One of the world’s most exciting sports tech businesses is Israeli based WSC Sports.
At the core of the company’s global growth is their smart video creation platform which uses artificial intelligence to scan and analyse sports broadcasts in real time to identify in-game events to generate customised video highlights of every player, team or moment at scale. And from there it makes it easily publishable across any digital media channel for fans.
The possibilities WSC’s partners can extract from their platform is enormous, rights holders can boost exposure of any aspect of their properties while developing new monetisation opportunities.
Most of all, they have transformed the sports fan experience for global sports leagues and publishers such as the NBA, WSL, FIBA, MLS and Bleacher Report, to name just a few.
WSC recently brought on board former managing director of Nielsen Sports and Repucom Guy Port to be their first person on the ground in Australia and Asia-Pacific. In this conversation, Port detailed to us the excitement and challenges of growing the company’s footprint in the region.
You’ve been in the role for a little while, what are you tasked with in the region?
Guy Port: “Even though I’m the first employee based on the ground here in APAC, before I started we had a good presence in the region and have a great stable of Australian clients such as the NBL and Cricket Australia. Some of our global clients like the NBA and WSL publish significant volumes of content that originates from WSC into the Australian market.
“In terms of myself on the ground here it’s the start of our commitment to growing in the region and offering that local, on the ground contact for our existing and future clients.”
What excites you about WSC’s tech that encourages you to grow the business?
GP: “I’ve been in the sports business area for over 15 years and come from an angle, working with Repucom and Nielsen Sports where I observed the market from a research and consulting perspective.
“If you simply look at the current environment, what is happening in sport and how fans are consuming content, there’s been a rise in the importance of highlights and short-form video as a key fan touchpoint. Whilst it has also become one of the big commercial drivers, it’s this perfect intersection of market dynamics and a requirement for a solution that’s exactly where WSC fits in.
“What’s exciting for me is seeing the technology in action. I love seeing the way it’s changed how our clients are working with video content. For WSC’s partners, it’s thinking what is their potential if they removed any limitations with manual content creation. What they can achieve via increased personalisation and speed to market of video. Last year we produced over seven million highlights, a staggering number that before simply wasn’t possible.”
Where’s the growth verticals for WSC in APAC?
GP: “If you look at who we’re working with at the moment, the question we ask is ‘do you have rights to digital video?’ If you do, then you have the opportunity to partner with WSC.
“Our current partners are a broad range of sports properties with leagues and teams, media organisations – television networks, OTT networks – and content aggregators who buy and distribute content. We see all of these verticals as relevant for growth in Australia and Asia-Pacific, both within local markets and at a pan-regional level.”
What is the potential regional strategy to grow WSC’s footprint in a region where budgets could be smaller, rights holders and leagues have very localised reach compared to some of the company’s current clients?
GP: “If you compare reach and eyeballs on content within Asia to Australia or a single market in Europe, Asia is a lot bigger and that’s where we see the potential.
“From the perspective of budget and resourcing, what we’re hearing from out in the market in Asia and what clients are telling us is that they want to punch above their weight in terms of creating digital content, looking for cloud-based solutions that won’t require big teams or infrastructure to operate and they want to be able to really match some of the global trends in how they distribute content. This fits perfectly with our AI technology and how we are working across sports.
“We also see a number of unique local trends in the region, a great example in the Asian markets is the potential of micro payments. High volume, low cost monetisation of video in sport and how WSC can create commercial opportunities for our partners.”
An Australian may well be reticent to micro paying for clips and highlights but it’s really interesting that it can be viable to Asian audiences.
GP: “It’s about the penetration of mobile. You’re actually seeing more sports video on screens than ever before in Asia. When you look at the opportunity to deliver content to those screens and how you charge and monetise it, I think you can become really flexible in new ways to engage with your fans.”
In your experience what are the differences between Australian and Asian clients that you have to be mindful of considering?
GP: “We can look at this from multiple angles. Australia is a very unique sports market, it’s really one of the most developed and sophisticated sports markets in the world. When I say developed, it’s both from the creators of the content and the fans. We see the large deals rights holders are receiving for their content and the resources within their team. But also the fan expectations, your Australian sports fan expects a very high level of service and access to content.
“Then you compare that to what’s happening in Asia. Firstly, grouping Asia as a region is extremely tough because of its diversity market to market. The one thing that’s really changed when you look at digital video and the space that we’re working, it’s all about mobile and sports video has never had a bigger potential reach. For WSC, our AI and automation technology is really for this purpose, we want to partner with all properties around Asia large or small and help explode the amount of video they’re delivering to fans. This in itself will create a new cycle of revenue opportunities.”
That moves to my next point, this localisation of content. Of course it is important, but describe the extent of it?
GP: “When you’re talking about localisation it even goes a step further and we’re talking about personalisation. In sport it’s critical because of the way fans behave. In each market, the environment is different, quite simply how an individual fan reacts in India differs to China.
“For an individual fan they want to follow a particular team or player, even for you and I, we could be watching an element during a game and we both want to see a different component of that with video. As the sports themselves become more sophisticated with their own CRM’s and understanding what fans want, then WSC can ensure that content follows the same path.
“A great example of this is the NBA and case studies of geographic localisation. One night Steph Curry scored 50+ points and the highlights related to that game was the most engaging in the US. During that same night a Rudy Gobert Blocks video was the most engaging content in France, with twice the views. Then look to Australia where we have increased appeal in seeing video from Ben Simmons.
“Our partnership with the NBA’s Facebook Messenger continues this trend and is all about putting control in the hands of the fan and giving them on-demand content, clips and highlights.”
What are some other innovative ways that rights holders have used WSC’s tech?
GP: “I think we’re really lucky that when you look at our clients they’re pushing us by asking us to solve creative challenges in the way video is delivered. Some of our innovations is in really interesting spaces particularly the use of video within betting on the back of regulatory changes in the US in the past 12 months. Another innovation is the use of real-time video to be used in advertising to promote tune-in or payment.
“As well as publishing points of delivery, for example we’ve had a big focus on how we automate dynamic vertical video for the likes of the way platforms such as Facebook are serving video these days.”
Looking ahead at the whole year, what is WSC wanting to achieve and what is the company forecasting?
GP: “We want every single sports rights owner utilising WSC and our technology to help create video content that engages fans. That’s not just here in Australia or Asia, but around the world.”