Giving a much richer experience - Aus Open brings innovation

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 19 January 2016
Swiss ace Roger Federer takes on Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round. Surrounding centre court are advertising walls that animate in between games.

The change of ends at the Australian Open will never be the same again.

A major innovation at this year's grand slam is the digital LED screen walls surrounding the centre court and Margaret Court Arena. Previously, sponsors had static branding that was painted on, but this year there are screens that bring the brand message to life.

“These digital walls provide this really rich, immersive experience at the change of ends, or change of match," Tennis Australia manager of digital and publishing Kim Trengove says. "It then goes back to static when play is back on.”

They certainly look more interesting to spectators at the event and offer sponsors another bit of added value.

For fans, this year's Australian Open will look and feel a bit different. For starters, the Australian Open website has a new look, a clean magazine-style layout that is powered by IBM's SlamTracker, providing real-time results, analysis and notifications of how your favourite tennis stars are doing.

At least 50 editorial staff power the content that appears on the site, which is relatively well stocked for a major sports event outside of the Olympic Games.

“Because the content is so great and we are producing all of this in-house in partnership with IBM it gives fans a much richer experience,” Trengove says.

There's even a tool that analyses what a player needs to do to win a match mid-game. And this is the sort of analysis that goes beyond the obvious, such as telling our Sam Stosur not to hit so many unforced errors in her first round loss to Kristyna Pliskova last night.

On mobile phones, the Australian Open app is powered by IBM's MatchCentre, which provides fans with pretty much everything tennis – scores, match reports, player profiles, blogs, pictures, video and so on – at your fingertips. In fact, the Australian Open app is one of the most comprehensive, content rich sports event tools for portable devices going around.

Another feature this year is the social dashboard, which is basically a digital wall of tournament alerts in real-time. The Australian Open social team updates all the time so fans can be even more up to speed with what's going on. In the social media age, notifications are a big deal and you are able to select your favourite players to receive live alerts on your phone, if you like.

This year IBM and Tennis Australia packaged the website and mobile app differently in order not to confuse fans. But in the future, expect a single product that can be personalised to the viewer's needs.

“You'd be able to come in and move modules around the desktop, choose what content modules you'd receive, pick which player you'd want to follow and it would just serve information about that player. Or you might choose just to follow players from America,” Trengove says.

“You'd effectively be designing your own site and experience.”

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