With the 2019 Football season fast approaching, over ten million people are preparing to draft their winning team on the ESPN Fantasy App. This is great news for ESPN, because that means their users will be spending billions of minutes on the App setting their line ups, researching their favorite players, and smack talking. In order to continue to serve this massive population and keep users coming back each season, ESPN made the strategic decision to team up with IBM’s Watson to add new features to their platform. So what does this enhancement ultimately mean for the end user?
Prior to Watson, some ESPN Fantasy Football players would spend endless hours researching their players through news articles, blogs, podcasts, social media, and previous stat sheets to determine who they should draft and who they should start. While other Fantasy players would simply play the game of risk, making uneducated decisions based on personal preference, and hope for the best. Although both strategies may have proven to be successful for some, with the incorporation of Watson, all users can have the facts at their fingertips to make educated decisions and enhance the user experience.
Watson was initially trained to analyze all the unstructured data pertaining to football and organize it into something Fantasy players can use. This included thousands of news stories, expert opinion pieces written by fantasy sports gurus, and hard numbers (including performance and injury reports for each of the players in the league), and other media as well. From this information, Watson was able to develop a scoring mechanism for players, determining their ups and downs, and estimating the chances that the player will exceed up or fall below the down side. These estimations are considered the “boom” and “bust” possibilities of a player. With this information, the end user can appraise each player to evaluate their opportunities and threats of starting an individual. Watson is also able to assess media buzz to help determine the likely hood of a player to start for any given game which helps to alleviate the fear of wasting a space on the user’s roster.
All in all, as Watson’s database continues to grow and develop, more information will be readily accessible for the end user. The machine can develop new ways to evaluate data to provide more insights as the evolution continues. The benefits for all parties involved (Watson, ESPN and the users) can be both intellectually and monetary astronomical. ESPN believes that the more successful Fantasy fans are, the more time they will spend with ESPN. The more successful Fantasy fans are, the more they can brag about their experience and influence others to be come a part of this growing community.
IBM. (2019). Fantasy Insights with Watson
Front Office Sports. (2019, Feb 22nd). How IBM’s Watson Improved the ESPN Fantasy Football Experience
Baughman, Aaron. (2017, Dec 14th). Watson’s Artificial Intelligence Helps Millions of ESPN Fantasy Football Owner Make Better Decisions
IBM. (2019). How an IBMer Used Watson to Stack His Fantasy Football Team – and Go Undefeated