The use of data has been a central part of LaLiga’s strategy for five years, with the league’s business intelligence and analytics department creating a huge variety of tools that collect and analyse relevant information from all areas of LaLiga’s business.
This extends to sporting data thanks to Mediacoach, the real-time platform developed by LaLiga to analyse live matches with the help of artificial intelligence. Using perimeter cameras installed around all pitches of LaLiga, the platform automatically captures precise player movements and ball positions as the match is taking place.
Mediacoach is already made available to every club of LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank to make informed tactical decisions. But for this season, this data is also being incorporated into the match broadcasts themselves, with the objective of entertaining the league’s global fanbase.
A dozen new match graphics
For the 2020/21 season, LaLiga is introducing a range of new 3D graphics that utilise Mediacoach data to enhance its broadcasts.
During the match, viewers can see real-time heat maps that depict how far and where a specific player has run. They can also see visualisations of how often a team has attacked down the right-wing, left-wing or through the middle. Before a corner is taken, another graphic shows the percentage chance that the kick will be played into the six-yard box, the wider penalty area or played short.
In total, up to twelve new graphics are available to illustrate specific scenarios on the pitch and may be used throughout the season.
“The data helps with the storytelling of the match,” explained Roger Brosel, head of content and programming at LaLiga. “We have designed visualisations that are very clear and explain a situation clearly in 5-10 seconds. The graphics are not used to invade or complicate the match but to compliment what the viewer is watching.”
The benefit of remote production
The graphics are made possible through the link between the Mediacoach team and Mediapro, the production partner of LaLiga. As the Mediacoach platform captures the data in the match, it is fed automatically to the team’s studio in Barcelona, where it is passed through a graphics engine to create the new visuals. The process can be done in almost real-time meaning that viewers are always seeing the most current data of the match.
“Managing the process centrally rather than on-site in each stadium is an important factor,” Brosel continued. “With the data fed to us automatically we can respond faster to what is happening in the game and we can also ensure consistency. All LaLiga matches can benefit from these innovations.”
Extending the match narrative
Beyond the match broadcast itself, these new graphics are already making an impact on LaLiga’s social channels, where football data has risen sharply in popularity.
“Data helps to tell hidden stories of a match and drives lots of discussion,” Brosel noted, highlighting a recent post that illustrates how Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois reacted to changing ball movements. “These narratives can last all week, long beyond the match itself.”
As an AI platform, Mediacoach captures almost endless data regarding the players on the pitch, meaning there is significant potential for new content throughout this season and beyond.
“We might share data that was broadcast in the match or other information that we gathered but did not broadcast,” Brosel said. “In this way we can help enhance our social media output with something immersive that goes beyond match visuals.”
Maintaining the emotional pull
With global competitions taking place without fans inside the stadiums, match broadcasting has come into sharper focus in recent months. LaLiga was the only major sports competition to create virtualised stands for its broadcasts, an initiative that proved overwhelmingly popular among its global TV audience.
The creation of new 3D graphics and real-time data is intended not as a pandemic measure, but to continue a tradition of data-led innovations that has come to define all parts of LaLiga.
“We aim to create the best-produced sports competition in the world,” Brosel concluded. “This does not mean innovating for innovation’s sake, but making considered improvements that inform and entertain our viewers. Football connects with fans on an emotional level and this should always be reflected in our broadcasts.”