When I started my sports broadcast career during the early days of CNN in Atlanta, I never could have imagined how far the broadcast industry would evolve.
As a logger and then editor in the new network’s sports department, I spent my time reviewing hours upon hours of sports video, a tedious and time consuming process. But it was in the production room that I fell in love with the storytelling process and finding the narrative and heart behind sports. This led to a career in sports broadcast and production that spanned more than 25 years, including stints at the NBA, NBC, MLB, Monumental Sports — and being awarded 33 Sports Emmy awards along the way.
Fast forward to today, and I’m taking my past experience in a different direction, with an entirely new focus: artificial intelligence and machine learning for sports video. Switching gears at this stage might seem risky to some, but I’m about to share why pivoting to a tech career was the correct move for me — and might be right for you, too.
Spotting an Opportunity
In early 2020, I left my career in sports broadcasting and production to join WSC Sports, an Israel-based technology company that specializes in the automated creation and distribution of highlights for more than 150 sports leagues and broadcast partners across the globe. If you've ever watched an amazing sports highlight on social media from the NBA, PGA, NFL or countless others, there's a good chance the highlight was created by WSC Sports, whose clients also include the NFL, NHL, MLS, ESPN, YouTubeTV, FanDuel, NASCAR and Bleacher Report.
We help media rights holders create a mass of highlights in real time that can be distributed directly over social media and other digital channels, and we also offer many innovative solutions to increase brand awareness, disrupt fan engagement, optimize personalization and maximize monetization opportunities.
I read about the WSC Sports technology in 2019 and immediately emailed my old friends at the NBA, who I knew were early adopters of the technology and were so impressed with the company that former NBA Commissioner David Stern had joined as an advisor. I needed to learn more about this technology and its potential.
After connecting with Danny Shichman, CEO of WSC Sports, I was surprised to learn that what previously took editors hours to identify, tag, create and distribute videos can be done in seconds with the WSC Sports platform. As someone who has seen many changes in the industry over my career, I was so impressed when I read about this game-changing technology that creates highlights that ultimately connect fans to the sports they love, on their own terms. This is what Shaka Arnon, WSC’s general manager for North America, calls “video on command.”
What Is Video on Command?
With a younger demographic that doesn't watch full games like in the past, the industry needs to catch up to this new chapter in personalized content consumption. WSC Sports is in the perfect position to help media rights holders meet this demand because, at the end of the day, sports highlights are really just a tool to engage with fans and tell compelling stories.
Taking a Leap
After years of working in video and film production, taking a business development role for a sports technology company was a new challenge. But what makes WSC Sports and my role here unique is how much my background in production and media have informed my job here — and how much it actually connects with what WSC offers.
In my past experience as a storyteller, I had to provide tools to my staff to help them be the most creative they could be. The technology WSC provides to our partners is doing the same thing, but on a much higher level. Frankly, it's an innovation in the editing process that could have only been imagined before.
Now with our tech powering much of this workflow, it frees up producers and editors to do even more creative things. So despite how different this role has been for me, I’ve found that my previous experiences have played an important part in making this transition, as I can see the client’s perspective more clearly and instinctively understand their priorities and needs from my past roles.
In the short time I’ve been a part of WSC Sports, I’ve been really proud of the work we’ve done with the PGA Tour — especially since golf is a passion of mine. WSC Sports was pivotal in the launch of PGA’s TOURCast, which provides fans a new digital experience by allowing them to explore high-resolution, annotated 3D renderings of every shot from every golfer on a virtual course on any device. WSC Sports provides highlights of each and every shot during competitions and these clips are available to fans on TOURCast, the PGA’s OTT (over-the-top) platform.
And I’m really excited about Broadcast Pro for Adobe Premiere, which takes all of WSC Sports’ highlights automation technology and makes it available in broadcast quality. This is another game changer for OTT platforms and broadcast partners, who previously could only get AI-created highlights in digital quality.
The past two years have definitely been a learning experience as I exchanged my old-world career for more of a tech-focused industry. I’ve been most surprised about the speed of change in sports production in terms of implementing new tech solutions that drive both creativity and efficiency. It used to be that a sports network or league production company would refresh their production tools every three years, and that was perfectly fine. Today, however, innovation is happening at such a rapid pace — every three to six months — that some companies have wisely started creating emerging media and innovation staff positions to ensure their production groups remain relevant with all the disruptions taking place in this space.
Scaling production used to be an aspirational dream in my old-world career. Now, you have the ability to reach even the narrowest niches of your audience. Perhaps you have a client in Europe who’s only interested in seeing highlights from specific players and teams. Previously, production groups didn’t have the staffing bandwidth to fulfill these requests, but not anymore. The tech doesn’t care if the client wants one two-minute highlight package or 50 highlight videos — because the AI fully automates the editing and delivery of this content instantaneously.
Lastly, some of your experience will undoubtedly carry over. Creating content for sports is still about telling the great stories from the game that fans want to see. That part from my old-world career remains just as strong of a priority today as it did 25 years ago. The difference is that our tech now allows producers to tell these stories much faster when fans still have an emotional connection to the moment that just happened on the field.
When I ran MLB Productions, we used to produce a World Series film on DVD every year. We’d deliver the final master about 24 hours after the last out, and even under what was then considered a quick turnaround process, it still took another three weeks before the distributor had copied, packaged and shipped the DVDs for sale. By that time, the emotional connection for the fans of the winning team had subsided.
We used to talk about how many more sales there would be if the film could be delivered to fans as they were leaving the stadium after the final game when their emotional connection to the event would be at its highest. The tech today now makes that dream a reality. I think this will especially be true within the next year for the NFT market, where fans will be able to buy an NFT of a great play that they just saw in the big game and have it delivered to them within minutes.
I am really looking forward to seeing what’s next for WSC Sports — especially as we grow in North America and as more sports leagues, teams and rights holders realize the benefits of using AI to bring fans closer to the games they love.
We are actively looking to grow our team in New York and bring on sports lovers with a background in sales and engineering. Where else do you have the opportunity to work on every sport ranging from hockey to soccer to skiing to surfing? I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this new and exciting technology.