Game, set, match: 2016 US Open serves up mobile experiences to fans

By Elizabeth O'Brien

The US Open, the final tennis Grand Slam of the year, begins this week, and I have my phone charged and the Official US Open app ready to go! Even though I’m onsite during much of the US Open, I see less of the action than I would like. However, I keep up with scores and statistics on my phone, iPad and notebook throughout.

The US Open is one of the most highly attended annual sporting events in the world, with more than 700,000 fans onsite during the two-week tournament, according to NYCdata. However, that number pales in comparison to the more than 16 million fans who watch and follow the tournament on one of the US Open’s six platforms. The number of digital fans continues to grow, and mobile consumption is increasingly driving that growth.

Mobile takes over at the US Open

In 2015, the US Open continued to see a large shift in traffic toward mobile devices with 63 percent of all digital engagement, according to Sports Business Daily. In 2015, there were 5.6 million unique users across all US Open mobile platforms (a 29 percent increase over 2014) and 22.5 million visits across the official tournament apps (a 48 percent increase over 2014 and the highest ever recorded). The 2015 mobile website saw 13.4 million visits (a 61 percent increase over 2014).

Though the growth in mobile fans is a trend seen across industries worldwide, it presents unique challenges to a two-week-only annual event: How can we continue to innovate for mobile platforms, exceed previous years’ performance and offer enhanced experiences built on the most innovative technology? How can we continue to add valuable experiences with real-time scores, statistics and news for audiences whose platform of preference is mostly mobile?

SlamTracker goes mobile

This year, SlamTracker will debut for the first time on the US Open mobile platforms. The feature serves up real-time information on aces, winners, serve speed and other key statistics, putting them into context and giving fans an immediate, accurate visual sense of a match in progress. The tracking tool’s “Keys to the Match” feature uses predictive analytics technology and mines more than eight years of Grand Slam Tennis data – 41 million data points – to analyze head-to-head matchups. SlamTracker uses the same data that the on-air commentators use, so it is essentially the insight dashboard for fans. This feature was previously available on the desktop website but is included in the official US Open iOS and Android apps this year.

Watson at the US Open

This year, Watson technology is behind three elements of the US Open digital experience — two that are live and one that is in pilot mode. Watson “sees” all the photos the U.S. Tennis Association editorial team takes (thousands over the course of the tournament), identifies tennis players and celebrities and tags these photos, which makes it easier for editorial teams and fans alike to find images of their favorite players. The computer system is also “listening” to all the on-demand videos and automatically transcribing them and creating subtitles. Because Watson is in pilot mode on the official US Open App, it’s powering a natural language interface for the app’s “guest info” function. Once this pilot goes live, fans will be able to query the app in natural language to get answers to frequently asked questions about the US Open.

That’s a sneak peek at some of the innovations that are designed to bring the tournament closer to its fans. In the meantime, as teams of mobile developers are hard at work delivering the 2016 experience and developing the 2017 evolution, download the US Open app and enjoy the tennis.

Written By

Elizabeth O'Brien

Program Director, WW Sports & Entertainment Sponsorship Marketing | IBM