The English Premier League could learn lessons from the Spanish when it comes to harnessing the power of Big Data

Who was the winner in this season’s UEFA Champions League Final? Well, obviously the answer is Chelsea. But do you know who the real winner was financially? Well, you may be surprised to learn that it was Barcelona FC, the team Chelsea surprisingly beat in the semi –finals. Why is the Catalan club likely to earn more than not just the team from the King’s Road but the rest of the English Premier League? Because Barcelona, like the majority of major US sports teams understands the importance of Big Data and knows how to monetize digital content. The Catalan giant is one of the most adept sporting clubs in Western Europe in using new media and mobile technologies to monetise its content.In spite of protestations from died-in-the-wool sports fans who will tell you that sport is all about pride and passion, we all know deep down that at the end of the day, sport is inherently just a business. Moreover, it’s a business based around content distribution and marketing. Football clubs have had to confront issues surrounding Big Data, Big Data analytics, infrastructure and the cloud for a while now, as they looked at ways of distributing their video content across new media, via mobile and the web. Unfortunately UK football clubs haven’t confronted the problem anything like as well as many of their European counterparts. Even the mighty Manchester United for all its global reach can’t compete with Barcelona.

Kevin Usher is the director of applications specialist, EMEA at Avid. The company provides the live editing software and hardware for FC Barcelona as well as a number of teams worldwide. He believes that English football at all levels needs to perform much better when utilising its content to connect with fans and open additional revenue streams. Speaking in an interview with he argued that he would like to see more UK sports teams using the Barca business model, which incidentally is based on US models. He wants our clubs to use the massive amount of data available, and control and exploit their own content, by effectively operating as their own virtual TV station and content distributor, tying in new technologies like mobile.

Barcelona already has a range of mobile apps built on its own program, FCB Apps. This allows other companies or individuals to develop their own ideas, and the club splits revenues with them (Avid partnered with the video distribution mechanisms).This has seen the likes of FCB’s World Tap (a game of keeping the ball in the air as long as possible) exist alongside apps such as FCB Live for iPad. FCB Live displays stats in real time for all games involving Barcelona’s first and second teams, and also the brand’s basketball team Barca Regal. FCB Watch operates like a social network, allowing Barcelona fans to find each other and also the nearest bar showing their team’s games live anywhere in the world. FCB Mobile operates similar to most football teams’ apps, with player bios, news feeds and short clips. FCB Fantasy Manager allows players to test their skills as a potential manager of the club.

The potential to collate this form of Big Data is a key advantage in the modern mobile world, and gives clubs like Barcelona unparalleled access to their fans. Although currently much of this access remains tied to second-screen viewing of stats, news and social networks, Usher believes video will be the next big step. Big Data, in the form of the terabytes of video data being produced during each game, and how to exploit this monetarily, will become a key focus.

Currently in the United States, baseball teams like the New York Yankees and Miami Heat already share fixed and cloud storage for their vast digital video libraries in order to reduce costs. In fact the entire Major League Baseball league utilises shared storage to the tune of US$600m a year, as does basketball’s equivalent the NBA. Many of the US sports leagues have also collectively bargained their TV rights and incorporated archiving rules, so all footage is stored in the same manner and is easily available for journalists and documentary producers, while the public can view classic matches. This also makes it available for new media and social media applications at the click of a mouse, and as Usher says ‘the ring of a cash register’:

“Making this digital video content accessible is particularly important for mobile and tablet applications,” claimed Usher. “Consumers may not want to watch whole matches on these small screens, but ‘goals of the day’ and highlights can be big revenue earners. A lot of this is currently lost to YouTube.”

However, the disparity between Premier League teams and other lower divisions mean that the quality of what archiving there is differs widely. The vast majority of any historical footage is trapped on analogue tape, or buried away back rooms in of clubhouses. That’s particularly the case for those clubs that haven’t seen top flight action for some time. However, it is these clubs and others who are struggling financially who could stand to gain the most from harnessing Big Data. According to Phil Ventre, Avid’s head of sports, EMEA, there is so much money to be made from sentimental fans who still reminisce about the glory years:

“The technology available right now makes it easier than ever before. If clubs utilised shared cloud storage and shared physical digital infrastructure they could reduce the costs of these endeavours drastically. Unfortunately, a lot of the clubs still have a very protective, individualist mentality when it comes to sharing data. Once you have the data organised, producing clip packages and pushing them to online video stores where it can be charged for is potentially huge.”

What is Big Data, Anyway?

>What is Big Data, Anyway? Big data is nothing new. What’s new(er) are the tools are technologies that are contributing to the democratisation of big data (see Tools and Technologies of Big Data for some technology basics on the Talend website).

While most organisations have been amassing big data for years, it is worth noting that some of them have been “doing” big data for years. By “doing”, I mean processing, leveraging, analysing, mining – anything else than just storing it. It’s one thing for Wal-Mart to process in excess of one million transactions per hour and store this historical data, or for the US Census Bureau to collect demographics on 300 million Americans – and it’s another thing for these parties to actually process it, massage it, and extract actionable information.

As we have all experienced first-hand, or heard of, a number of real-life (or rumoured) big data use cases have been in existence for years. Among some obvious and famed “big” use cases:

Credit card fraud detection: anyone who travels a lot for business is often led to some unusual spending patterns. Like buying French train tickets online from a US IP address, minutes after ordering a Kindle book and just before paying for an intercontinental flight. So when my credit card company calls me to check, I can hardly complain (and I am actually glad they call).

