Amazon Gears Up for the Big Game

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*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

Although Alexa won’t be taking the field on Sunday, she will be helping football fans across the country and around the globe answer questions like “Alexa, what time does the Super Bowl start?” or “Alexa, has the Super Bowl ever gone into overtime?”

With over 100 million Alexa-enabled devices sold according to The Verge, this Sunday could be a big one for the voice assistant.

Ahead of this year’s Super Bowl, Jason Semine, Principal Product Manager for Alexa Sports Information, took us through the plans for the game as well as the role sports plays in the development of Alexa going forward.

Chips, dip, and experiences…

”Customers aren’t just looking for information, they are looking for new experiences. For this year’s Super Bowl, we rolled out notifications for when the game starts. Now, customers can say, ‘Alexa, remind me when the Super Bowl starts.’ We’ve also added in Alexa being able to offer up an opinion on who will when. This year, if customers ask, they will find out Alexa predicts a win for the Patriots. Finally, in sports, we’re adding helpful hints or recommendations that are closely related to a customer’s initial question. For example, customers who ask Super Bowl-related questions might hear Alexa offer to play audio or video content from NFL Digital Lab’s The Rookie’s Guide to the NFL skill (available on all Alexa-enabled devices).”

The importance of sports information for Amazon and Alexa…

“Sports, in particular, is an interesting category for us. We have a team dedicated to ensuring Alexa is giving the most up to date sports information. This is a place we see customers spend a ton of time, so we think it’s important to get it right and be timely. But that’s not easy – there are four main challenges we work to solve for every day.”

1. Timeliness – we know that customer interest in an event moves really fast. For example, we see customers ask, “Alexa, who won the Super Bowl?” within seconds of the final whistle. When the Super Bowl went into overtime two years ago, we needed to be ready to answer, “Alexa, has the Super Bowl ever gone into overtime?” quickly, even though this wasn’t a common question. We understand the need to be really good at anticipating what customers will ask and preparing for every outcome.

2. Emotional and Human – we want Alexa to convey the excitement, the disappointment and the thrill of sports. When you ask, “Alexa, give me a recap of the September 6th Eagles/Falcons game,” Alexa won’t just say that the Eagles beat the Falcons. She’ll say they “edged out” a win. 

3. Convenient and Personal – often times, our customers aren’t looking for a specific answer, they simply want help keeping up with their teams. That’s why we’ve invested in developing Sports Update as a convenient way to get all the latest information on your favorite teams. In the coming weeks, we will be launching a Team Update feature as another way for customers to follow their favorite teams by asking, for example, “what’s my Warriors Update?”

4. Understanding – we find that customers talk about sports in various ways, so we work to ensure Alexa understands, no matter how they phrase their questions. For example, if a customer asks for “the Michigan score” during November – when football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball are all in season – we use different strategies to identify the game most likely of interest to the customer. The scale of this challenge increases with national teams. For instance, “the England score” could refer to the men’s or women’s team in one of over a dozen potential sports on any given day.

More than just football… 

“All the major sports leagues – NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, and the PGA Tour – have taken an interest in voice and are bringing experiences to Alexa, like custom skills and in some cases, flash briefings.”

READ MORE: Inside Buffalo Wild Wings’ Super Bowl Plans

“We’ve continued to see this interest grow in the last few years alone. For example, the NBA announced in 2017 skills for all 30 NBA teams. We have great relationships with these leagues and they are eager to help us build an experience that is first in class and gives their fans a reason to come back for more.” 

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.