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IMG Arena to market UFC’s first live betting data service

Jack Hermansson of Sweden punches Ronaldo Souza of Brazil during middleweight bout in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

IMG Arena, the sports betting unit of the IMG agency, has added another high-profile property to the list of sports events to which it distributes live scoring data to by announcing the launch of the UFC Event Centre.

The tie-up between the Endeavor-owned duo allows IMG Arena to sell the UFC’s first-ever live betting data product to betting operators around the world.

The new UFC Event Centre will combine different data feeds, with IMG Arena having worked with 3027, the UFC’s data arm previously known as FightMetric, to enhance the data to the point that it is “betting ready”. This will include the capture of ‘Octagon-side’ data at events in order to tackle the issue of latency.

Features to be offered by the service include: live in-round betting for every UFC event globally; official data delivery in under two seconds; immediate bet settlement; live betting data points and statistics; fighter details; and 3D visualisations of live action.

Freddie Longe, IMG Arena’s executive vice-president and managing director, told SportBusiness that, given the often subjective nature of UFC action, the data points have been restricted to a number “that can be official and factual in real time.”

He said: “Sportsbooks will be able to offer in-play bets with the comfort of taking bets and settling markets because it’s the official 99.5-per-cent accurate feed coming from the sports rights-holder itself.”

In teaming up with the UFC to launch the offering, IMG Arena will be looking to develop the in-play betting market for the mixed martial arts series.

At present, just 8 per cent of the UFC’s betting turnover comes from in-play bets (and the remainder from pre-event betting). This compares to between 50 and 70 per cent for sports such as badminton and tennis that IMG Arena distributes live data for and which have enjoyed betting-ready feeds for some time. The UFC’s demographic – 88 per cent of fans are aged between 18 to 44 – will also be an aspect that IMG Arena can push in negotiations with its betting clients.

The creation of the UFC Event Centre follows on from IMG Arena’s launch of an event centre for golf. This came on the back of its live scoring data distribution deals with the PGA Tour and European Tour.

There will be appetite among sports betting operators for the UFC Event Centre in isolation, Longe said, but he added that IMG Arena would be flexible to combining it within a wider sports package.

No live streaming

Along with the provision of the ‘betting ready’ data, the UFC Event Centre has, Longe noted, been designed with fan engagement in mind.

He said that it had been the aim to put in place “an interactive front-end visualisation that will drive engagement and give consumers a really good understanding in real time of what’s happening.”

Longe added: “We see this product as being capable of standing on its own two feet as an embedded widget within our sports book customers’ apps and websites.”

The 3D recreations of the UFC action will form part of that front-end visualisation, but there will be no live streaming offered to bookmakers. Extensive live streaming is already offered by the (subscription-based) UFC Fight Pass service and any live streaming on betting websites could be competitive to that.

Asked about the prospect of live streaming being provided in the future, Longe replied: “You never say never but as it stands there is no streaming element to the official UFC Event Centre.”

IMG Arena will also be looking to leverage the power of the UFC brand, according to Longe.

He said: “If you look at sports betting websites today, then save for any sponsorship tie-ups and/or embedded live streaming where sports logos are shown anyway, this will be the first fully-branded event centre.

“The UFC brand logo will be embedded within the experience together with official profiles and headshots of the fighters themselves. We think that’s important because, for us, the UFC as a brand is incredibly powerful and resonates very strongly with its fan base.”

Legislative issues mean that IMG will not be able to market the service to operators in some countries, including France, which prohibits betting on UFC.

Longe said: “We enjoy the benefit of the UFC being a globally appealing sport and brand. We see everywhere, subject to whether it’s permissible or not, being a promising opportunity.

“It’s a product we think will resonate strongly in the US market for obvious reasons, and in large swathes of South America and Eastern Europe, as well as Australia. We’ve got a lot of opportunities so we’re less concerned by whatever limitations there are.”