Sportel Monaco: Sportradar’s Steve Byrd on the sports gambling and broadcasting paradigm

Sportradar has been at the centre of sports data and gambling for some time as Betradar provides all of the services required to run a bookmaker operation. The company also works closely with major sports leagues who want to provide video services to bookmakers.

At Sportel, the international TV sports market event in Monaco this week Steve Byrd, Sportradar, CCO, discussed the current state of sports gambling as it relates to sports broadcasting with Sports Video Group.

In general what is the interest in gambling here at Sportel?

“A big part of Sportradar’s business that we do at this show is the streaming that we do: 45,000 live games a year to betting operators globally where you can watch either in the retail environment or online or on mobile devices.

Sportradar CCO Steve Byrd at Sportel Monaco 2019

“We’re here meeting the rights holders and acquiring the rights to be able to deliver that to betting and we do that for every MLB game, every NBA game, and starting this year, every NFL game in certain international markets. And we just keep growing the portfolio and the demand from bookmakers continues to grow for live video content as part of their marketing tool kit and to have moving pictures for the bettors to see, come in and place a bet.

“It’s not a viewing experience like a full game you would watch at home but it is intended to have data and information tied into the video and gives people more information, so they are more interested in betting on what they are watching. And that is a big growth business for us.”

There is a lot of potential and hope around gambling. What is your sense of the hope vs. the hype in the US?

“It’s been slower than expected in the US because of the state-by-state nature and the political process. There are state legislatures that have never dealt with a lot of the complexities of this issue.

“And the fact that they are all doing it a little bit differently has slowed things down significantly. But we see the trends and as markets open up the volume is there so it’s just a matter of getting fully open. And that’s critical with mobile and multiple options for the consumer. If it’s only one licensed operator, if it’s only retail, or if there are other restrictions then the market is going to stay offshore and underground.

“But if they do it like New Jersey has done it within a year you’re bigger than Las Vegas which is pretty incredible if you think about it. I think they certainly were ready and did it the right way. And I think states will modify as they go along so they can see the tax revenue they expect. So, hopefully they will watch and learn and continue to accelerate.”

What do you see as the opportunity for a regional sports network vs. a national network?

“Given the state-by-state nature the RSNs are in a particularly good spot because those RSNs in markets where betting has been regulated can be a very focused marketing platform and customer acquisition partner for the licensed operators. And I think that is easier to do than on a national basis right now.

“It does depend on the sport being broadcast as the leagues have different profiles around how much of the betting information and content they want in the productions and I do think that as the technology and OTT platforms continue to thrive you’ll see different productions aimed at different people in much the way the RSNs have tested out betting commentary and content on the screen.

Do you think that regardless of whether a sports network has gambling-specific programming or feeds there will still be strong benefits because viewer engagement will go up?

“That certainly is what the leagues are anticipating out of this and as their partner we are trying to help drive with betting infotainment content to our media clients and with interesting markets for the bookmakers to have with our data and live odds so there is more fan engagement and people have a more vested interest in the game.

“Plus, there will be straight marketing opportunities for the networks from the licensed bookmakers who will want to reach that audience. So, there is direct revenue and fan engagement.”

Is there any chance of as gambling becomes legal in the US there could be some blowback?

“I think that two of the bigger bookmakers, being the two daily fantasy companies that oversaturated the market a couple years back, have learned a little bit and I don’t think we will see it become the same thing. Plus, it won’t be one company trying to beat another like it was in daily fantasy.

“There are many players out there and while I am not an advertising or marketing expert but everyone saw what happened with daily fantasy and how it was detrimental to the growth of the industry. Hopefully people will be a little smarter with how they go about it.”

Clearly there will be a demand for more data, less latency, etc. so how is the growth of gambling going to transform Sportsradar?

“It is a never-ending challenge to be faster with everything we do. Whether it is getting the latency out of the video we stream to the betting public or the data that is changing the odds in game because the volume comes from that.

“We are constantly developing our own systems and looking for automated ways to collect data through various tracking systems and other things. And we are also working with the leagues to integrate the systems they have already invested in to deliver that information faster to the public. It’s a never-ending challenge for us.”

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