Thought Equity Motion Opens NCAA Vault

Just in time for the madness of March, Thought Equity Motion (TEM) has opened a digital vault that gives basketball fans a whole new level of access to the NCAA Tournament video archive. The Vault, which now lives year-round at NCAA.com/Vault, is designed to extend the life of the three-week tournament, enabling fans to watch and share moments and full games from past tournaments, comment on them through social media, and even build out March Madness-related applications through the open API.

“The main idea is to use this technology to bring to life large archives of video with the ability to search and deliver them in very flexible ways,” says Dan Weiner, VP of marketing and products for TEM. “If you have that long-form video associated with metadata, you can actually pull moments, assemble reels, and have an automated way to pick highlights out of our database. Given the growth in broadband-publishing technology, the Vault is another way to bring this NCAA content to life.”

Building an Archive Backbone
TEM began its work with the NCAA across all of its sports, turning shelves of videotapes into a centralized, digitized historical archive. In addition to serving as a backup, the archive can be searched and accessed by schools and alumni for commercialization and revenue opportunities.

The NCAA Vault launched this week but will be available year-round at NCAA.com/Vault.

“The Vault is the next generation of video and Web technology that brings together a couple of different pieces,” Weiner says. “Once you’ve got everything digitized, the next step is applying rich metadata against the full-length games. Every play is tagged with timecode, player, school, and score. Then we have our platform that can search, access, and deliver the video.”

Adding in that metadata required bringing together a variety of data sources. The NCAA provided official statistics and information, and TEM hired additional loggers to watch the games, tag them with additional details, and marry those streams together.

Searching for Stars
The vault contains every full-length basketball game from the Sweet Sixteen round through the championship of every NCAA Tournament from 2000 to ’09. (Additional games are already in the works). The Vault can be searched by multiple parameters, including team and year, as well as within individual games, where play-by-play timelines allow fans to jump in and out of the game at key moments.

“You’ve got a Google element of being able to search against these games,” Weiner explains. “So you can search for Carmelo, and it will pull only the plays that he participated in. The combination of metadata, plus video technology, plus the search tools, allows you to access not only video for all of the games but within the game, allows you to dig in in a way that you haven’t been able to before.”

TEM has also done some editorial curating of its own, putting together lists of great performances, top dunks, buzzer-beaters, and the like, so fans can watch just the top highlights, as chosen by the organizers of the Vault. A Publishing Guide database file also gives fans jump-in points with specific URLs, as they can search a spreadsheet by year, school, and game for direct links to the relevant moments.

Social-Media Moments
Social-media features are a key component of the interactive experience behind the NCAA Vault. Fans can comment on specific moments within the games and share them through Twitter and Facebook. Those comments will appear on fans’ Twitter and Facebook pages, with links back to the specific moments they selected within the Vault.

“You can share a link to any site with a friend, but here you’re actually sharing a specific moment; it’s at that level of granularity,” Weiner says. “We’re going to be working with the NCAA on their Facebook and Twitter pages, running contests and trivia that are about moments within the Vault. You can have a trivia question that asks who hit a specific game-winning shot, and then the link takes you back to that moment.”

While TEM has done some editorial work within the Vault, Weiner says that the product is really an open book for fans to enter, find the moments that interest them, and share with each other.

Adding Real Value Through API
The front-end Website is important to TEM, but the real value of the Vault lies in its open-application program interface (API). By opening up the API, all of the statistics, searches, and video are open for outside use. With the proper permissions, fans — and media companies — can create March Madness-related applications that integrate the official NCAA video and provide new syndication models and for the NCAA.

“Over time, it’s not about this one site that we built,” Weiner says. “It’s about being able to go to SI, ESPN, USA Today, and anyone else who can get the specs for the API and create a licensing deal with the NCAA. The Web-development team at ESPN or SI can take their own NCAA page and build their own version of this Vault, hooking up our video into their player without having to deal with a video file or do editing.”

Everyone from Web publishers to iPhone-app creators can work through this API to build applications, providing new opportunities for monetization and ad revenue for the NCAA. For this year, however, the Vault is part of the NCAA site and the existing advertising-support model on that site.

“This is something that we see as a leading-edge development in sports-rights development,” Weiner says. “This unlocks the archive and brings it to life. Rather than creating a bunch of DVDs, you bring the content forward, bring it to life, make it very easy to publish and access.”

Diving in Deeper
The next steps for this Vault will be to expand it beyond the Sweet Sixteen round, and beyond the last decade. Additional games will be added to the Vault as soon as this year’s tournament is complete, with more on the horizon.

“We’re talking with the NCAA about expanding this to other sports of theirs as well,” Weiner says.

That means that a NCAA baseball or soccer vault could soon be on the way.