SXSW 2014: Connected TVs and the Future of Sports

Today at the Driskill Hotel, Hank Adams, CEO of Sportvision, gave a compelling talk on the affect connected TVs can have on the way we consumer entertainment, particularly sports.

For those who might be unfamiliar, Sportvision is behind a number of amazing augmented reality experiences built into broadcast sports. These include the yellow first down line in football and the strikezone overlay in baseball, as well as the overlays following the cars in NASCAR.

But what the user sees is only the tip of the iceberg. For instance, in Major League Baseball, they have detailed data on every pitch thrown during the entire season, including velocity and spin. This data is made available to teams and they use it for training purposes. The Yankees alone have 6 data scientists on staff working with this and other data.

Mr. Adams pointed out that “the history of media is the history of customization”, and that all this data that we have can be used to enhance live television experiences when televisions are attached to the Internet.

Some interesting ideas for the world of sports:
– As you watch a game, your fantasy players are highlighted and their sports displays their current fantasy points
– A widget overlaying a NASCAR broadcast provides the live status of your favorite driver
– The ability to toggle the strikezone overlay in baseball, including the hot zones of where a particular hitter at bat likes to hit the ball

Obviously, this sort of functionality can expand well beyond sports. What you see on live television is only part of the story; there’s more detail and background information that can be surfaced on any topic, but the ability to personalize that experience can make it exceptionally valuable for users.

The question then becomes how to work within the framework of the current model of broadcast television, as it is key within that model not to divert attention from the ad breaks. The answer remains to be seen, but perhaps the ads themselves can be augmented in interesting ways.