SVG Sit-Down: Data as the Fuel of Sports-Betting Experiences
As data grows into one of the most valuable assets in sports today, one company has distinctly separated itself from the pack in regard to providing America’s biggest sports leagues with deep statistics and analytics. Sportradar is leading the way globally on delivering this new level of sports data to broadcasters, sports leagues, and other major entities. In fact, the company is officially partnered with every major sports league in the U.S., including the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL.
At just six weeks into 2020, Sportradar has already extended its dominance over the sports industry, striking a deal to provide data to the XFL and building a new virtual in-play game for sports betting with Major League Baseball.
As Sportradar VP, Digital Sport, Brian Josephs is at the epicenter not just of the use of data to fuel future sports-betting experiences but of an entirely new world of digital and streaming experiences for sports fans. He sat down with SVG to take a look at the year ahead, the growth of sports betting in the U.S., and much more.
SVG: What have been the early-2020 highlights for Sportradar?
BJ: The virtual[-gaming] deal with MLB was something that was very exciting to see to come to life. Virtual gaming is probably a foreign concept to many folks in the U.S. but offers a really great experience for fans that want their MLB year-round and bettors that want to engage in that type of product in that way.
It was something that we talked about early on with Major League Baseball, partnering with them on what new or unique betting experiences could look like, what new products can get offered to the market to offer MLB fans that opportunity. Virtual gaming was a really good fit to that.
It was great to see that deal get done and see us come out the gate fast this year, working really closely with a great league partner to bring that to life.
SVG: 2019 felt very much like a year when people in the sports-betting space positioned their chess pieces: leagues partnering with sports books, partnering with companies like you. Are you expecting more of that in 2020? Where do you guys see yourself in the overall timeline?
BJ: I think you’ll continue to see more partnerships and announcements and states coming online. It will be a continued rollout. I don’t think we will necessarily see maturation of the U.S. betting market from the media side. 2019 was a year in which a couple of media companies took steps dipping their toe into the betting space. The NBC Sports RSNs were obviously ones that did the predictor game and integrated betting content into a streaming experience. Others, like Amazon Prime Video, have experimented or gone completely live with interactive video experiences.
When we look ahead to 2020, I look at it as a year of experimentation where you will see more and more big media and big technology companies, as well as operators themselves, experiment and try new things, particularly [related] to streaming and in OTT. OTT essentially offers a wonderful platform for innovation, one that I think will be targeted by all sides of the industry for experimentation around both betting and other, different content types and experiences that can be offered to consumers.
SVG: Sports betting is, of course, the very trendy thing to talk about right now, but, for your company, it’s more than that, right? Data-as-content for leagues is very valuable. One example is Statcast in MLB. How are you involved in that?
BJ: Oh yes, absolutely, and Statcast is a good example of a new data set that the league’s looking to offer options through. [ESPN] has done a Wild Card Game where they offered a Statcast-heavy broadcast, and it was awesome. The booth at that game did an incredible job, and the content was unique. The graphic integration on ESPN was spectacular, and that, I think to your point, is a really good example of offering consumers an option for those that want it.
That kind of content starts to do two things: one, educate the sports fans here in the U.S. a bit more about betting and what to look for; two, stimulate betting activity from that fan base. So storytelling around betting and leveraging that data, including historical data, is a focus of ours. We’re looking at everything from market insights around team performance, how they perform against the spread, over/under betting splits, what volume of bets money is on either side of a particular bet. We’re also monitoring in-game alerts looking at close markets, as well as leveraging player props and projections to look at the fantasy player here in the U.S. (as well as the broader fan base that’s accustomed to following individual player performance).
It’s about looking at the full game-life cycle, leveraging historical data, some of the lines and odds pregame, as well as how those markets are evolving and unfolding over the course of the game. That’s really important for us and a big part of what we’re working on for this year.