Behind The Scenes

Inside SportsCenter’s Predictor app

The comeback is a common theme in sports, but the storyline isn’t exclusive to our favorite athletes and teams.

A few years ago, ESPN created an online tool called The Predictor, designed to help fans analyze NFL and college football matchups. Utilizing algorithms and a massive database of stats developed by Team Rankings, one of the leading sports analytics firms, the tool was unique and comprehensive.

However, it was also complicated and difficult for fans to understand quickly. So the project was scrapped … until this past spring, when SportsCenter producers and ESPN’s Stats and Information Group began planning for the 2011 NFL season.

While brainstorming ideas for a new touch screen app that would enable ESPN’s NFL analysts to better tell the story of key games each week, someone remembered The Predictor.

Pulling the app out of retirement, ESPN worked with Team Rankings to re-develop The Predictor for television, simplifying the design and improving its visual appeal.

Now the app allows analysts to select four or five “factor stats” — points per game, red zone efficiency, third-down conversion percentage, etc. — and weigh the importance of the chosen stats to generate a predicted outcome.

(Take a look at the video above for a demo of The Predictor by SportsCenter producer Jill Gorsh and NFL analyst Lomas Brown.)

The new Predictor is drawing rave reviews from SportsCenter producers and NFL analysts. And because it was originally an online tool, The Predictor is the only touch screen app used on air by analysts that can also be used by ESPN Insider fans online.

“When we first brought out The Predictor, it really wasn’t the right time,” said Dan Kaufman, an ESPN Insider deputy editor, who worked on the old and new versions of the app.

“But the technology got better and the idea evolved into something that is perfect for hardcore fans and a crossover with SportsCenter. For people to see The Predictor on TV and say, ‘Hey, I want to try that,’ it’s powerful.

“And it’s a great example of innovation and institutional memory coming together to make something great for fans.”

Not to mention, it’s a good comeback story.

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