March 15, 2018 by Kirsten Nelson

Super Bowl LII Next Gen StatsSports. The great common denominator of all conversation. Even if you don’t like sports, you know enough to be able to talk about it, at least for a minute. And sports, by convenient association, is actually one of my favorite ways to talk about what it is that AVIXA members do.

We tell sports stories. Through gigantic video boards (forever “Jumbotrons” to the layman, and hey, that’s alright), humongous speaker systems, tiny microphones, variably-sized digital signage displays and perceptually invisible but actually ridiculously huge lighting systems and projection mapping, AV experience designers make the live event into a highlight reel. Everything has impact, in real-time.

So it happens to be that I’m forever on the lookout for evolving ways to tell sports stories in venues. In reading Sports Video Group’s coverage of the Super Bowl, I found another great angle on stadium storytelling. Most sports fans know that we are in the age of abundant sports data analytics, but what I didn’t know is that we are also in the era where those next-gen stats are changing the in-house show on the big screens at stadiums.

In a first for the Super Bowl, the 2018 game brought some television broadcast features to the in-house displays at U.S. Bank Stadium. And on top of that, they challenged audiences with a whole new graphics package featuring next-gen stats (“NGS” if you’re savvy).

With production tools by SportsMEDIA Technology (SMT), the virtual yellow line and some cool new NGS factoids made it to the big-time on the live-game displays. The latter of these came from SMT’s tapping into the NFL Next Gen Stats API to go deeper with the data.

SMT’s goal to delight fans with even more details to obsess over during the game seems like a good one. Especially because, well, “NFL fans are insatiable — they want data,” said Ben Grafchik, Business Development Manager for SMT.

To meet that need, SMT is exploring ways to tie in traditional data points with NGS in a visual format that fans can easily consume during a game. The objectivity and analytical depth of these additions to video board storytelling is compelling to all diehard fans, but in particular, the next-gen stats appeal to next-gen fans, Grafchik added.

These new graphics may have been a first for the Super Bowl, but actually, Vikings fans enjoyed them for the entire season at home at U.S. Bank Stadium. SMT worked with the in-house production team there to add all sorts of visual spice to the show, gradually going more complex with the offerings as the season went on and fans became accustomed to the new depths of data exploration.

But football isn’t the only sport that’s receiving the NGS upgrade. SMT happens to provide video enhancement and virtual insertion graphics for hundreds of major U.S. and international sporting events and broadcasters. So watch for a lot more variety to come both in house and wherever else you consume your sports content. It will certainly give us all a lot more to talk about when we talk about sports.

About Kirsten Nelson

Kirsten Nelson has written about audio, video and experience design in all its permutations for more than 20 years. As a writer and content developer for AVIXA, Kirsten connects stories, people and technology through a variety of media. She also directs program content for the TIDE Conference and Technology Innovation Stage at InfoComm. For three years, she also created conversations around emerging media and experiential design at InfoComm's Center Stage. Prior to that, Kirsten was the editor of SCN magazine for 17 years.