September 6, 2023 By Noah Syken 3 min read

This is, by far, my favorite time of year. The kids are back at school. My Miami Hurricanes are off to another strong start. And two of IBM’s marquee partnerships are in full swing: The US Open and ESPN Fantasy Football.

Right now, I’m in Queens, watching Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz battle it out in 90-degree heat for a spot in the US Open semifinals. Between games, I’m checking the waiver wire on the ESPN Fantasy app, looking for available players who can strengthen my lineup. I know it all sounds like fun and games. But this is my job, and it’s actually serious business.

In fact, our work with these partners looks a lot like the work IBM does with any other client, in any industry. We define business objectives. We develop technology solutions. And we work together to ensure flawless digital operations. For the US Open, that means enhancing one of the best digital experiences in sports, helping millions of tennis fans get up to speed on every match with AI-generated insights. For ESPN, it means using AI to help fantasy team managers make better decisions and field the best possible team, week after week.

Building solutions this powerful is hard work. But it was made considerably easier this year by IBM’s new AI and data platform, watsonx. If you’ve been watching the US Open on TV, or in person, you may have seen the ads: “Multiply the power of AI with watsonx.” And this was certainly the case for the USTA and ESPN.

IBM has infused the US Open app with AI for nearly a decade. We were even using generative AI to curate tennis debates years before anyone had heard of ChatGPT. But the process of introducing new features to the US Open digital experience has never been smoother than it was this year, thanks to watsonx. The USTA asked IBM Consulting to add spoken commentary to the match highlights they serve up on the app and website. watsonx made it easy, from connecting all the necessary data sets ( to training a pre-built large language model to translate tennis scenes into complete sentences ( We’re even using some of the forthcoming capabilities of watsonx.governance to ensure the AI Commentary model doesn’t drift over time. If you want to know more about how we built the solution, check out the complete case study.

The ESPN partnership, on the other hand, has always been about AI-powered decision making. And this year we used the foundation models found in to develop an AI model that can identify the best available players on the waiver wire, specific to your team. In other words, the AI understands the weaknesses of your team, and guides you to the talent that can strengthen your lineup.

If you’re thinking these sound like familiar business challenges, you’re right. The AI Commentary solution is not unlike the work our clients are doing to improve customer service experiences, with AI chatbots that understand a specific domain and can guide a positive interaction. And the fantasy solution solves a classic HR problem: identifying and obtaining the best available talent. So while our team is helping our partners at the US Open and ESPN meet their business objectives (driving digital engagement), they’re also demonstrating the power of watsonx to address the business objectives of our clients.

The US Open and ESPN fantasy football are undeniably fun. But they are also big businesses. And that’s why I’m thankful to be working with IBM Consulting and watsonx, the AI and data platform “built for business.” Because when millions of people are hitting your app, you want to make sure the AI models behind them are enterprise grade. Now, back to my fantasy lineup…

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