To engage new audiences and grow the game of tennis globally, the USTA needs the US Open to provide a rich viewer experience both on-site and on-line for millions of fans around the world.
IBM Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social and Security solutions capture, analyze and create compelling, real time fan experiences centered on US Open scores and statistics, hot topics, and breaking news.
64.5 millionweb visits attracted by providing engaging, relevant news as it breaks
22.5 millionapp visits as fans across the globe keep their eyes glued to their screens
Superbuser experience with high-performance, scalable cloud technologies
Business challenge story
Finger on the pulse of the action
For 26 years, the USTA has collaborated with IBM to provide a rich experience for fans, media, coaches and players alike.
“Nowadays, you can’t just provide the scores,” remarks Nicole Jeter-West. “Spectators want deeper analysis and answers to their questions. How do players stack up against each other? What does each player need to do to increase their chances of winning against a particular opponent? To deliver answers to these burning questions, we rely on powerful analytics provided by IBM.”
Data is at the heart of the US Open digital experience—both on site and around the world. IBM captures, analyzes, and creates compelling, real time fan experiences centered on US Open data, including scores and statistics, hot topics, and breaking news across all tournament digital platforms.
Enriching the fan experience
IBM captures data on court in real time as matches progress. The data comes from multiple sources including: The chair umpire, who notes objective measures such as scores, aces and double faults. Tennis statisticians in the broadcast booth, who note subjective measures such as winners and errors. The radar system, which measures serve speed. The official line calling system, which generates ball and player position data.
IBM integrates the live match data with historical player, match and tournament data, and uses the results to feed scoreboards and electronic displays, on-site media (including TV broadcasters and print journalists), and the official website and mobile apps.
To help media cover the tournament, IBM provides consoles at each of the hundreds of desks in the on-site media center. These consoles give reporters historical and live data and analysis, including players’ individual and head-to-head stats, schedules and tournament information, as well as live video feeds from the courts, match replays and player interviews.
Broadcast commentators also have consoles in the broadcast booth, displaying real-time and historical data that helps them to identify key statistics and put them into context during matches. This data also feeds the broadcast graphics that appear on TV coverage.
The match data that IBM captures in real time is automatically synchronized with match video. This synchronization enables players, coaches and journalists on site to review matches and filter for video of specific shot types (viewing only the forehand winners in a match, for example). Previously, this range of information was only accessible if the user consulted multiple different sources. Integrating the data has driven more meaningful use and facilitated insightful analysis for players, coaches and on-site media.
This video and match data analysis is valuable for players and coaches too, so IBM provides it to them within 30 minutes of the conclusion of each match. They can access the analysis via a player-only website, and they are also issued with personal USB keys that contain all the match data.
The same data and insight that supports media, players and coaches is also the foundation of a robust US Open digital experience for fans.
IBM’s fan-facing real-time and historical data analysis tool, SlamTracker®, is available both on the website and on the US Open iPad app. SlamTracker® provides fans with real time scores and stats, as well as contextual analysis to better explain the numbers.
Before matches, SlamTracker’s “Keys to the Match” uses IBM predictive analytics technology to examine over 41 million data points, including competitors’ historical head-to-head results, individual players’ previous matches, and statistics against comparable opponents. Based on the analysis, the software identifies the three key strategies that are likely to affect the dynamics of a particular match. As the match unfolds, fans can track the athletes’ progress against their keys in real time.
During matches, SlamTracker also provides point-by-point analysis of the match and insight into how each player is performing. For example, if a point ends with a forehand winner, SlamTracker may dynamically create a graphic showing how many winners each player has hit in the match so far.
SlamTracker combines layers of data to create context that would be difficult to do without analytics tools. For example, adding player movement data to shot performance creates a new dimension for player and match analysis, uncovering more patterns that can affect outcomes.
In addition to analyzing stats and scores, fans love to read about their favorite players and the most exciting matches. The USTA has a substantial editorial team that creates content throughout the tournament in real time. Each match creates so much real-time data that it is a challenge for the USTA editorial team to follow multiple matches at once. IBM Streams follows the live data from each court and identifies player, match and tournament milestones, enabling the USTA to identify exciting stories and breaking news as it happens.
