How SaaS, AI and machine learning are boosting sports broadcasting: A guide

Matt Bowman is director at ISG Connect.

The sports broadcasting industry has a problem. Fan bases are growing, as are viewing figures; but it is becoming harder and far more expensive for sports broadcasters and rights holders to manage, package and distribute their content. Obsolete methods of distribution that require expensive software and hardware packages, sold on fix term licenses, are hindering broadcasters from making back-end efficiencies that can ultimately lead to enhanced fan experience.

In short, the traditional linear services used to broadcast sporting events are broken.

This is increasingly true for smaller, more niche sports that are further exposed to the strain on resources and struggle to achieve the fan exposure they require to grow. Where technology is concerned, enhancing fan engagement and increasing audience figures are normally viewed as part of the front-end program, but that should no longer be the case.

By tidying up the backend technology used to manage, package and distribute content, sporting organisations can funnel budget savings – and profits – into frontend production value.


This is where a software as a service (SaaS) solution can make a big difference. One of the main benefits of the SaaS model is that it is pay-per-use. This has huge advantages for the sports industry, as it means that they can scale their operations up and down in accordance with peak times. Take the European football season as an example: using a SaaS platform for content management, production and delivery would mean that the broadcasters and rights holders can scale up their operations around the season’s biggest fixtures and busiest weekends.

While this is certainly advantageous for broadcasters and rights holders across all sports, it has particular benefits for smaller sports looking to increase their exposure and break into the mainstream.

They are not fixed to long-term license agreements for their content management platforms, which used to mean having to pay full price near the season’s close. Additionally, the sports broadcasting service industry has traditionally been linear-based and on-premise, meaning that the increasingly complex services required to produce and distribute content require increasingly pricey hardware.

Breaking the strain

In many cases, the traditional methods of editing and distribution are too expensive and require too much staffing for emerging sports, meaning they struggle to keep up and can’t gain the exposure they require to grow their audience. Through utilising a SaaS platform for their content servicing, these sports can overcome the strain on resources by saving money through paying for only what they use, and by decreasing the time it takes for them to package and distribute content. Content, whether that be advertisements to broadcasters, or archive footage to social media, can be accessed and distributed to multiple platforms in a matter of seconds.

In the age of social media, this can pay dividends for smaller sports. A recent study conducted by consumer research organisation Global Web Index found that 22% of social media users cited engaging with sports content as a primary reason for its use in 2019, marking a 37% increase from 2016. Social media provides sporting organisations with the ability to build communities that keep existing fans engaged and help to reach new audiences, providing them with potential new revenue opportunities.

The problem thus far for smaller sporting organisations is that effectively managing and packaging content to distribute to multiple social media channels can be a complicated and arduous process that requires resources these organisations simply don’t have. By using a SaaS platform, social media teams at smaller sports can quickly and efficiently access, edit, and distribute content to multiple platforms. Football teams can have clips of goals posted on their Twitter feed within one minute of the goal being scored. For smaller sports, near to live highlights, analysis and replays creates an element of interactivity, helping to engage larger online audiences.

Boosting fan experience with AI and ML

Once broadcasters and rights holders have developed efficient means of distributing their content, the next question centres upon how they can develop fan experiences to grow their audience figures. Again, the answer for many organisations appears to lie in technology with a number of sports investing heavily in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

Formula 1, for instance, partnered with AWS to boost fan experience by giving them unique insight into the split-second decisions made by racing teams and drivers mid-race. The technology collects data from 120 sensors on the car before using Amazon’s machine learning algorithms to provide fans insights such as real-time race predictions, and car performance. The unique and new analyses that are created by emerging technology inject an additional sense of spectacle. The result is a more immersive experience allowing a sport to build and grow audience numbers.

While these technologies may currently only be accessible to the more mainstream sports, it is clear that the technology being developed for the enterprise can play a significant role in the sports broadcasting industry. With SaaS, developing sports can move on from the traditional linear and legacy systems that are currently holding them back. With SaaS, they can drive back-end efficiencies and feed their fans growing appetite for quick content.

Read more: At the front of the grid: How Formula 1 leads sporting franchises in data and analytics in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

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