Emerging Tech, Data & Media

NFL enlists Amazon Alexa to help fans understand game

Move marks football league’s first venture into voice-enabled platforms.

by Sam Carp

NFL enlists Amazon Alexa to help fans understand game

The National Football League (NFL) has launched a new skill on Amazon’s artificial intelligence (AI) product Alexa to help fans better understand the sport.

The Rookie’s Guide to the NFL, which was made available on Thursday ahead of this season’s play-offs, is equipped with 2,000 terms related to positions, formations, rules, players and other information.

Viewers will be able to ask Alexa football-specific questions while watching the action unfold and will also have the option to use a ‘go long’ command in order to learn more about a particular topic.  

The skill will also be able to explain the football terminology regularly used by NFL commentators which may not be familiar to casual fans.

As well as providing explainers, the Rookie’s Guide will also house a five-minute podcast which will offer game previews along with insight and audio relevant to upcoming matches.

“The idea was what if we created kind of a decoder that while you’re watching the game you could just ask the NFL anything you wanted to know about football,” said Dan Hogan, vice president of engineering, media services for the NFL, speaking to USA Today.

The new command feature, which is also available outside of the US, marks the NFL’s first venture into apps with voice-enabled features.

“This is the first skill we launched as a league and certainly the most ambitious,” Hogan added. “This really is a bit of a test pilot for us. Our thought is really anywhere where the technology exists – you have a microphone, speaker and a screen perhaps – we think ultimately you’re going to want to use your voice.”

The move marks the NFL’s latest attempt to improve the viewing experience after it was revealed that the league’s TV ratings had increased following two years of decline. Viewership in 2018 is up roughly five per cent overall from last year, with NBC, Fox, ESPN and CBS all reporting ratings increases for their NFL coverage.