As FOX launched its World Cup digital strategy with great fanfare, a Bay Area tech company was quietly taking another step in helping media companies, and for that matter teams and even leagues, get even smarter with things like automated highlights and excitement measurement. The company is Thuuz (short of “Enthused”) and their behind the scenes work with FOX, IBM, NBC for the Olympics, the NFL and a growing number of global partnerships is fast becoming the way to measure fan experience and get consumers the customized highlights that all crave, on whatever device they choose.
Their work with World Cup involves a popular feature whereby fans can create their own customized highlight package of matches now and into the past, all using metadata that exists within the video feed. Want to see all Messi’s goals past and present? Set it up. Pele’s bicycle kicks? They are there too. The U.S. key moments…well not this year but you get the picture.
This feature, along with other automation they have set up for measuring what fans are watching and what they are looking for, is a great next step in the second screen experience that we will be seeing more and more. MLB and the NBA have talked about their own solutions, but it seems like Thuuz has found a secret sauce to deliver widely and well as customization of content becomes more mainstream.
We talked with founder Warren Packard about the work, the World Cup and where this will all be going into the future.
SportsMedia Report: In the last year you have helped build key pieces of fan measurement and engagement tools with Eleven Sports, NBC for the Olympics and now with Fox for World Cup. How do those networks and others, apply those tools to their business?
Warren Packard: Thuuz offers a suite of breakthrough sports entertainment services that can be quickly integrated by our partners into their existing apps and consumer endpoints. Our services enable our customers to deliver a truly personalized experience to their users, resulting in significant increase in engagement, monetization, and overall entertainment experience. From real-time, personalized highlights to fan-specific game excitement ratings to dynamic headlines and notifications, Thuuz drives fans to tune into incremental live and post-game content that is unexpectedly exciting.
SMR: Fox recently announced the addition of automated highlights to their World Cup highlights, technology which Thuuz helped build. Is that type of automated highlight capability something we will be seeing in ore sports or with more teams going forward?
WP: Absolutely. Thuuz has built a real-time, automated highlight reels platform that is extensible across all sports and media experiences. We are currently processing over sixty leagues and tournaments across twelve global sports and are adding new sports on a regular basis. Our platform is flexible enough to create publishable video (VOD assets) as well as real-time streams that are personalized for each individual fan. Videos can range from individual clips to variable perspective game highlights to variable length condensed games to multi-event, multi-sport highlights shows.
SMR: What’s the biggest challenge in building out the back end for such a complicated measurement system? is it the same for all sports or are some tougher to work with than others?
WP: There are a number of significant challenges to building out this platform which has made building it a lot of fun. Real-time data processing across dozens of data sources. Real-time video and audio processing across dozens of different formats. AI algorithms flexible enough to dozens of different sports and leagues. Real-time video creation in multiple output formats to dozens of delivery endpoints. Scalability. Redundancy. Quality.
SMR: There has been some great work done on the excitement measurement through all the data you collect. Is “Most Exciting” something we will see more and more as a quantifiable asset by leagues and teams going forward?
WP: Absolutely. Leagues, teams, broadcasters, service providers, anyone who is involved in the sports entertainment ecosystem is interested in engaging fans more deeply than they are today. While fans are already plugged into their favorite teams, they usually miss out on the great games that are being played by other teams in the leagues that they enjoy. This is where our excitement ratings and dynamic headlines come into play. By measuring the anticipated and real-time excitement level of sports events, we enable the creation and delivery of a personalized sports guide that pulls fans into incremental games that are guaranteed to be exciting. This gives fans exposure to more leagues, teams, and players, thus deepening their passion for the sports that they already enjoy or exposing them to new leagues and athletes that can follow going forward.
SMR: There are other companies, and even some leagues, that are doing similar work in measurement, what is Thuuz’s biggest differentiator?
WP: Our biggest differentiators are the sophistication of our algorithms, the extent of our personalization, and the fact that our excitement measurement platform offers an unbiased and consistent standard that fans can count on day in and day out.
SMR: The World Cup is certainly a global event, is there more interest in this type of measurement with media partners in other parts of the world than in the US? What makes the best partner for you in terms of measurement?
WP: We consider ourselves a global company. From day one, we have integrated sports and leagues that extend across boundaries. Our international portfolio of sports includes football (soccer), rugby, cricket, motor sports, cycling, tennis and golf. of course, we also cover basketball, baseball, American football, hockey, and even horse racing. We add additional sports and leagues upon request by our customers and partners.
SMR: Are these tools, especially the element of customizing highlights and catching up to a point in a live event, something that can go direct to consumer or do you always need the media rights holder?
WP: Thuuz operates as a service provider to companies that own or have access to sports rights. We focus on what we do best — technology enablement — and leave it to our partners to do what they do best — acquire rights and deliver an exemplary experience to sports fans.
SMR: We see how these custom historical highlights can and will be used for World Cup, where do you see the technology evolving in the next year? Is there even more that can be done with the metadata now that will make Thuuz products the “must have” for every network, team and rightsholder?
WP: The FIFA World Cup Highlight Machine is a fantastic demonstration of our technology platform. By combining both archive assets and real-time events, we’re able to demonstrate how rights holders can monetize past events while simultaneously generating incremental value for their live events. Over the coming year, you will see our platform deployed across more sports and start to witness additional use cases, such as Catch-up To Live highlights, variable duration highlights, and multi-sport, multi-event highlights. Since everything in our platform is automated, our customers and partners are unconstrained in terms of the fan experiences that they will be able to envision and launch.