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Azure, Power BI and Spanish football: a revolution in sports broadcasts

In the world of sports, where every move and decision matters, technology plays a key role in shaping the future of the sport. La Liga’s (Spanish soccer league) partnership with Microsoft is a perfect example of how innovation can radically change the way sports are presented and watched around the world.

Football fans who watch the Spanish league are witnessing a completely new era. It no longer has Cristiano Ronaldo, Leo Messi or Karim Benzema. Jude Bellingham, Vinicius Júnior, Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie De Jong are currently shining on the pitches of La Liga. Comparisons with departing stars are, of course, inevitable. But are we really able to compare past and current champions, since footballers’ actions are shown in a much more accurate and attractive way than a few years ago? Ladies and Gentlemen, you are witnessing a real revolution. For now – as a pilot – it only covers Spanish pitches. However, be sure that soon every match at the highest level will be an amazing, in-depth and personalized experience. An experience made possible by Azure, Microsoft’s public cloud platform.

 

Mediachoach: a new level of data analysis

During each match, 16 cameras placed around the stadium collect up to 3.5 million pieces of data. This impressive amount of information is then processed by the Mediacoach system, La Liga’s flagship analytical tool, powered by Microsoft Azure technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning. It provides clubs with extremely detailed statistics, valuable tips on tactics and preparation for matches. For fans, this means access to previously unavailable data and analytics that bring each match to life and increase their engagement.

 

Let’s take a look at the pre-match analysis of a sample match, made possible by the Beyond Stats tool, part of the Microsoft and La Liga analytics project. It will be a confrontation between two Madrid teams: Atletico and Real. Here is a handful of data collected and processed by the above-mentioned. tool:

  • Real Madrid stands out as the leader in dangerous possession and is second in the Spanish league in the number of “high scoring” actions, while Atlético de Madrid is second in finishing efficiency – they score a goal every 4.7 shots.
  • Atletico is characterized by a low defense line and effective interruption of rival attacks, which makes it one of the best in La Liga in this respect.
  • Mediacoach’s analyzes indicate the key role of players such as Morata, Depay and Llorente in the effectiveness of finishing the action.
  • Real Madrid stands out for its intensity of play and dominance on the pitch, being the second team in terms of distances covered at speeds above 21 km/h.
  • Real have the most shots per match and an impressive percentage of shots on target, although this does not necessarily translate into effectiveness.
  • Real Madrid’s key players are Toni Kroos and Jude Bellingham. Kroosem is the leader in terms of participation in decisive actions (after which goals are scored), while Bellinghamem is the leading scorer in the Spanish league.

MediaCoach Beyond Stats

Mediacoach, thanks to cooperation with Beyond Stats and Microsoft Azure technology, not only provides this type of data, but also offers deep insight into the tactics and strategy of both teams. This level of detail and analysis is unprecedented in the history of football, giving fans and professionals alike a new perspective on the game. This tool is not only a treasure trove of data, but above all a platform enabling a deeper understanding of football, its strategy and tactics, both before and during the match.

 

Innovations for Spanish league broadcasters

As part of cooperation with Microsoft Azure, the Spanish league is breaking the traditional approach to sports broadcasting, introducing a number of innovations that significantly increase the value of the content offered. The use of advanced tools such as Azure, Dynamics 365, Power BI, SQL Database and Azure Cosmos DB allows La Liga to offer broadcasters an improved streaming platform. Thanks to this, broadcasters have the opportunity to create broadcasts that are not only technologically advanced, but also deeply personalized and tailored to viewers’ expectations.

Engaging viewers, personalizing the experience

  • Recommendations and content tailored to the viewer: Thanks to the use of advanced data analysis and machine learning algorithms, broadcasters can offer viewers content tailored to their preferences. This includes game recommendations, match analysis and personalized summaries.
  • Interactive streaming options: Using Azure allows you to offer viewers options:
    • selection of camera angles,
    • simultaneous operation and transmission of many high-quality video streams, which guarantees smooth transmission regardless of the selected camera angle,
    • quick processing and sharing of replays of key match moments from various perspectives, almost in real time,
    • selection of various audio tracks – from live commentary, through stadium sounds, to personalized commentary,
    • perfect synchronization of audio tracks with the selected video, thanks to Azure’s advanced audio processing capabilities.

Azure uses scalable processing services to handle large numbers of simultaneous requests, which is crucial during large sporting events. The use of machine learning algorithms allows you to optimize the quality of streaming and adapt it to different speeds of users’ Internet connections. It is also worth noting that Azure ensures safe storage and transmission of data, protecting copyrights and user privacy.

 

Advanced analyzes and visualizations: Power BI put to work

In the era of digital transformation of sports, advanced analyzes and data visualizations are becoming an integral part of sports broadcasts. La Liga, using Microsoft tools such as Power BI, SQL Database and Azure Cosmos DB, takes this aspect to a whole new level, providing viewers with a unique and immersive match-watching experience.

