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What role does content automation have to play in sports media?

How content automation feeds the data-hungry sports fan

By: Mike Morrison

In 2015, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made a declaration that, “the games are the meals, and the highlights are the snacks”. The statement struck a tune with those responsible for delivering content to sports fans around the globe. We could no longer rely on live matches to satisfy a sports fans’ appetite for content.

Five years on and whilst the sentiment rings true, the words themselves have moved on. Sports fans’ appetite for content stretches far beyond a meal or a snack… they graze relentlessly on social media platforms in search of content to satisfy their appetite. Unfortunately, this is not the only challenge content providers face as sports fans’ hunger grows.

While content providers prepared for the surge in demand for broader, deeper content, an increase in pressure on profit margins, particularly in the wake of the global pandemic, has added to the challenge. Simply put, content providers must deliver more content at faster speeds with less cost and higher profit.


Where did these challenges come from?

It’s not just sports fans who are hungry for content. The growth of online content in any industry shows no signs of slowing, The Cisco Annual Internet Report, released in March 2020, suggests that nearly two-thirds of the global population will have Internet access by 2023 and that the vast majority of that will be for personal use. The challenge therefore is not the appetite for content, it is the ability to produce it and then monetise it – growing usage no longer translates into simple monetisation… content producers are being required to do more with less.

Innovation in the publishing model has attempted to address the monetisation issue; Social advertising, subscription models and paid content partnerships have all come to the fore. Those answers, however, have not been able to address the volume challenge.

As Stats Perform brings its content automation, or natural language generation technology to the sports market, it’s worth considering where automation sits in the content creation ecosystem.

Content automation has gathered significant momentum in recent years. New technology has emerged to enable the automation of high quality, human-sounding content at large scales, offering the potential to ease the pressure on editorial teams.


How does content automation in sport work?

Natural Language Generation, a rapidly growing sector of artificial intelligence, takes data points such as goals, assists, player names, and expected goals from sporting events and combines those data points with powerful logic to create clear and coherent sentences. By combining advanced data points with easy-to-understand word processing, the result for media outlets is high quality, human-sounding content delivered to fans at-scale in real-time.


Progress versus adoption

While the technology is certainly impressive, there are still many sceptics. There remains still a slight reluctance from publishers to jump in over scepticism around quality, around the value of a human’s ‘eye for a story’ and around protecting the roles of editorial teams.

The truth is that content automation is not designed to replace anyone’s jobs, but rather to free the time of those working in editorial teams. Content providers are using NLG to produce iterative and repetitive articles at volume.  While this content is still important, it can be time-consuming and an unwelcome distraction to a content creator who would rather spend their time focusing on an in-depth opinion piece. Automation allows writers to get back to writing engaging, thought-provoking editorial pieces that could not be replicated through technology.

NLG relies on a structural approach to language creation. Given that structure, it is not intended to provide opinion or in-depth thought pieces but to automate any content process that is repetitive, time-consuming, or costly. To bring it back to Adam Silver’s 2015 remark, think of NLG like the sous chef in a restaurant: slicing and dicing data like vegetables while the head chefs, your content writers, develop a bold and robust menu to sate the appetite of a hungry sports fan.


Where does that leave us?

Expectations continue to rise and competition for eyeballs is higher than ever. Content automation is becoming a key player in the content strategy of every area of sports content.

Taking written media first; an emerging necessity in fan engagement and sports content is achieving a level of scale and breadth to widen your audience opportunity. Secondly, why dedicate resources to producing hundreds, if not thousands of match previews and player bios and recaps when technology can continually produce them across the season and your team can focus on creating high-value, insightful content?

It’s not only in written media where we’re seeing advancements in the role of automation. Broadcasters are increasingly using automation in their workflow to improve processes. Our PressBox Video technology is an automated video highlight reel generation platform that unlocks fan engagement through personalisation and scale. Key features such as the largest collection of historical footage, AI-powered recommendations, and cloud-based editing provide easy-to-use customisable options across the entire production process, from video production personnel to fans.

Whichever medium you’re focused on, whether written or video content, automation is playing an increased role in driving fan experience. Take a look at our case study with The Associated Press or get in touch to find out more.



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