Advantage Wimbledon: SW19 leads the way for AI innovation in sport
With its all-white dress code, genteel atmosphere and quaint servings of strawberries and cream, Wimbledon has always seemed like an event existing in the past. But by installing AI into their broadcasting rooms, the All England Club have leapt into the future: they’re using cutting-edge AI technology to personalise the spectator experience with curated ‘MyWimbledon’ pages for each viewer, and to maximise performance data and footage.
Probably the most productive advances have been in AI-powered compilation of tennis highlights for the BBC and other outlets. Introduced last year with the help of IBM Watson, the system analyses footage and creates highlights packages from each court by recognising crowd noise, player movement and other metrics so that it can determine which clips are the most important and exciting.
Without such a system in place, it would takes hours for a human to sift through and edit reels and reels of footage into something digestible for the viewing public. In 2017, Wimbledon’s AI-powered highlights generated 14 million views; even further improvement this year means highlights can be compiled 15 minutes faster.
Remember, this is happening behind the scenes of one of sport’s oldest, most stubbornly old-fashioned institutions. The men’s and women’s tournaments are still referred to by the All England Club as “gentlemen” and “ladies”. The draconian dress code decrees that “white does not include off-white or cream”, and that there may only be “a single trim of colour no wider than 1cm”.
It goes to show that digital transformation does not have to infringe on an organisation’s core identity; it’s about targeting the right areas for improvement. None of Wimbledon’s rich (if slightly eccentric) traditions are under threat: the players still wear all white; advertisers are still left at the door. But thanks to its implementation of AI, the tournament is now thriving more than ever in terms of viewership.
If an organisation this steeped in tradition can successfully modernise, then anyone can.