Here are examples of advanced data visualizations using Power BI:

  • Interactive dashboards – Power BI allows you to create dynamic dashboards that can display a wide range of statistics, from ball possession percentage to analysis of player movements on the pitch. The interactivity of dashboards allows viewers to explore data, “zoom in” on specific statistics, and obtain more detailed information about specific aspects of the game.
  • Real-time data visualization – using the real-time data transmission functions of Power BI, broadcasters can present changing statistics and analyzes during the match, which allows for ongoing tracking of key moments of the game. From showing changes in team formation to updating individual player statistics, it all provides viewers with deeper insight into strategy and its execution.

La Liga Beyond Stats Azure

Integration with databases such as SQL Database and Azure Cosmos DB ensures that all statistics are updated in real time, offering viewers the freshest and most relevant information. This allows broadcasters to quickly respond to changing playing conditions, updating statistics and analysis without delays. Azure Cosmos DB, a globally distributed database, allows for scalable and flexible storage and processing of huge amounts of match-related data, from player positions to detailed tactical analyses. This ensures smooth and fast delivery of updates, regardless of the number of simultaneous users and queries.

The integration of these advanced analytical tools not only enriches broadcasts, but also allows broadcasters to present the match in a more engaging and educational way. Viewers have the opportunity not only to passively watch the match, but also to actively participate in it by interactively exploring data and statistics. The ability to adjust the displayed data and analyzes to one’s own preferences allows each viewer to experience the match individually, which is crucial in the era of growing expectations of content personalization.

 

You have Azure and Power BI – you rule the stadiums

This paragraph is a bit off-topic, but we wanted to describe how Microsoft takes a “holistic” approach to supporting sporting events. Both Azure and Power BI introduce a new era in sports infrastructure management, improving the safety and comfort of fans’ experiences.

Azure allows you to integrate advanced security systems such as facial recognition and crowd monitoring. This increases the ability to respond to potential threats and improves overall safety in stadiums. Data from security cameras can be analyzed in real time, allowing you to quickly identify and respond to unusual behavior or emergencies. In addition, data collected by various sensors and systems can be used to monitor and manage energy consumption, which contributes to more efficient resource management.

And where is Power BI in all this? Power BI can analyze data on fans’ activity and preferences, enabling the creation of personalized experiences, from seating recommendations to individualized gastronomic offers. The ability to gain insight into fans’ preferences and behavior allows stadium managers to better tailor offers and services, increasing the satisfaction and loyalty of football fans. Dynamic Power BI dashboards can provide stadium management with current information on all operational aspects, from attendance to sales in catering outlets. This makes it possible to quickly respond to changing conditions and optimize resource management in real time.

All this is a serious step towards creating stadiums of the future – more “intelligent”, safe and fully integrated with the needs and expectations of modern sports fans.

 

La Liga: the use of AI and machine learning

Leveraging Microsoft Azure, La Liga has taken artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to a new level, revolutionizing the way football fans experience and understand the game.

Here are some noteworthy, innovative applications of AI and ML:

  • Goal Probability Models: AI and ML allow you to analyze vast amounts of in-game data, including player positioning, ball movement, and shot history, to calculate the probability of a goal being scored in a given situation.
  • Advanced Tactical and Statistical Analysis: AI enables deeper tactical analysis by identifying play patterns, team strategies and individual player skills. Machine learning is used to predict outcomes based on historical data, giving fans and analysts new insights into the game’s potential development.
  • Personalization of content for fans: the use of artificial intelligence to personalize content allows you to tailor broadcasts and content to the individual preferences of fans, offering them unique, tailored experiences. For example, AI can recommend video clips, articles or game analysis based on previous viewing preferences.

AI allows you to automate certain aspects of the broadcast, such as selecting the best moments of the match or generating dynamic graphics and visualizations. Broadcasts can also be enriched, for example, with real-time statistics or player performance analyses.

 

Conclusions: time for other sports?

The LaLiga Tech initiative is now expanding its horizons beyond the world of football towards other sports such as basketball, rugby and tennis. Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service plays a central role in this expansion, opening up new possibilities for customizing and improving sports experiences around the world. Azure OpenAI Service offers access to advanced language models created by OpenAI via the REST API, including new model series such as GPT-4, GPT-4 Turbo with Vision, GPT-3.5-Turbo, and Embedding. These models can be easily adapted to specific applications, including content authoring, text summarization, image analysis, semantic search, and natural language code translation. These services can be accessed via the REST API, Python SDK, or via the Azure OpenAI Studio web interface.

In sports such as basketball and tennis, AI can be used to analyze player strategies, formations and performance, offering both coaches and fans deeper insights into tactics and execution. Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service enables real-time translations, which is crucial for international audiences, allowing fans from different parts of the world to access content in their native language. In those sports where the action is fast and continuous, improved streaming platforms offer the ability to choose camera angles, replays and other interactive elements. Solutions such as 5G and the Azure cloud enable the transmission of high-quality image and sound without delays, which is crucial in fast and dynamic sports. In tennis, these technologies can be used to analyze players’ playing style, strengths and weaknesses, and to create personalized training and match strategies.

As a result, the expansion of LaLiga Tech to other sports using Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service is a significant step towards the globalization and technological development of sports, opening new opportunities for the involvement of fans, coaches and players.

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