Tech, Data, and You

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Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press

Data and analytics pervades nearly aspect of our lives, especially in sports and media and more often now in entertainment. 

The NHL now has smart pucks that track player use and engagement.  In some sense a genius move because it does not require the player to wear anything that invades his privacy further like a wrist band or chip.  The MLB and the Players Union are arguing over whether the lack of a fast-developing free agent market is because of collusion or analytics.  The NBA is using cameras to track player data for analytics and recently introduced fan cameras that helps with marketing and analytics for a more engaging experience.  For the 2018 season, the NFL introduced player data of opponents for analytics and competitive advantage purposes.  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is having its Sloan Sports School of Management Conference this year on the MLS and their growing use of technology to track and analyze data to take an advantage over opponents on the pitch, in the board room, and in marketing and sales.     

On the entertainment side, Legendary Entertainment, a Chinese-owned company is the quintessential modern example of analytics and movies.  Legendary is using data-collection analytics to produce and market (e.g., sell) more films through the old and new four-quadrant models.  IBM and Qubole are just two examples of the growing list of companies servicing the entertainment and media industries as they grow to trust and use data for analytics via social media, sales, and consumer interests.   

The Esports/gaming and its growing billion dollar industry is kind of the marriage between entertainment, media, and sports through technology, data, and analytics.  Social media drives traffic to live events, pomp, and circumstance, while gamers are the talent being paid by media and merchandise deals. 

What does all of this change, numbers, data, information, and analytics mean?  There are three important points to keep in mind.

1. Privacy

Approval has to be granted or the owner has to waive his rights to such data.  This is done through contracts, licensing, and waiver forms.  Before data may be collected, it must be agreed to be collected.  Of course, in the legal terms, this could also mean an assumption of being filmed (think attending a sporting event/read the back of your ticket next time). 

A broader issue, at least when it comes to the players, the athletes whom we watch and analyze, is HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) that the United States Congress passed that provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.  The players through their union generally approve such collection of private data about their bodies.  Of course, many companies have gotten into trouble for collecting data without obtaining the proper approvals.    

2. Usage

The players unions will continue to play an important role because as data becomes more readily available for analyzing it will indeed provide opportunities for placing a level of importance on such information.  This means one company or team will prefer or use data differently for interpretation and implementation.  Whether the entertainment unions will play a role in managing data is yet to be seen and even though more movie sales and television views are great for the bottom-line, data might also mean some movies and television shows are not made from the creatives based on data and analytics where actors and below the line talent are also out of work.  Sounds a lot like Major League Baseball’s current dilemma. 

3. Protection

The proverbial bag or Pandora’s Box has been opened with data and analytics.  It is safe to say that information-collecting will continue to grow.  Protection will play an important role in collecting, using, sharing, and analyzing data about people.  The public, the studios, and the leagues are the gate-keepers.  On the one hand, a hockey puck will say a skater has slowed a step or two and that will likely mean less money in a free agent year.  However, on the other hand, it also allows people, executives, and businesses to make rational decisions based on what the data is telling them.  Of course, the problem becomes what is more important, data or intangibles?  The best analysts will use both, responsibly.    

We live in an interesting time where data can seem like it is very important, however, it has and always will be more important on how we collect, use, and interpret data.  Having data is not enough, analyzing determines outcomes and plans for company, league, and franchise action.  Ethics will continue to play a role with intangibles that cannot be quantified, but qualified by data analytics.   

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