Connecting to Global Sports Through AI Localization

By John Butterworth, SVP, Customer Success and Operations, XL8

Since the 1920s, the television has played an integral role in people’s lives, reflecting and shaping our cultural values, and engaging the masses. As I reflect on my own history and experiences in the electronics world, I fondly remember starting “my career” in my grandfather’s TV store dusting off Zenith and Sylvania consoles and taking out trash from the back of the store where men repaired the sets, making sure they kept one hand behind their back so they wouldn’t get electrocuted. As we entered the streaming age, audiences (including myself) have embraced subtitles and closed captions, especially as they’ve become more accessible and habitual for many, and the demand for non-native language content has increased. I specifically remember turning on captions so we wouldn’t wake the kids when we watched Die Hard with a Vengeance! Subtitles, perhaps once seen as a barrier to some are now seen as a window in – a view into a new world, an opportunity to explore other cultures, and a time/place for more connection. Whether we’re watching soccer or darts in a sports bar or at home, sports engage millions around the world. I often wonder that if we could all understand the dialog and the commentary, how this would then turn casual viewers into avid watchers. Today with AI, this can be accomplished with machine-translated subtitles – affordably and accurately.

Most major sports leagues offer multiple languages on their website, and larger broadcasts have separate announcers for additional languages. What if a broadcaster or sports producer could insert local language commentary for all live events, taking translation and customization of sports to the next level? This type of localization would expand coverage, helping smaller teams and event producers reach larger global audiences and increase monetization of their content. We could break down cultural barriers and expand international audiences, even if they speak an entirely different language.

Challenges of Accuracy, Speed, Timing, and Deployment

One challenge with localization is conveying the full context, emotions, and nuances of the dialog – and in the case of live sports, all in real-time. Players and team names require precise guidance on pronunciation. Linguistic nuances and cultural or regional context also raise a unique challenge. Timing is also crucial, as subtitles need to be synchronized with the video to ensure a seamless viewing experience. Traditional localization methods may cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, making it inaccessible for many smaller-tier or niche sports markets. Thankfully, innovative techniques and technologies like XL8 have arisen to meet these challenges and enhance accuracy, speed, and ease of deployment.

Removing Barriers to Entry with AI

Artificial Intelligence has been deployed in the sports industry, covering in-game activity, post-game analysis, and the evolution of fan engagement experiences. There has also been a focused use of AI for enhanced content management and distribution, which brings us to pairing sports content with multiple languages through interpretation, translation, and subtitles. The localization industry is asking for more efficiency, cost savings, and less complexity, which XL8 sees as an opportunity to provide AI-driven language processing tools that localization companies and sports producers can use to create a more dynamic and personalized experience for fans. This creates a higher level of engagement and helps remove the barriers to entry for many lower-tier sports event producers. My goal is to watch a soccer game in a Mexican restaurant with English subtitles. My hope is that there is someone in another country who could watch the Northwestern State Demons Baseball team in their own language.

Integration Enhances Workflow

Ease of deployment also means removing levels of complexity and that’s why XL8 is integrating with live video over IP streaming and content delivery platforms like Zixi and Caton among others. “Working together with XL8 is all about maximizing the delivery of live content. Users can ingest their live streams from Zixi directly into the XL8 AI-trained engine and generate live subtitle streams in different languages. This not only enhances the workflow but also allows content producers and distributors to reach a larger audience and create additional monetization opportunities. We like the idea of connecting people through sports, and our partnership with XL8 is creating more opportunities to do so – all through localized content that’s reliable, accurate, and affordable,” comments John Wastcoat SVP of Alliances and Marketing, Zixi.

XL8 has also integrated Caton Technology’s Media XStream cloud-native service for IP network transport and transmissions into its engine. Users can now live-stream sporting events and live broadcasts and offer subtitling services in their language of choice. “Having the reliable delivery of translated content is giving our customer base a new opportunity to monetize their content and reach larger audiences – all in real-time and with the accuracy you can expect from experienced translators, adds Paul Weiser, Vice President of Worldwide Sales, Caton Technology.

The Emerging Global Market of Sports

Whether it’s soccer or the worldwide poker series, cricket, pickleball, or the rising popularity of chess championships, the demand for sports streaming is skyrocketing and provides an opportunity to showcase many emerging sports and leagues. These new leagues are chasing fans via streaming and are also garnering attention from linear TV broadcasters. AI-powered localization and translation of sports commentaries are ushering in a more immersive and engaging experience for audiences around the globe – enhancing human capabilities in translation and providing a more cost-effective approach to connect.