SVG Sit-Down: Zegami CEO Samuel Conway on Importance of Managing, Understanding Data Analytics in Sports

The goal is to help broadcasters and others look at data in a different way

With data analytics continuing to grow in importance for sports broadcasters, teams, leagues, OTT providers, and others, the need to manage, understand, and actually use those analytics is more crucial than ever. Zegami, which recently joined SVG as a corporate sponsor, believes it can help, with a platform that makes data more visual and accessible and enables intuitive exploration, search, and discovery. SVG sat down with Zegami CEO/cofounder Samuel Conway to discuss how he hopes the sports industry will interact with the platform, the importance of managing and understanding data analytics in sports, and what the company hopes to get out of joining SVG.

Zegami is known for being a visual-search and analytics platform that helps users make sense of their data. Why was it important to join the Sports Video Group and tap into the sports-broadcasting industry?
We are an Oxford University startup company that’s been running for two years now, and we’ve got platform technology that can be used in many different applications. One of the [areas] that was of interest to us is sports. We had the Pittsburgh Pirates using the platform for sports analytics and also for managing players, and it looked like a really interesting [use] for the application. That’s why we’re trying to [pursue] sports as a product vertical. It’s something people are passionate about, and we think we can make a difference and change the way in which people consume data around players within the sporting industry.

How have sports broadcasters leveraged your platform in the past, and how do you see it playing a major role in the future? How do you see sports broadcasters benefiting from the Zegami platform?
From a sports-broadcasting perspective, the way the solution works is, we have individual “tiles” that could have anything on it: it could be a player’s data, it could be a video, it could be any piece of information at all. The thing that people are struggling with these days is big data. People are struggling with the amount of information they’re required to consume. What this presents us with is a really cool opportunity to leverage what we do to make information more consumable by people who want access to information.

From a broadcaster’s perspective, if they actually had a lot more availability of stats, if they had the ability to do that sort of ad hoc analysis over data in a quick, simple, and intuitive way, it’s probably going to change the way they see this information. From a broadcaster’s perspective, what we’re hearing is that, whenever you’re doing commentary or whether you’re putting information together for events, you’d like to get those pieces of information that you kind of can’t get from other data sources. Usually, what I find is, those things are just intuitive; they’re information that people store in the back of their head because they’re experienced in what they’re doing.

What we want to present is a solution that enables them to dig out that information that enriches the broadcast, and that’s what we’re hearing from all of these different organizations. We’re still pretty new, but certainly we know that we can help organizations look at their data in a different way.

It’s not just during live broadcast; it’s also the way they present information on their website. It’s all done in a very list-driven fashion. If they used Zegami on their website frontend, then it allows their fans to directly explore the stuff that they want in their own personal manner.

It’s just a spreadsheet of information, which is good in order to get new information across, but what it doesn’t allow you to do is that analysis. What we want to be able to do is turn that spreadsheet of information into usable content and usable information without [broadcasters or fans] having to be a data analyst.

Why are data analytics so important in sports broadcasting? How can a data-analytics platform like Zegami’s enhance the viewer experience?
Data is a new commodity. We’re generating so much information, and even the data itself is so much richer, which really helps us to make decisions. If you can be better informed and better understand the masses of data that are created, you can turn that information into knowledge instead of taking small slices or small snippets of information to try and make decisions on.

Zegami is unique in the way that it presents information, because it gives you the ability to do that ad hoc analysis or start to play with the data or play with the information and answer the questions that you’ve got about the data set. For example, normally what happens with player data is that we group it in predetermined ways: what’s the most number of points someone’s scored, what’s the most number of goals someone’s scored, what’s the most number of touches. It’s all very singular in its point of focus. With Zegami, we could say who’s the fastest player that scored this number of goals in this number of games that’s over this age. We can start to query the data with lots of different questions to filter the experience down for not just the fans but also the coaches and people that want to get into the information. That’s what makes Zegami really powerful.

The other thing is, you don’t need to be a data analyst to do that. You can be anyone really; you don’t have to have a data background to actually be able to play with the data yourself, and that’s incredibly powerful.

What are your goals in the sports-broadcasting industry? What do you want the industry to know about Zegami?
Our goals are that we want to be the top platform to help fans, clubs, and leagues [manage and understand] player data. We want to be the mechanism by which these organizations can consume this information in a way that makes sense and provides real value. Now, whether that’s around the trade table picking better players, whether it’s fans understanding who they’re going to pick in their fantasy leagues, or it’s clubs getting a better 360-degree view of a player and their social-media back ground or where they fit in within the whole player group, we want to be the way clubs and fans and leagues interact with their players.

Today, the world revolves around data, and we need better mechanisms for how to consume that. Whether that’s sport, HR, asset management, financial services, everything is focused on data and information. What we really struggle with is that we’ve got great ways to store this, but how are we challenging the way that we interact with information, and not just those that are skilled but everyone, as opposed to just predictive results and recommendations through Google. We really need a way of turning that into exploration and discovery.

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