Retail: the decades-old beer and diapers mining story (allegedly a rumoured one), recently supplanted by the teen pregnancy one (it will probably take time before we know if this one is real or not!). Less prone to urban legend, the long string of coupons that print out at the register reminding you that you need dip for these crisps, or conditioner to go with this shampoo, or mulch to help your flowers grow, are the result of big data analysis.

Yield management: with airfares that vary on an hourly basis and hotel room prices continuously adjusted, the travel & hospitality industry has been a master of shifting through massive historical data to get the best possible price out of a finite inventory of airplane seats or hotel rooms – without leaving any unsold.

What are the commonalities between these “big” use cases? Credit card companies, retail chains, airlines & hotel chains are for the most part large and wealthy organisations. They did not wait for the recent big data frenzy to “do” big data. They invested a lot of money into hardware and software, hired the best talents, and built their infrastructure and algorithms, by trial and error. And for the most part, they have reaped the rewards of this investment.

What’s new is the democratisation of big data. In the Talend blog, we’ll be reviewing some of the less “big” use cases of big data, and how big data can help smaller, less wealthy organisations. To find out more why not reserve some time with Talend at our stand at Big Data Analytics 2012 by emailing

Yves de Montcheuil – VP of Marketing – Talend

Public Sector Enterprise ICT 2012 and the G-Cloud Store

Public Sector Enterprise ICT 2012 is a business strategy conference that will be attended by key Public Sector decision-makers across the UK. It will focus on the practical aspects of the effective delivery of the government’s ICT strategy and the Strategic Implementation Plan as well as discuss the technology and business aspects of maximising efficiency and achieving Value for Money. It will also reach out to embrace the Efficiency and Reform agenda in the context of delivering best practice in ICT. The event, which will be held at the Russell Hotel, London, on the 8 November, 2012, promises to be the most powerful strategic government ICT event of 2012 and will gather together some of the UK’s pre-eminent speakers who influence and determine policy for the most influential sector of the Government. Key speakers will include high level public servants and specialists from the Public Sector arena. Continue reading…

What is the Public Service Network, and what does it do?

The coalition government strongly believes that a cost-effective and secure ICT strategy is critical not only for the effective operation of government services but also for the delivery of these services to its citizens and businesses. However because of the economic recession, it’s vital that the government’s strategy is able to deliver better services for a reduced cost. The Cabinet Office decided that the concept of the public service network (PSN), or the ‘internet for government’ is critical to the delivery of this strategy, as it will help to improve operational efficiency by reducing costs, improving agility, and maximizing performance. It argues that the PSN will create a ‘network of networks’ for the Public Sector from the existing commercial networks, and will develop a market place providing opportunities for industry, and savings for the Public Sector. It also maintains that the PSN will fundamentally change the way Government Departments and Agencies, Local Authorities, and the Third Sector buy and use Voice and Data Networks. Continue reading…

The Last-Mile Challenge of Big Data

There’s an analogy for what’s happening with Big Data today: the last mile in telecommunications. Businesses and public institutions have invested billions of dollars in the network backbone for telephone, cable, and Internet services. With access to these services from our homes, we can shop, play games, do research, get work done, conduct business, and communicate and socialize with friends and family. And there’s a fair amount of money to be made by telecom service providers from the monthly fees consumers pay for this access. Continue reading…

Big Data Analytics 2012: big data – big deal

We’re often told that if business and enterprise can find a way of getting information economically out of very large data sets, then there will be many exciting new opportunities created and lots of money to be made. How much money precisely has never really been quantified, however, last month a report by The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) and SAS, a major player in business analytics software services, concluded that harnessing big data could ultimately contribute £216 billion to the UK economy and create up to 58,000 jobs between 2012 and 2017. Continue reading…

Will big data ultimately lead to big opportunity in the UK?

What does the term ‘big data’ mean to you? Well, it appears that it means different things to different people. A recent survey by Computing tried to get to the bottom of the issue and find out what the term meant to its readership: the results proved to be interesting. 28 percent saw big data as vendor hype, 37 percent viewed it as nothing other than a’ big’ problem, because they associated the term with increased data volumes, and 27 percent claimed it was a big opportunity that too few organisations were prepared to grasp. Unfortunately the survey merely proved the point that everyone has a different take on the subject. However, whilst they might not be able to agree on the definition, there is a general consensus that if business and enterprise can find a way of getting information economically out of very large data sets, then there could be exciting new opportunities  opening up and money to be made. Continue reading…

QlikView and Big Data – It’s all about Relevance

We are seeing lots of interest in and hype around the topic of “big data” because data volumes are on the rise and strategic thinkers across industries are looking for opportunities to maximize its value. According to McKinsey Global Institute and others, the term ‘big data’ refers to data sets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, manage, and process within a tolerable elapsed time. Depending on the industry, this can mean data sets ranging from a few dozen terabytes to multiple petabytes. In addition, the term ‘big data’ is associated not only with the volume of data but also the variety (i.e. the types of data, structured or unstructured etc.) and the ‘velocity’ of data, i.e. the dynamic or changing nature of the data as new data flows into, and old data exits, a system. Continue reading…