Sports data and media services company Sportradar has built its business on partnerships with betting firms, rights-holders and media in Europe and the US. But it is beginning to turn its attention more closely to Asia.
Sportradar’s core business lies in gathering and supplying in-game data on sports events to clients including betting companies, who use it to set odds and create betting products, and media companies, who use it to create content. The company has diversified into other areas, such as supplying data on suspicious betting patterns to sports rights-holders and betting companies, distributing media rights for rights-holders, and operating direct-to-consumer OTT services for rights-holders.
David Lampitt, Sportradar’s managing director of sports partnerships, was at the All That Matters entertainment industry conference in Singapore last month as part of the company’s drive to increase its presence in Asia-Pacific. He told SportBusiness: “If I split our business into three regions, EMEA, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific, Asia-Pacific would still be the third-biggest region for us out of those three. But we see the growth opportunity here as probably the most significant.”
His reasons for optimism are the familiar ones: “The demographics of scale, the major economies that are here, the population that is here, and the sport-mad nature of that population.” Lampitt identifies football and basketball in Southeast Asia, basketball in China and cricket in India as particularly interesting markets.
Sportradar will in the coming months add to its portfolio of Asian clients with several new rights-holder partnerships. Among its existing deals, it has been providing integrity services – looking out for suspicious betting patterns that may indicate match-fixing – to the Asian Football Confederation since 2013, the Philippines Basketball Association since 2013, the Football Association of Singapore since 2017, and the Indian Super League since 2016. It also provides data collection services to the PBA and competition management services to the FAS.
Looking to the future, Lampitt says, “China and India are obviously the two giants of the Asia-Pacific region from a market opportunity perspective. Particularly in India, the speed with which they’re adopting technology is going to be a big enabler of that. Cricket is a core sport for us…And in the last 12 months they’ve started looking into the legislative process for regulating the betting market in India.”
One of the reasons Asia-Pacific has taken a while to come into focus for Sportradar is that sports betting is tightly regulated in many Asian countries. Thus, the recent opening up of sports betting in the US by the country’s Supreme Court made it a big focus for the past 18 months.
Although the US sports betting market will only slowly open up, as each state must decide how to implement its own betting legislation, sports rights-holders, casinos and other stakeholders have been positioning themselves to take advantage of a potential gold rush. Sportradar has, among other moves, agreed data deals with the four major leagues.
The US betting market regulatory development has sparked similar moves in other markets, Lampitt says, including India. As well as benefiting his own business, Lampitt believes such moves are positive for sport from an integrity standpoint:
“We always say the right thing to do as a sport is to engage with the market, have a contractual relationship with market. It gives you better transparency, it gives you better ability to have access, visibility, control and integrity provisions…We would always advocate that a mature, sensible, regulated approach to the betting business is the best way to go.
“I think globally that will take some time, but the trajectory certainly seems to be pushing that direction.”
Video and data
Beyond betting, Sportradar sees increasing opportunity to supply rights-holders in Asia and other markets with its expertise in data content and online video.
The company considers its expertise in creating OTT platforms for rights-holders, in particular, as a route to increasingly important, data-rich relationships with fans: “There’s a particular challenge for rights-holders, which are really now developing as content businesses, that don’t have the technological capabilities in-house. And they look to third parties and experts to help them develop.
“A lot of that is focusing on direct relationships with fans…that is one of the massive things that OTT [can provide]: owning your own channel, content, interface and touchpoint with your fans is a massive enabler for these businesses because it opens up the opportunity to engage with fans, to know what their preferences are, and to monetise them directly rather than through a string of third parties.”
Data that was once the preserve of betting firms and professional sports performance analysts is becoming of greater interest and value to fans, Lampitt says, creating another growing revenue stream: “What the team analyst was seeing five years ago and we had no idea about, gradually becomes consumed by us.”
Automated tracking systems are providing an intriguing new depth of insight into what’s happening on courts, pitches and fields: “The development that we’re seeing is towards tracking data. We have exclusive access to the data that comes from, in the NFL, a chip in the players’ jersey. In the NBA, it’s an optical tracking system – a camera-based tracking system around the courts. We ingest a huge amount of data from those tracking systems, in order to get information about performance, speed, particular player strengths and weaknesses, particular team strengths and weaknesses. All of that goes into the back-end analytics, and our job is then to try and create insight about how the sport works, the inner mechanics of the sport.”
The market for these services and content is just as sophisticated in Asia as it is elsewhere in the world, Lampitt says.
“What we see is that there’s generally a top tier of sports rights-holders globally, that everyone can name, that generally is very well-informed, are sophisticated users, have their own resources, their own digital teams and technology teams. Once you go below that, our findings are that, across the board, there is an increasing level of awareness, but not the resources or internal capabilities. And I don’t think we see Asia any differently…
“We deal with sophisticated rights-holders here – with the AFC, the Badminton World Federation, for example, major international rights-holders who are based in the region, who have really clear frameworks and infrastructure around how they want to do those businesses.”
One localised trend the company has seen in Asia is the speed with which mobile has become the primary sports media consumption tool, accelerating ahead of television and computer screens: “India pretty much bypassed traditional PC internet connection and went straight to mobile. From a consumption perspective, it’s hugely significant. That has to have an impact on the people we do business with, whether they’re a media business or a rights-holder business, in terms of how they present their content, how they make it accessible, and therefore how they draw fans in.”
There is no doubt an increasing market in Asia – as in the rest of the world – for compelling digital media products that help sports fight for their place in the competitive and changing attention economy. Sportradar is aiming to be the supplier of choice for these products to the Asian industry.
Lampitt says: “What we can bring is data-driven technology, helping drive fans to the right place to find content. So, for example, to identify matches that are close-fought and tense going into the final 20 minutes, and pushing a notification to fans of that team or league, so they think, ‘I might go and watch it’.”
It’s about “having the technology in place to enable digital fan engagement and to respond to the fact that next generation of fans has very different consumption habits”, he adds. “I think that’s going to be a challenge for the whole industry.”