Working with robots: Pixellot’s Alon Werber on how AI is revolutionising sports broadcast

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a term that is getting a lot of attention at the moment as the idea of adding intelligence into, well, anything, opens up new possibilities in sports broadcast production. Here we chat to Pixellot CEO, Alon Werber, about how AI can and is changing the sports broadcast world.

Pixellot CEO, Alon Werber

How can AI help smaller clubs or niche sports broadcast their events? What does that mean for them and for viewers?

AI production systems are much less expensive than engaging camera operators and crew members for each game. Using AI allows underserved lower leagues, niche sports, youth leagues, and women’s sports to be streamed to their audiences from the field directly to the mobile app or website of the team (including social media platforms,) live or on demand. In addition to streaming the games, practices can be captured for coaching using the AI-generated video content to evaluate their players and improve their teams in real time.

What are the main opportunities AI provides broadcasters?

AI provides a low cost, professional way to capture all the action while offering the ability to highlight particular players and plays. There is no need for expensive cameras and camera operators, live editing stations, or complex broadcasting technologies; everything is done automatically, making it accessible to any school, college, or league, regardless of budget and audience size.

This solution allows broadcasters to enhance their OTT proposition with unique shareable content to drive more engagement through social media platforms. Broadcasters can stream hours of sports automatically, without any people in the field, which allows broadcasters and media companies to produce a massive amount of games and content at a very low cost per game. This technology advancement encompasses a huge opportunity for companies who understand the potential and are quick to embrace change.

Who is embracing AI? Are traditional broadcasters going for it or is it something used more by independent organisations themselves?

Pixellot’s system at work at Dartmouth university

AI is no longer at the stage of early adoption and more and more companies are embracing the change. These can be organisations and leagues that were never broadcast on any platform or production companies that used to produce games with OB vans and now are looking for improved effectiveness.

While professional and top college leagues may continue to be the province of traditional broadcasters, high school and less-broadcasted college leagues are underserved. AI production solutions enable them to produce all their games at a low cost and then stream them through their own and third party platforms. The ability to offer their fans shareable or even editable content and interactive viewing experiences is a big advantage, as is the ability to upload the games and use the technology for coaching. If you are broadcasting or producing sporting events, you can’t ignore this revolution as it will get more and more popular.

How do you see AI changing the way we broadcast live events going forward, and what does this mean for the industry?

Pixellot’s S Series

As the costs of the sports rights for the top leagues are soaring, organisations are increasingly looking downstream for additional leagues and sports to offer their viewers. Having a low cost, AI-based production technology creates an attractive opportunity to produce more content than ever before and offer more games from a variety of leagues and sports.

What this means is that second-tier and niche leagues will be able to affordably offer their own professional looking, direct-to-consumer live platforms and can become both the broadcaster and operator. The end game is that online sports will continue to grow, as viewers transition to digital watching. We can see it today as Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter are gobbling up sports rights to different leagues.

What are you doing in the area of AI in sports broadcast?

Pixellot revolutionises sports production by empowering leagues, rights holders, and media companies to affordably capture, produce, and distribute games while increasing monetisation. The Pixellot solution uses computer-vision AI algorithms to dynamically track on-field action, providing viewers a seamless, TV-like experience that includes automated highlights and graphics, remote/local commentary, scoreboard, and game clock. The system includes a proprietary camera unit installed on the field. After a short set up process, it will automatically capture sporting events, stream them over the web, and automatically edit video highlights in real time.

Pixellot already streams thousands of games every month with no people in the loop, so it’s not futuristic aspirations; rather it’s a reality for hundreds of schools, colleges, and clubs around the world.

We have sold thousands of AI-based production systems already, and we’re producing 30,000 hours of sports every month. Our computer vision algorithms are capable of following football, soccer, basketball, hockey, volleyball, lacrosse, baseball, field hockey, and futsal.

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