NAB 2019 Reflections: Sportradar’s Robert Zeithammel on the confluence of sports, media and gambling

Sportradar, a global provider of sports data intelligence, recently joined SVG Europe as a Platinum Sponsor. At NAB we sat down with head of commercial product development Robert Zeithammel to learn more about the company’s positioning at the intersection of the sports, media and betting industries, where it provides federations, news media, consumer platforms and sports betting operators with a range of services.

Robert Zeithammel, Sportradar, head of commercial product development

“We are a sports data company, collecting and collating all kinds of sports data. We provide services on top of this data like feeds, visualisation, analytics and other services for media clients such as broadcasters, digital platforms, federations and clubs plus betting operators who use this data to manage sports books and generate odds.

“On top of that, especially in the media space, we are working on visualising this data with graphics, widgets and engagement tools and also providing platforms for our customers to reach out to their audience. We have a white label OTT platform in our portfolio basically encompassing web sites, apps and all kinds of digital services. It’s very spread out in terms of being a global company, with offices in 30 countries around the world and 2,000 employees.”

The OTT landscape in Europe is evolving quickly, with some federations getting into that space and possibly disrupting their existing broadcast partners in the process?

“It’s a twofold scenario. The top federations have very lucrative existing licensing deals and want to expand on those. Is there any potential upside in having their own distribution platform and going direct to consumer? Especially so in territories where they don’t have such big licensing revenue through broadcast. A lot of them see, especially in emerging markets, that they can do a better job in promoting this directly.

“Meanwhile for smaller federations – sports that want to garner greater interest – it’s a matter of reaching out to their existing fanbase. Some of them have a hard time getting air time in sports broadcasting. To have events covered live works only through OTT and digital platforms for them. People can discover their sport through OTT.

“We are seeing this interest picking up year on year. It’s also a matter, for a lot of federations, that they don’t have the technical expertise to do the development themselves and also don’t have the resources to develop something from the ground up. We work with a lot of federations on the data and visualisation side so we can support them in those matters.”

The broadcasters also have to evolve quickly, away from their traditional single-event linear approach…

“Lots of traditional broadcasters have sophisticated digital strategies as you can’t just do regular broadcasting any more. You have different linear platforms and also all types of platforms around VoD and social media and so on.

“It has become a very complex world for broadcasters as it is. Obviously, they are great aggregators, and to reach a big audience with a premium event is still a speciality of broadcasters. But they have to expand and figure out how to make a good business model beyond those lighthouse events.”

What does Sportradar hope will be the benefit of joining SVG Europe as a Platinum sponsor?

“I think your events are very interesting as an industry meet-up. You are bridging the gap – if there is one – between broadcasters and OTT. It’s always good to have events focused on these technological areas to bring the different stakeholders together.

“It’s a very dynamic space and there are a lot of companies providing building blocks to the overall experience. Everybody is looking for new ways to increase the reach and engagement of the audience, and how do you also identify new revenue streams?

“It’s a tough time for broadcasters; rights costs are getting more expensive and competition is picking up, and you really have to differentiate yourself. A lot of what I’ve seen at this show is about companies trying to show how you can make the sports-watching experience more interactive and more engaging — and also trying to address the fan directly with some monetisation options there.”

Sportradar is a partner of more than 1,000 companies in over 80 countries and official partner of the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, NASCAR, FIFA and UEFA. It monitors, analyses and delivers insights from more than 400,000 matches annually across 60 sports.

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