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Icons of Progress

Innovating the Fan Experience

IBM100 Innovating the Fan Experience iconic mark

Not too long ago, if you didn’t have a ticket to the Wimbledon Championships, you could stand outside the courts at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) in London, listening for the sound of hands clapping to try to figure out what was going on inside, or you could stay home and watch the matches on television. That was until 2010, when IBM made it possible to virtually see through the walls at Courts 1, 2 and Centre Court. Using the IBM ® Seer augmented reality application, iPhone and Android users could point their phone in the direction of the court they wanted to see and watch live video feeds of the matches being played inside.

IBM and the AELTC have been collaborating for more than two decades to push the envelope on sports entertainment. IBM has managed everything from the entry of stats and scores into the Wimbledon Information System, to the official web site, which served nearly 307 million page views to more than 11.5 million unique users looking for stats, scores, photos and videos over the course of the 2010 Championships.

The Seer application is just one of the technological innovations IBM has developed and implemented for Wimbledon. Since 1990, IBM has been the Official Supplier of Information Technology and IT Consultancy for the AELTC and Wimbledon, and has worked to help keep the atmosphere and tradition of a small private member’s club intact, while keeping up with the ever-accelerating information demands of a new generation of fans.

Starting two weeks before the event, IBM arrives and begins building a command centre to track and instantly communicate scores, stats and news from the tournament. When the on-court referee awards a point to a player, the information appears around the world in real time.

“IBM is here to show how, by using smart, interconnected technology, and applying some intelligence and some clever software, you can actually enhance the experience of whatever you’re doing, whether it’s a tennis tournament, a trip to the shops, [or] a manufacturing process,” says Alan Flack, IBM Wimbledon Client and Program Executive. “It really is about how we can apply technology and innovation to all walks of life and effectively help make the world work better than it does today.”

IBM collaborates with all the Grand Slam tennis events to deliver “smarter fan” experiences—the Australian Open, the US Open and the French Open—and works with organizations including the US Golf Association, the National Football League and FOX Sports.

The company’s involvement in the media and entertainment industry extends beyond the world’s favorite sporting events. IBM developed and supplies the processor chips that power video game systems like the Sony Playstation, Nintendo Wii and XBox 360. In 2005, IBM shared an Emmy Award with Warner Brothers for its development of the “station in a box,” which enabled the WB Network to broadcast to local markets where there is no broadcast signal. In the 1990s, IBM also created the industry standards and built the silicon processors that enabled audio and video to be digitized, ushering in the age of digital content.

“We are working closely with leading Media and Entertainment firms around the globe—in publishing, broadcast, cable, satellite, information providers, social networking, search and entertainment—to help them transition their enterprises from producing analog content in physical form to distributing digital content over various network architectures, anytime, anywhere and on any device consumers want,” says Steve Canepa, General Manager of IBM Global Media and Entertainment.

Before Napster and YouTube, audio and video was analog, owned and controlled by media companies. The digital revolution brought new avenues for distribution and new rules. Entertainment industry companies now need to both digitally archive historically analog materials—films, photos, music—and learn how to understand and manage the explosion of “unstructured” data, such as social media content from platforms like Twitter and Facebook, blogs, digital video and photos, and user-created content that is published every minute.

IBM’s Media and Entertainment division works to help its clients develop new business models that embrace innovative ways of delivering content to customers. The IBM Media Enterprise Framework focuses on open, standards-based platforms, streamlined workflows that include content from user-created and professional sources, and new business intelligence about consumer preferences and buying behavior. The company is also working on solutions to archive historical media, such as the IBM-designed film preservation solution to convert nitrate film stock dating back to the late 1880s, which would allow the world’s film heritage to be digitally captured.

Wimbledon, one of the world’s most-watched tennis events, and the flow of scores, statistics and news from it, acts as a microcosm for the increasingly instrumented and content-oriented world. Using the same technology and data solutions developed to provide a smarter fan experience at Wimbledon, IBM continues to work with media and entertainment companies, as well as businesses in the financial, retail and distribution industries, to help them understand, manage and use that information to engage the consumers of today and tomorrow.


Selected team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress:

  • Steve Canepa General Manager, IBM Global Media and Entertainment Industry Division
  • Alan Flack IBM Client and Programme Executive, All England Lawn Tennis Club
  • Cesar Gonzales Electronics Industry Executive, IBM Research
  • Peter Guglielmino CTO, IBM Media and Entertainment Group
  • Jim Rudd Practice Leader, IBM Interactive
  • Rick Singer Vice President, IBM Client Executive Marketing
  • Jim Kahle Chief Architect, IBM Power Hybrid Systems