Facing the future: How the International Ski and Snowboard Federation is taking AI by the horns

Over the past season, the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) has experimented heavily with artificial intelligence (AI) in order to produce more 9:16 and 16:9 content, and to distribute it automatically, as quickly as possible.

On the results of these AI tests, Benjamin Stoll, director of digital and innovation at the International Ski and Snowboard Federation, says they are, “very, very good”.

Snow sports tend to be already optimised for 9:16 formats, with most competitions taking the form of starting at the top of a hill, followed by a swift trajectory down to the bottom.

Stoll continues: “We are doing this in 16:9 and most of the sports like ski alpine, ski jumping, snowboard and free ski, the competitions always have a clear start and end per athlete. So that works really well.

“We have some other sports with a mass start, such as cross country where it’s more about how do we deal with this? This is ongoing exploration. But where there’s individual runs or jumps, this is working really, really well in 16:9.”

Holistic architecture

The goal for FIS is to create an AI-driven internal platform that can aid athletes as well as the federation to create content that is suitable for fast distribution onto all platforms. Says Stoll: “This is really about a holistic architecture because what we are looking into is that our sport and its media output will be very, very much driven by automation and AI. Creating a holistic digital architecture where we can quickly plug into content and where we can automatically distribute content is key.

“The next step is what we call data attainment, so really bringing in the data feed and being able to augment videos with data. That’s a really interesting one. But first we need to create digital-first production workflows where we have the capability to create dedicated digital clip graphics as well.”

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It is all about automating the future, Stoll says: “What we are currently looking into – acknowledging that we want to make it as easy as possible for the athletes to use their mobile phones – is to automatically reframe content as 9:16.

“We’ve seen some really promising results there as well, but this is still something that via AI in the form of object recognition and reframing intelligences we want to further optimise. The end goal is that the athlete, after the competition on their mobile phone, gets a 16:9 and 9:16 video so they can use it; of course always in alignment with the media rights and guidelines.”

“The access needs to happen in one or two clicks,” continues Stoll, on making things simple for the athletes. “Then we want to plug into their creativity on how to tell their individual stories as well, and basically enable them to be better ambassadors for the sports and the competitions. And, of course, with this we see increased value generation for everyone in the ecosystem.”

2025 vision and beyond

There is a long-term plan in this experimentation. He explains: “There’s a lot of experimentation happening, but we have a vision of where we want to be for the World Championships for next year where we have the World Championships in Nordic ski, alpine and freestyle and snowboard.

“Then looking further into does it work with the consumers? Can we offer this as an additional value for the broadcasters? Because again, and I think that’s a really important one; this is not only for the FIS channels.

“I personally think that especially with communities for snow sports, often they are very regional, and the broadcaster does the much better job of localising stories,” continues Stoll. “For us it’s therefore also about providing them with better assets in order to do this. So the clips we generate, we want to give to the broadcasters as well and help them to localise and use as much as possible because that’s promotion and outreach and media value for everyone.”

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