Veritone Renews, Expands AI Pact with ESPN to Include TV, Podcasts

Veritone’s aiWARE artificial intelligence (AI) platform will now be used by ESPN for TV and podcasts as part of a renewed and expanded deal that was announced by the companies March 12. Veritone, meanwhile, continues to eye acquisition opportunities, Chad Steelberg, its CEO and chairman, told an investor conference.

AiWARE will continue to be used to capture, monitor and measure ESPN’s sports talk programming and live event coverage under the renewed pact. Veritone had already been working with ESPN since 2016 for national radio programming, but the renewal expands ESPN’s aiWARE use to TV and podcasts also, Veritone noted.

The aiWARE platform “seamlessly and automatically transforms ESPN’s media with AI in near real time, with enhanced ad and content tracking, comprehensive analytics, faster content extension and smarter media management,” the companies said in a news release announcing the expanded deal.

The ESPN Radio sports talk and live event programming that had already been using aiWARE included the National Football League, Major League Baseball (with complete playoff coverage culminating with the World Series), the National Basketball Association (including playoffs and the finals), and college basketball and football, highlighted by the College Football National Championship, ESPN and Veritone said.

The renewal will enable ESPN Radio to expand analysis of its 24/7 programming “across multiple platforms including broadcast radio and, for the first time,” TV simulcasts and podcasts for the ESPN Radio Network and Deportes Radio Network, the companies said.

ESPN Radio’s owned and operated stations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles will also be analyzed, and the new agreement will “allow ESPN Radio to provide near real-time transparency, verification and analytics for advertising campaigns, satisfying the rapidly multiplying demands for actionable media insights from brands and advertisers,” according to the announcement.

At about the same time the announcement was made, Veritone’s Steelberg was providing an update on his company’s achievements and plans at the Roth Capital Conference in Dana Point, California. He made no mention of the expanded deal with ESPN, but noted Fox Sports was also a Veritone client.

“We believe that we will make several acquisitions this year” after making just one last year, he said. Veritone said in December that it acquired the advanced data analytics software and related intellectual property assets of Atigeo Corporation.

There was a very large acquisition it “missed on” in the first quarter this year, Steelberg told the conference, but didn’t name that company. The company is eyeing “about a dozen companies,” he said, adding: “We continue to be very inquisitive in the category.”

Veritone’s “mission is to be the world’s leading AI service provider, focusing on cognitive computing, to unlock the value in unstructured data,” according to Steelberg.

He told attendees: “Classic computation – the language that we associate with computers today – is able to solve structured data problems, representing around 20 percent of the world’s data. In the cloud today, though, 80 percent of total bytes stored are in the form of unstructured information” that includes audio and video. That unstructured data, which also includes data streams, is being stored and “underutilized by the enterprise,” he said.

Ninety percent of the world’s data was created in only the past 24 months, which means “that portion of the pie is exploding in terms of growth – doubling roughly every 24 months,” he said.

Today, Veritone’s platform has more than 90 engines “just in the category of natural language processing,” he said. The company has over 10,000 engines in all and, at scale, its best engine in this category costs it only 2 cents, while the most expensive one overall costs 75 cents, he said.