An artificial intelligence bot which imitates legendary Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling is part of a new approach for broadcasters to engage with sports fans.

San Francisco-based GameOn Technology has built the Sky Sports Jeff Bot which fans can message to find out fixtures, scores and results as well as news and views.

It is also working with American media giant Sports Illustrated to bring a similar experience to fans of the NFL and NBA playoffs using its proprietary bot platform.

“The Jeff Bot has had a direct effect on customer engagement,” CEO and co-founder Alex Beckman told BusinessCloud.

“Fans can ask Jeff any question about the English Premier League at any time and get an answer back, as well as subscribe to teams and get information sent to them based on real-time developments on and off the pitch.

“This model of encouraging fan interaction is key to creating long-term users.”

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<img title="" src="http://www.businesscloud.co.uk/images/comms/news/businesscloud/photos/22-05-2018/soccer-saturday.jpg" alt="Sky Sports">

Beckman says the evolution of social technology and emergence of chat as a way for fans to engage directly with their favourite sports teams is also changing the way rights holders engage with their fans.

He says it is no longer enough for broadcasters to secure rights for competitions on the myriad platforms now available and expect people to just watch: they must harness “over-the-top marketing” by going the extra mile on interactive mobile content.

“It is no longer enough to simply put content online that previously was not available to a mobile audience. OTT solutions have had to become feature-rich in order to attract and retain users. Nowhere is this more prevalent that in sports,” he said.

“OTT broadcasters are going to have to create supplemental, snackable content that will set them apart from competitors who have paid for the right to stream that same live content.

“Real-time engagement can provide fans with something of value before and after the content has aired.”

Digital TV Research predicts that global OTT TV and video revenue will reach $64.8 billion globally by 2021 while there will be as many as 383m Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) subscribers.

“The future of user acquisition is not about changing behaviour; it is about taking content to where the user is already active and engaged. Chatbots are a great way to do this,” said Beckman.