Nicole Jeter-West adds: “This year, for the first time, we were able to automatically notify our editorial team of new records, interesting statistics and championship milestones. By selecting the most interesting, eye-catching content and publishing it quickly on our digital and social platforms, we can offer a richer fan experience.”
To better understand fan sentiment, IBM analyzes Twitter posts about players while they are on court, including assessments of the volume and tone of the conversation over the course of the tournament. Just as fans in a stadium get a sense of the crowd favorite based on audience cheers, IBM’s social analysis offers insight into fan sentiment on Twitter.
The US Open digital platforms also provide opportunities for fans to connect with each other on a variety of social platforms to share opinions and tournament information.
Nicole Jeter-West comments: “Starting this year, fans can share SlamTracker insights on Facebook. By encouraging spectators to discuss these insights on social media, we can feed the buzz around the tournament.”
Delivering the best content—anywhere, anytime
Over 55 percent of fan visits to US Open digital platforms come from mobile devices, so IBM provides mobile content across six platforms, including a mobile-friendly website and native apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
“Our apps and website feature live streams of match data, highlights, videos, interviews, match schedules, radio and player information,” says Nicole Jeter-West. “Because the platforms are continuously updated with the most engaging content, we can keep fans’ eyes glued to their screens. In 2015, the apps clocked up over 22.5 million visits—the highest ever—from over one million unique users. Meanwhile, the website attracted over 64.5 million page visits, including more than 5.8 million video views.
“To further enhance our mobile offering, this year we have introduced automated alerts to notify users whenever live video content becomes available. And for fans who are lucky enough to visit the tournament in person, we have launched a loyalty program that encourages them to visit key locations within the grounds.”
The scope of the US Open digital experiences requires a robust and flexible infrastructure—for a few weeks of the year. The USTA is a medium-sized non-profit organization – but for two weeks every year, it grows to the size and complexity of a small city. A commensurate level of growth is also seen in its digital traffic. To help the USTA sustain this growth while managing variable infrastructure needs and costs, IBM hosts the US Open digital platforms on a hybrid cloud infrastructure.
The IBM Cloud that supports the US Open shares resources with organizations that require capacity at other times during the year, enabling the USTA to benefit from a large, resilient and scalable infrastructure while managing its IT investment.
SoftLayer allows the USTA to deliver enough performance to support rapid browsing for millions of users on its digital platforms during the tournament. Even when there are unexpected spikes in user numbers, SoftLayer can seamlessly add extra capacity to keep browsing fast and uninterrupted for all. The cloud architecture provides outstanding resiliency, helping the USTA avoid unexpected downtime when the eyes of the world are on the tournament.
“Three data centers and two SoftLayer pods help us offer the kind of first-rate fan experience that would usually be far beyond the means of a not-for-profit like the USTA,” explains Nicole Jeter-West. “SoftLayer also enables us to launch new features and applications for our digital platforms faster than ever before, because we can deploy a new environment in a matter of minutes.”
The superb fan experience is also supported by cutting-edge IBM Power Systems servers, IBM WebSphere and IBM Tivoli technology.
As more and more spectators experience the US Open through digital channels, maintaining impenetrable cybersecurity defenses becomes a top priority.
Nicole Jeter-West continues: “The attention generated by the US Open makes the IT infrastructure a target for security threats. We use IBM technology to analyze web traffic, gain a single view of all security events, and rapidly identify and address malicious attacks. With the IBM solution in place, we are well-equipped to defend our data and infrastructure.”
She concludes: “Digital technology plays a vital and expanding role in providing a world-class fan experience. Thanks to IBM, we’re ahead of the game.”
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) is the national governing body for the sport of tennis and the recognized leader in promoting and developing the sport’s growth on every level in the United States, from local communities to the crown jewel of the professional game, the US Open.
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The IBM Cognitive, Analytics, Cloud, Mobile and Social technologies that combine to create the US Open digital fan experience are also available as domain and industry solutions that deliver new value to businesses and organizations across industries around the world.