Live From Sportel Monaco: Sportradar’s Steve Byrd on the Sports Gambling/Sports Broadcasting Paradigm

Growth in sports betting boosts demand for video services to bookmakers

Sportradar has been at the center of sports data and gambling for some time, with Betradar providing all the services required to run a bookmaker operation. The company also works closely with major sports leagues that want to provide video services to bookmakers. At Sportel, the international TV-sports-market event in Monaco this week, Sportradar Head of Global Strategic Partnerships Steve Byrd discussed the current state of sports gambling as it relates to sports broadcasting with SVG’s Ken Kerschbaumer.

Steve Byrd says state legislatures that are learning the ins and outs of legalized gambling are delaying the rollout of gambling across the U.S.

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. We’re here meeting the rightsholders 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. We just keep growing the portfolio, and the demand from bookmakers continues to grow for live video content as part of their marketing toolkit 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 U.S.?
It has been slower than expected in the U.S. 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. 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. 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 [of sports-betting legalization], 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. 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.

What do you see as the opportunity of in-game betting vs. the traditional way of betting in the U.S., which is prior to the event?
In the U.S., traditionally and culturally, we think about going to a sports book and placing a bet before the game or maybe at halftime. That’s not the way the rest of the world does it. As the [U.S.] market matures, the option to place bets in-game will be offered, and it has to be a mobile platform to make that work. But that is the majority of betting in the rest of the world, and it’s what drives Sportsradar’s business because one of our core competencies is live odds as the gameplay happens with the algorithms and technology we’ve built up. It’s definitely the future, and it is where the volume is.

It’s interesting because people think prop bets, like who will do the next something, when they think of in-play betting. And there certainly are prop bets that are available, but those are usually more of a marketing opportunity because people think it’s interesting and fun. But the dollars are pretty low relative to the basics of who is going to win, by how much, and how many points are going to be scored. Prop bets are fun, and it does create engagement, but it is not where the majority of the betting is.

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. As their partner, we are trying to help drive betting infotainment content to our media clients and interesting markets for the bookmakers 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 that, as gambling becomes legal. there could be some blowback?
I think that two of the bigger bookmakers, 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. 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. How is the growth of gambling going to transform Sportradar?
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.