ESPN today announced it will debut ‘ESPN Virtual 3’ – an innovative technology which illuminates the 3-point line for every 3-point shot attempt – on Saturday, Jan. 30, for the second edition of NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC. The Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James will host the San Antonio Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge at 8:30 p.m. ET. The technology will be utilized for all NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC broadcasts this season.
Tim Corrigan, senior coordinating producer, NBA on ESPN: “ESPN Virtual 3’ will provide a subtle, yet impactful new way to enjoy an element of an NBA game. It will give viewers instant clarity on whether a three-point shot has been attempted, which hasn’t been consistently evident during a live telecast.”
During this year’s NBA Finals, the league says it saw 336 million video views on NBA.com and the NBA mobile app, as well as 98 million views on Facebook. Those numbers are growing, and the league sees a massive opportunity in creating more content for fans looking for highlights from not just superstars like Curry, but from any player in any game. To accomplish that, the league is collaborating with Israeli company WSC Sports to do what human curation can’t. The tech is called AVGEN, and starting today it’ll allow NBA teams and media outlets to automatically create highlights in near-real time.
On a basic level, AVGEN is software that automates the video editing process that creates highlight reels. According to Aviv Arnon, WSC’s VP of business development, “We analyze the video itself to figure out where the players are on the court, where movement is, [and] do audio analysis to figure out the perfect ins and outs for every moment.” That means analyzing fans screaming in the stands and color commentary, as well as player stats to determine what plays meant for the game as a whole. Most importantly, the software uses image recognition to also identify players and the types of plays being made. So if an outlet wanted to create a highlight reel of DeAndre Jordan’s slam dunks, they’d simply need to specify those terms in AVGEN before getting a clip minutes later. That clip can then be shared to the waiting eyes on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter on the fly, ready for easy consumption. Which is great, since the NBA has 3 billion cumulative views on YouTube alone.
The NBA is putting its own money into the study of wearable GPS devices, with the likely end goal of outfitting players during games, according to several league sources. The league is funding a study, at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, of products from two leading device-makers: Catapult and STATSports
Weighing less than an ounce, these devices are worn underneath a player’s jersey. They track basic movement data, including distance traveled and running speed, but the real value comes from the health- and fatigue-related information they spit out. The monitors track the power behind a player’s accelerations and decelerations (i.e., cuts), the force-based impact of jumping and landing, and other data points. Team sports science experts scour the data for any indication a player might be on the verge of injury — or already suffering from one that hasn’t manifested itself in any obvious way.