Streaming, bookmakers and the fracturing sports audience
Scott Longley explores how the fragmentation of broadcast sports rights is contributing to the evolution of in-play betting.
With the news from Sky TV that it will soon be looking to stream all midweek English Championship games in the UK, the proliferation of streamed sports offerings is becoming ever more pertinent for the gambling industry.
In-play betting has both benefited from, and been a trailblazer of, streaming’s rise to prominence. Now with the TV market for sport fragmenting – and with newcomers such as Amazon and Facebook entering the sports-rights market – what does this mean for the bookmakers?
There are two schools of thought, says Mark Israney, partner at gambling consultancy Propus Partners.
“On one hand, the more live sport that is accessible to the public (up to a point) the better for operators,” he says. “On the other, rights fragmentation, hence the need for multiple subscriptions, means accessibility (for the top properties) may actually decrease.”
Sky TV isn’t the only company eyeing up further rights. Something of a stir has been created in recent months after Amazon signed up ATP tennis to be broadcast on its Prime service in a five-year deal starting next year and reported to be worth £10m a year. Subsequently a bigger fuss has been made of an even bolder move by Amazon to win the live rights to the English Premier League (EPL).
Should such a bid be successful, the fear in the wider media world is that the fragmenting of sports rights will lead to subscriber fatigue as consumers finds themselves having to pick and choose from an ever-expanding array of potential content sources.
“It is already happening with most consumers in premium markets having a Netflix subscription and an Amazon Prime subscription plus a cable subscription too, and maybe a couple of niche ones as well (such as Twitch or Crunchy Roll),” says David Briggs, chairman at GeoGuard.
“This is the issue that the broadcasting industry is grappling with at the moment; plus of course the reality that for under-35’s they are consuming whatever they want free-of-charge via various illicit methods.”
All you can eat
Yet, if rights-exclusivity issues and subscriber fatigue might be trends for the future, it is unlikely to affect the streaming options for the bookmakers whose bread-and-butter offerings are not the top sporting properties which are attracting cherry-pickers such as Amazon, Facebook and Twitter.
Stefan Debus, managing director at Munich-based Sportsman Group, the streaming service which Sportradar bought in April last year, points to the sheer number of events his company currently streams and suggests the betting operators are far from reaching full utilisation.
“We provide over 40,000 events throughout the year,” he says. “And I would estimate the average consumption rate for current clients is about 40 to50%of that.” Moreover, he estimates that only 20%of Sportradar’s clients currently take any streaming services.
Both measures are likely to rise in the future, partly due to what Debus calls the “hygiene factor” provided by offering streaming, helping to provide the best betting experience possible for the consumer, but also because of what it can provide in terms of marketing activities.
“It is a customer acquisition tool and a retention tool,” he says. “Some of the activity for streaming has to be allocated to marketing – bringing the customers to the site.”
To this end, offerings are also being enhanced and bolstered with further content aimed at keeping the players on the site. In-play is evolving.
Sportradar’s streaming rival Perform Group recently signed a deal with BettorLogic to provide In-Play Facts, a data-led offering designed to bring further betting prompts to the consumer as they are watching a streamed game.
“I think streaming providers are more conscious that whereas in the past supplying live pictures was enough to attract bettors, now they need to add context to what someone is watching,” Andrew Dagnall, chief executive at BettorLogic, explains.
Debus points to similar product developments with Sportradar. “We are now looking at the presentation of the streams, offering more of the Sportradar product work,” he says. “The widgets around the streaming, more statistics, more information and intelligence around the matches.”
Providing operators with more tools will hopefully encourage the end consumer to bet more on these matches. “It’s content around the content,” says Debus. “It’s the combination of the data, odds and pictures, what we call the balcony solution. That is something we are working on.”
For most operators, this will entail some redesigning of the user experience, both on desktop and mobile.
“On some operators’ sites at present, and on most mobile sites and apps, the in-play scoreboard and video player take up the same space, and the consumer is forced to pick between the two,” says Israney.
This has likely been driven by the view that scoreboards and data visualisations are simply there as a substitute for live streaming when streaming is not available. “Scoreboard data can often in fact better inform betting decisions, so it seems sensible that the two displays are offered together,” he adds.
“Given limited real estate on mobile devices especially, this could come in the form of data overlays on top of streaming content – especially relevant for promoting new and innovative market types.”
It might be that product innovation provides the answers to the questions that arise from the potential landscape of rights fragmentation and changing consumer behaviour when it comes to sports viewing.
“If consumers are less likely to watch games in their entirety, instead watching highlights or ‘redzone’-style channels, then a new product set needs to emerge,” says Israney. “If consumers are watching on the move through mobile devices, new bet placement innovations will likely be needed.”
Debus agrees, suggesting the betting industry may find itself addressing new requirements matched to the way that sports will be covered either by TV or via the internet. “We can see player-specific bets, number of contacts with the ball, these kind of markets,” he concludes. “It might not happen right away, but it’s definitely something to look at in the future.”
In an environment where some of the biggest names in the corporate world are pushing sports broadcast in new directions, it seems sensible for betting operators and their providers to expect some further disruption – and hope to be beneficiaries from that rather than being on the losing side.
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