SVG Sit-Down: Sportradar’s Brian Josephs on the Future of Gambling and Live Sports Video

As the market matures, streamed content can be leveraged for both wagering and fan engagement

Legal sports gambling is now an option in several states, and, while it’s starting slowly, look for it to make a big impact in five years. That’s what Sportradar expects. Providing data to about 600 gambling-related businesses around the world, the company has a clear view of what’s coming. We sat down for a one-on-one with Sportradar VP, Digital Sport, Brian Josephs to discuss what the intersection of live streaming and gambling will look like. The takeaway: It will make games more enjoyable even for people who don’t wager.

Sportradar’s Brian Josephs: “[We’ll be] growing the betting offering to be not just outcome — who’s going to score the next goal or different things like that — but taking the expertise we have in creating those markets and applying it toward individual player markets.

Where is the U.S. now with sports gambling?
The U.S. is in the very early stages: tip of the iceberg or the frontend of the bell curve, if you will. Obviously, there have been a handful of states that have become regulated, but many of the major states, like New York or California or Illinois, have not regulated their markets quite yet, so we’re looking at the very early days of the sports-betting industry here in the U.S.

What has the response been so far?
I think it’s been, overall, fairly positive. A lot of the connotation around gambling has changed. The audience here in the U.S. is one that loves its sports, and betting had probably been taking place here for a while prior to the [Supreme Court decision] last summer. I think the timing is right. It’s obviously a big story for those of us who work in sports.

What are those markets specifically? And what can people do now that they couldn’t do before legalization?
Nevada’s obviously one. New Jersey has received the most hype, and that’s probably the one I’ll focus on the most, being a resident of New Jersey. New Jersey has legalized the ability to wager both in retail locations, like out near the Meadowlands, and through online gaming. The online gaming is particularly important because that gives you the ability to wager wherever you are within the state.

What do you foresee for legalization in other states?
I think there’s probably going to be another five-plus states that come online in 2019, but, realistically, we’re looking at a three- to four-year window here, where we’ll see more of the rollout and regulation take place. I know there’s a lot of states currently considering legislation and others have actively put forth bills that are being evaluated. Hopefully, in the next three to four years, we’ll start to see a much more mature market. By that I mean [we’ll] start to get to critical mass in states going online and having a regulated sports-betting landscape.

Once we get past that three- to four-year window, what is the impact of gambling going to be?
There’s going to be what I would consider a rising tide across sports, and sports where wagering is allowed and takes place on them. By that, I mean the content itself is going to become more valuable and there will be more time and attention paid on the sports here in the U.S. as a result of legalized gambling. That’s because the relevance and prevalence of in-play betting that allows bettors not just to bet on who’s going to win before the game but actively bet on that market and many others over the course of the game. You start to become less concerned with who is going to win and start paying closer attention to some of the betting markets that are changing and fluctuating in real time. In the case of a game that might be a blowout, it could keep it much more interesting. That will increase the value of sports content, sports rights, and media rights.

In the U.S., are we just talking about football, or will other sports see a real uptake of gambling?
I think we’re looking at all sports here. NFL obviously has the largest fantasy backing to it. A lot of people look at that as a proxy for interest in betting and the like, but I think other sports are going to see the value of the regulated market as well. [In] a sport like baseball, there are 162 games over the course of the season. That offers ample time for bettors to engage in the sport. Same with 82-game seasons for basketball and hockey: that’s a lot of opportunity for bettors to engage.

How will gambling be integrated into the streaming-video experience?
The concept of Watch&Bet is incredibly popular outside the U.S., where betting has already been regulated. We’re going to see that become popular here in the U.S., both for actual wagering to take place and from a fan-engagement perspective with betting content: information being displayed for infotainment purposes. Streaming in particular offers an opportunity to leverage that content to create unique digital experiences and have that complement the viewing experience, whether it’s a line that updates in real time over the course of the game or checking in on player props that might be getting close to being hit or surpassed and things of that nature.

What does the Watch&Bet interface look like?
A lot of them are typically offered by bookmakers. In that experience, there is the live stream of the game, but surrounding that are the real-time odds that are offered by that particular book for that game. At any point in the game, you can place any number of bets that you might like.

Latency is still a hurdle with live sports video. Is that something that needs to be overcome for this kind of gambling to become a reality?
To place bets, yes, latency is critical. But, from a purely infotainment perspective, it’s something to be aware of in terms of building out the experience. You don’t want a betting line updating too quickly and potentially previewing or hinting that something could happen next. So latency is a consideration from a technical standpoint while integrating betting content into a stream. But it’s not as mission-critical from an infotainment perspective as it would be from an actual live-betting experience.

When you say infotainment, are you saying that a lot of gambling we’ll see will be purely for fun and not for money?
I think there will be a lot of that, yes. I think a lot of media platforms or technology platforms that are involved in sports won’t necessarily become betting operators themselves but [will] integrate betting content as a way to capture the time and attention of sports fans and display it to that audience without actually taking the bet.

