Sports Tech

Elias Sports Bureau, Graphics Library

Def Method built a new system to support the graphics displayed on the lower third and half of your television screen during NBA and NHL broadcasts. 

Services Provided

engineering

Product Type
API
Engagement Length
9 months
Technologies Used
Ruby on Rails, SQL Server, Microsoft Azure
Project Highlights

Def Method built a new API using Ruby and Rails and Microsoft Service Bus, creating a more flexible and manageable way to generate the data files used to display graphics during sports broadcasts in real time

Elias renewed broadcasting contracts after going live with the new system, maintaining relationships with MSG and NESN for the NHL and MSG, RNS-LOC, TSN and TNT for NBA, as well as signed new clients, excited by the real-time capabilities of the new Elias Graphics Library

The Graphics Library was ready in time for both the NBA and NHL, 1-month ahead of schedule after a last minute update to the NBA start date from mid-January to mid-December due to the Covid-19 pandemic

About

Since its founding in 1913, the Elias Sports Bureau has been considered the world’s foremost sports statisticians and historians, providing historical research and statistical services in the field of professional sports. Elias provides content, research and data support to most of the major sports television broadcasts and has worked with dozens of broadcasters - national and local - for more than 35 years on MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, and WNBA telecasts.

Elias offers a service called the Graphics Library to television networks, which is responsible for all data displayed on the lower third and full screen graphics during sports broadcasts. This shows information about a player’s age, hometown and various stats relevant to the overall career and season. By packaging data on games and players into files that are ingested into a graphics application, this information is ultimately transformed into an electronically generated caption superimposed on your television.

Challenge

The legacy Graphics Library did not offer the flexibility required by customers. They required the ability to make file changes quickly, to add new information and modify the existing formats. Using the existing system, they had to make updates manually; for example, if an NBA player’s free throw percentage was 80% going into a game, every free throw taken during that game would impact that percentage. In the existing system, the player’s stats required manual intervention to be adjusted in the graphic application. A time consuming and inefficient process, customers required automated data feeds and triggers to instead refresh files and assets in real-time. They were requesting a more dynamic system with real-time capabilities for accurate reporting during broadcasts, such an intense pain point that Elias was at risk of losing contracts without a solution to this problem.

Solution

We addressed this problem by successfully building a new API to serve the Graphics Library system using Ruby and Rails and Microsoft Service Bus. With no documentation on the legacy system, coupled with the requirement of maintaining the existing file format to be ingested into the graphics application, we were able to reverse engineer a more flexible and manageable way of generating files. The resulting new system generated files and graphics with new data in real-time during games.

With multiple games played each day, broadcasted to a national audience, the stakes were high and getting the data right was paramount. This challenge required discipline: every day, the team completed deployments and deliveries. Every week, the team conducted Iteration Planning Meetings to plan the week’s work. Every month, the team led Retrospectives to reflect on what worked and what to improve going forward.

Results

The resulting new system is more readable and configurable; the client can now easily add new broadcasters, change layouts and make customizations. It is also more dynamic with real-time data updates, no longer requiring manual intervention to update stats during games. Because the Elias team saw an immediate positive business impact from the new application, they asked Def Method to return after the end of the project to coach and mentor their new engineering hire.