The National Football League is tapping Amazon Web Services to help power its “Next Gen Stats” platform.
The NFL announced Wednesday that it will use machine learning and data analytics services built by AWS for Next Gen Stats, a new platform that uses data from player and ball tracking devices to produce new advanced statistics like distance covered, speed, and acceleration — the idea is to better show a receiver’s ability to get open, for example, or how well the offensive line protects the quarterback. The information is shown to fans online and on TV broadcasts; teams also leverage the data internally for strategic purposes.
According the NFL Next Gen Stats, #Cowboys WR Dez Bryant is creating significantly more separation per target this year than he did in 2016.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 25, 2017
On LeSean McCoy's 48-yard TD run, he hit a top speed of 19.68 MPH, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Fastest of the season for him.
— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) October 30, 2017
“By powering Next Gen Stats with AWS, we’ll be able to kick off our 2018 season with even more impactful and meaningful content, uncovering deeper insights into the game of football than we’ve ever done before,” Matt Swensson, vice president of emerging products and technology at the NFL, said in a statement. “We chose AWS because of its combination of advanced cloud offering, powerful machine learning capabilities, and experience operating at the scale we need.”
— AWS re:Invent (@AWSreInvent) November 29, 2017
The NFL started tracking player movement in 2013, when it inked a deal with Zebra Technologies to embed RFID tags in jerseys. This season it added chips inside of the football, adding more context to the player tracking data. Sports Illustrated reported today that this technology could also eventually help referees with in-game calls.
As part of the deal, AWS will become an “official technology provider” of the NFL.
The deal also builds on Amazon’s continued push into the sports world. The company’s cloud computing arm also powers Statcast, the next generation statistics platform for Major League Baseball. Fans may have noticed Amazon branding during broadcasts and across MLB properties throughout the past several seasons.
Amazon even dedicated a paragraph to the MLB partnership in its 2015 letter to shareholders:
Whether you are a startup founded yesterday or a business that has been around for 140 years, the cloud is providing all of us with unbelievable opportunities to reinvent our businesses, add new customer experiences, redeploy capital to fuel growth, increase security, and do all of this so much faster than before. MLB Advanced Media is an example of an AWS customer that is constantly reinventing the customer experience. MLB’s Statcast tracking technology is a new feature for baseball fans that measures the position of each player, the baserunners, and the ball as they move during every play on the field, giving viewers on any screen access to empirical data that answers age-old questions like “what could have happened if…” while also bringing new questions to life. Turning baseball into rocket science, Statcast uses a missile radar system to measure every pitched ball’s movements more than 2,000 times per second, streams and collects data in real-time through Amazon Kinesis (our service for processing real-time streaming data), stores the data on Amazon S3, and then performs analytics in Amazon EC2. The suite of services will generate nearly 7 TB of raw statistical data per game and up to 17 PB per season, shedding quantitative light on age-old, but never verified, baseball pearls of wisdom like “never slide into first.”
Beyond providing technology that helps crunch numbers, Amazon is also getting into streaming live sports. It paid a reported $50 million to stream Thursday Night Football games to Prime subscribers this season. Similar to its work with MLB, Amazon’s branding is certainly prevalent this NFL season.
Looks like Amazon getting that prime ad real estate spot on RedZone this season. Thursday Night Football streaming starts Sept. 28. pic.twitter.com/hJC5J1euo6
— Taylor Soper (@Taylor_Soper) September 10, 2017
Amazon isn’t the only Seattle-area tech giant looking to invest in sports. Microsoft inked a big marketing deal with the NFL in 2013; as part of that, NFL players, coaches, and referees now use the company’s Surface tablet on the sidelines during games. The partnership goes beyond the Surface, too — the Xbox One, for example, is the “official game console of the NFL,” and football fans have probably seen an Xbox-related NFL advertisement or two.
Microsoft also this summer unveiled its new Sports Performance Platform, which helps coaches and trainers analyze data to help improve the health and wellness of their players.