So gaming becomes another way of getting people engaged in the event, and it’s not really about making or losing money.
Correct. You can have a stream with some betting information weaved into it. Gamification elements like quizzes and trivia could all be potentially rolled in as well. For those who want to bet, they wouldn’t necessarily do it through that media company’s platform, but through one of the existing license operators. For example, if you’re in New Jersey watching a game, the live stream you’re watching might display some betting content, but then you would still bet through the DraftKings or FanDuel betting app in that space.

What other technical hurdles remain before this can happen?
Latency is really the main one in terms of actually taking bets. I would say it’s more a strategic question that a lot of rightsholders are facing in terms of what comfort level they have with this type of content being used in and around their broadcast. A lot of companies are working through that right now, and, as those strategies become clear, the tech teams will be able to get to work on that.

Is creating geographic gates a challenge, to make sure that only people who are allowed to bet can bet?
Yeah, that’s certainly a consideration and something that has to get done. Everyone who gets licensed [is] held to an incredibly high standard in terms of rules and regs. Geofencing is certainly a big part of that.

Sportradar collects, manages, and distributes on-field player stats, betting odds, and information, supplying them to both bookmakers and media/technology companies.

Will there be other ways gambling is integrated into the video stream? We talked about a frame, but will it be added to the main content window?
Some of the rightsholders are especially sensitive to that, but I certainly think on-screen graphics will happen at some point. There are probably, if I had to guess, restrictions around that right now, whether it’s betting content or any content in particular, but it’s not hard to envision the user experience moving forward. I’m thinking streaming in particular where you have the ability to pull out a graphic or something along those lines to see the latest betting content and information and potentially push it back. I could see that coming before too long, depending on the rules and regulations and restrictions around the particular content.

Are the leagues going to be a part of this? Or will it be more companies like FanDuel?
I think both are going to be involved. The leagues set a lot of the restrictions around how and where their content can be used and things like that. The bookmakers are going to be big players as well, because they stand to benefit from having a well-regulated and established market. There is going to be demand to do a lot of the unique things that we’re talking about here that haven’t been done before.

The rightsholders — whether it be the leagues, the broadcast partners, and the like — will have to determine how to best address that demand and service it. It’s going to be a matter of, is it complementary to a core stream? I could see it going several different ways, but the demand for the ability to do a lot of these things is going to be strong and move the entire industry in that direction.

What is Sportradar’s role in this? Do you have solutions in place now? Are you creating solutions?
We operate behind the scenes. Our core business is the collection, management, and distribution of on-field player statistics and betting odds and information. We work with many bookmakers around the world — 500, 600 different bookmakers around the world to help them power their book. We also work with leading sports-media and technology outlets here in the U.S. We will play a role in the provision of data and insight on both sides of the industry — both the bookmakers themselves and media and technology companies that might want to engage in the space.

Are there any products or services you need to develop for the U.S. audience? How will the U.S. market will be different?
I do think it’s going to be a little bit different due to the existence of fantasy in the U.S., which is not nearly as popular in other markets. It’s made a large percentage of the sports-fan audience here in the U.S. a bit more predisposed to gaming: individual player performance, tracking statistics and outcomes specifically. I’m intrigued to see how that market develops. A lot more of the fun prop bets, player props, parlays, things like that that can be created to engage a massive casual-betting audience here in the U.S.

What solutions are you creating right now? What’s on your company’s road map?
Looking at various player props for different sports and individual player performance whether it’s hits, home runs, pitch outcomes, pitch types for baseball, or something like that. Outrights or futures is something we’re looking to expand on, as well as additional player props across all sports. It’s growing the betting offering to be not just outcome — who’s going to score the next goal or different things like that — but taking the expertise we have in creating those markets and applying it toward individual player markets.

Any closing thoughts on the future of legal gambling in the U.S.?
I think video in particular is going to see the most rapid change in development around it. We as fans have changed how we like to receive our content as a result of social media. We’re accustomed to curating our experiences, and we’re wired now to expect a certain level of personalization and interactivity.

When we look at the viewing experience moving forward, [the Supreme Court decision] was one step, but I could see second steps and third steps where it could be an opportunity to choose your own content experience. One experience could be your traditional sports broadcast; one could be betting. One could be a deep dive into the home team’s individual players, team performance, a bit more like a stat-nerd view. The angle for a lot of the media companies is establishing a level of personalization.

If you’re a fan of the New York Knicks and I’m a Bulls fan, your experience could be much different from mine. I think we’re going to take steps over the next couple of years towards one-to-one personalization of the fan experience where they have the opportunity to almost act as a producer and control their experience. Betting is going to be one ingredient in that mix. It’s going to be an exciting time and for those who work in the industry.

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