Exclusive: NBA’s official highlight creator WSC Sports explains how its technology works

The playoffs alone delivered several thousand highlight-worthy plays.

Via NBA.com

The NBA bubble is no more, yet the memories created in that isolated location in Orlando won’t soon be forgotten – certainly not while the many highlights remain. As we all saw, the league managed to complete its 2019/20 campaign following a coronavirus-prompted shut down in March, and things look to be well on schedule for a return on the proposed December 22 date.

The 2020 playoffs will go down as one of the most memorable in recent times. The Miami Heat’s improbable run, the Denver Nuggets coming back from 3-1 twice and, of course, the Los Angeles Lakers’ long-awaited return to the top of the totem pole. The NBA postseason was filled with unforgettable moments which were followed up by nifty highlights to speedy effect, much to the delight of the adoring public.

In case you were amazed at the fact that various social media outlets, apps, subscription services, and websites were able to distribute highlights so quickly after the plays actually happened, look no further than WSC Sports. The AI sports video provider, an official NBA partner, can boast having created 67,290 highlight clips from the playoffs alone.

Via WSC Sports

The footage, processed and analyzed mere seconds after various plays occurred, was created automatically, bereft of human interference. A total of 2,747 dunk highlights were singled out, packaged, and distributed across multiple platforms over the course of the playoffs, while 1,718 three-pointers (including that game-winner from Luka Doncic that brought a double-bang out of Mike Breen) were immortalized all via artificial intelligence.

WSC Sports now serves around 150 clients in total, lending its tech to media distribution outlets across the sporting world. Where the NBA playoffs are concerned, 30 of those clients used the company’s service to create a combined 67K+ of highlights.

You might be wondering how AI is able to determine which parts of a basketball game are actually highlight-worthy without the input of a human being. We were wondering the same – so we asked.

WSC’s Director of Marketing and Business Development Galit Shiri was happy to tell us how the company’s tech is able to fashion such noteworthy plays in so little time all on its own.

“Well, that’s the automagical part,” she explained. “We use advanced algorithms that analyze video, audio and data feeds to identify each and every action that occurs throughout a sporting event. Those algorithms determine the perfect “In” and “Out” points for each such action clip – as if a human video editor has cut it – and give a rating to each clip, determining the importance it holds in terms of interest and storytelling. It also includes all the metadata to each event, so that all the information is attached to the clip.

“While the game, match, or just plainly – the event is being played, the platform indexes the actions in this manner – which makes it possible to retrieve any action to compile any sort of highlight.”

Despite all of the excitement coming from the bubble TV ratings were actually down. However, just about everyone who paid attention is aware the NBA’s move to Orlando was a profound success. Given the advent of technology, television is hardly the sole resource for sports viewing in this day and age.

“TV ratings were reported to be down for all major US sports in the past few months, this could be for a number of reasons – a global pandemic is a significant one, for sure, but in particular the changing ways in which modern fans consume sports played a big part here. Leagues and broadcasters offer fans much more content surrounding games than ever before on more platforms and devices,” Galit explained. “For example, you’ll likely see short clips on Twitter, longer highlights on YouTube, and then vertical video highlights on Instagram stories. Not to mention footage shared on team and league apps and sports subscription services. Essentially each and every type of fan is being served the content they desire for the platform they use the most making up for any dip in TV ratings.”

Galit would not be drawn into discussing WSC’s contractual relationship with the NBA for professional reasons but it’s all pretty amazing how the company came out of virtually nowhere to secure a partnership with one of the most-watched leagues in the world.

Via WSC Sports

As you might imagine, WSC came from humble beginnings and, like an aspiring basketball prospect, worked it’s way up from the G League to earn a contract with the NBA (yes, literally).

“WSC Sports started developing its automation solution back in 2011,” the marketing director recalled. “The first stage besides building the technology was also getting right into the market to understand the real needs and use-cases, and finding product-market-fit – meaning to solve a real pain or problem that exists.

“In 2013 the company raised its first round of funding which, as most startups know, is as hard as can be, especially back in 2013 when sports tech wasn’t as popular and common a sector as it is today. By 2014 we’d already started utilizing the platform with Big East Conference and the D League (which later became the G League). Fast forward a year later and the NBA became our prized client, with which we continued to develop the technology and added various more functionalities to the initial content automation solution.”

As impressive as WSC’s tech already is, the folks over there are already working towards developing new products, improving the platform, and its offerings. They promise an even better 2021.

“Thinking of how we grew during 2020, both in terms of the business and products – 2021 is going to be just as impressive, if not even more so,” Galit assures.