Week 194 (1 - 7 July 2017)
For two weeks each year the sporting world hones in on the tennis courts of London SW19 and the iconic tournament that is the Wimbledon Championships. Fans are overcome by “Murray Mania”, “Federer Fever” or even the “Konta Craze” as they cheer on their favourite players, all of whom are bidding to win a grand slam. Who could forget last year’s magical moment when British qualifier Marcus Willis walked out on to Centre Court to face seven-time champion Roger Federer. Though it wasn’t a fairy-tale ending and Federer progressed to the next round, it was a phenomenal achievement for Willis, who got to live out a boyhood dream.
But behind the strawberries and cream, all-white dress code and world-class performances there are a number of teams working to put on a spectacle for both those courtside and the millions of people watching around the world. In recent years, it has become a priority for the AELTC to advance its broadcast operations in order to fully supplement the demand for more in-depth coverage.
2017 will be the last year that the BBC is host broadcaster following the AELTC’s decision to take over the role in-house through the Wimbledon Channel. It is hoped that the move will allow for a technological revolution at the heart of such an established institution.
The decision to partner with tech giant IBM is central to the AELTC’s plans for a more sophisticated broadcast hub. IBM Watson is the platform that runs the company’s artificial intelligence software and it will be used to compile highlights footage from the six main courts in almost half the time it took when done manually.
Watson’s learned technique allows for the system to recognise crowd noise and facial reactions, as well as monitoring specific subjects on social media, so as not to miss any of the best moments from each day.
As well as faster highlights, fans will be able to watch increased television coverage as the provider looks to begin at 9am rather than the current 12pm. Social media users may have also noticed that live action is readily available on their smartphone, with the AELTC having secured an agreement with Twitter to broadcast matches from No. 2 Court. Streamed alongside up-to-the-minute tweets, the aim is that this avenue will help to reach more tennis fans across the globe.
"The All England Club continues to transform the experience for fans on Twitter, a place where tennis conversation is happening live in real time every day,” Anthony Noto, Twitter’s Chief Operating Officer told The Drum. “Our collaboration will provide fans on Twitter access to coverage from around the grounds while following the conversation all on one screen."
The Wimbledon app has also been improved for this year’s Championships. Powered by IBM, spectators will be able to ask logistical questions through a “chat-app” and receive answers instantly. Users will also have the added feature of 360⁰ views from the practice courts, which have previously been off-limits to cameras.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club is looking to the future in order to keep pace with current digital trends and protect the organisation’s global identity. Alexandra Willis, head of communications, content and digital at the AELTC, believes the change to become host broadcaster is about removing any limitations and taking creative control.
“We know Wimbledon has fantastic brand awareness but is it truly understood? Some of our global partners don’t know what makes Wimbledon truly unique and why it’s different. We need to help them and taking over as host broadcaster is about that. It’s more in service of education so that we’re able to enable the things they want to.”
The Championships are notoriously difficult to get tickets for and fans camp overnight for an opportunity to see their favourite stars on Centre Court. But these innovative new ideas will help to bring all fans closer to the action, and that is why the AELTC is the JTA Communicator of the Week.