulselive’s customers.
For the diehard fans, Pulselive provides the tools via apps and white-label solutions such as ESPN’s Courtcast, for them to explore the data on their own, but this only amounts to 15-20% of fans, according to Richardson. “The other 80% want to be pushed information and have a story told for them,” he says.
The future of fandom
According to Richardson, the ubiquity and growing data capacity of smartphones will mean that federations, leagues and clubs have the opportunity to go directly to the fan, rather than through a broadcaster or media partner. And instead of paying a flat rate per month to get a sports channel on TV, for example, they’ll be able to “choose a particular club or event and get a really premium experience,” says Richardson.
This in turn will enable companies to target content at individuals based on their preferences, which will add value for commercial partners. “Look at Netflix,” says Richardson. “The whole experience is augmented to focus on content they think you’re going to like. Sport is going in this direction too.”
For Cormac Bourne, General Manager UK at Stats, the big innovation on the horizon is OTT, or over-the-top media, in other words, internet sports streaming. Tech giants like Amazon and Facebook are already starting to get involved. Rather than simply being broadcast into someone’s home, live streaming will allow content to be personalised to the user — for example, you might be able to select which camera angles you want, chat with your friends on built-in social media, and request stats during the match.
The other game changer will be VR. Virtual reality is already being used by some of the more advanced clubs for training purposes, but we’re not far off a time when it could be used to replicate a live-match experience. Fans could buy VR season tickets, with infinite access to the best (virtual) seats in the house. Data will be central to this, to help relay the positions and movements of players in real time to the VR environment. Over in the fitness sector, there’s also the potential to use virtual reality at the gym. “We’re doing some research into that but it’s early days,” says Hon. Could sweaty headsets be the only thing preventing data from taking over sports completely? Let’s see what the future holds.
Workspace has over 65 locations across London for you to base your business. With inspiring office and studio space on flexible lease terms, we’ll find the perfect space for your business. Whether you need an on-site café, plenty of breakout spaces, cycle racks and showers or just a simple space you can access round the clock, we have something to suite every requirement. You’ll be part of a thriving community of businesses and have the chance to get involved with a busy events calendar. Get in touch today and find your Workspace.
If you’re looking for flexible co-working spaces, that’s covered too. Club Workspace has a variety of options for you to choose from, from Team Rooms to Your Desk.