Sportvision now captures so much data at every major sporting event around the world it almost doesn't even know what to do with it all. Almost.
Ever since football's famed yellow 1st & 10 line debuted in 1998 from the company that brought us the glowing hockey puck, the best friend of broadcast networks—measured by 20,000 live events—has steadily increased the in-game data availability for consumption and packaged it in 10 Emmy Award-winning ways. But Sportvision wants to do more with that data and create new experience-based opportunities for home viewers.
Take K-Zone, for example. What debuted 13 years ago was novel, tracking every pitch thrown in Major League Baseball and using television graphics to let the home viewer watch trajectory, exact points of contact, speed, dip and, really, you name it. Up to this point Sportvision has captured nearly six million pitches, says Mike Jakob, chief operating officer, but he wants to do more. Sportvision plans to create an interactive experience.
Working with a "major consumer electronics company" to pair Sportvision's data with connected television sets, expect to see engrossed in-home experiences.
"I have three kids," Jakob says, "and they don't watch three hours of linear programming for a sporting event. We want to give them an immersed sporting event where they can play along live."
Using real-time information secured from Sportvision coupled with advances in connected devices, Jakob plans to soon announce in--home viewers doing more than just watching pitch trajectory. He sees them trying to hit pitch trajectory. "You can play along live," he says. "Let them try to hit the pitch. Sit there with the tablet and have the same data from the game and see if you can hit this pitch. It is really developing these next generation interactive experiences."
For those who don't want to play along, but want to more easily follow along, that's coming too.
Sportvision plans—still within the realm of increased viewer interaction, mind you—the ability for fans to hone in on pinpoint specifics while watching a network broadcast. In NASCAR your favorite driver may not be getting the airtime you feel they deserve. Jakob says already the RaceView app allows viewers to focus on a specific car, watch their telemetry and create a "really immersive experience." Sportvision wants to move that experience from tablet to TV, giving viewers the option to use a remote to bring up every imaginable piece of information—position, speed, pit data, telemetry, etc. And not just for NASCAR.
"We have data in real-time, so why not highlight your fantasy players on the screen," Jakob says about MLB and NFL games. "Imagine a mosaic environment where you can see stats and toggle over there. The amount of data is mind-boggling. How quickly can we distil it down and leverage the data?"
Those data sets will continue to grow, as Sportvision continually works on capturing new information, quantifying stats that previously weren't even observable. In MLB, where Sportvision sells information to 28 teams for scouting purposes, the Chicago-based company has already installed a high-end Fieldf/x system in five stadiums, tracking every single player's field movement and the motion of the ball off the bat, giving us new ways to measure fielding, a first for the game. Jakob expects to see the system added to the rest of the league this month.
"We can take that data and determine what's practical about it," says Ari Kaplan, who works with MLB teams to provide analysis of in-game data. "We can see which shortstop turns the double-play better and which outfielder positions better. There is a dollar value attached to that in helping a team win or lose."
Tracking predictable MLB players or NASCAR vehicles that can handle military-grade GPS systems measuring accuracy in centimeters has arrived. The new wave of data, though, in the NFL or NHL, will require on-player tracking, a process developing now.
Expect to see the biggest advances in player tracking occurring in football, a sport that generates more broadcast rights fees than the next three biggest sports combined. "There is the right combination of lots going on, so you get interesting data, with things that are hard to see," Jakob says, comparing the start-and-stop nature of football to the relatively fluidness of soccer or basketball. "In American football, there is time for analysis and leveraging the data." Jakob says his is one of many companies promoting the benefits of in-game tracking to the NFL.
"Sportvision understand broadcast well and how to take the data they get and turn it into something visual viewers can appreciate," says Dave Shaw, NFL Network's vice president of technical operations. "It would be great to have real, actual data tracked (on individual players)."
With the goal of obtaining even more information from every possible in-game point, expect Sportvision to continue to evolve the way we view live sports. And the way we experience them.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.