Sport technology company Sportradar is looking to move more into the Asian marketplace, as countries shift away from unregulated black or grey betting markets and more into a structured framework, with defined rules and legislation.
Speaking exclusively with AGB about the group’s Asian expansion plan, Sportadar Founder and CEO Carsten Koerl notes that betting, however, is only one part of the group’s technology applications – benefitting its clients most from its holistic approach to sports tech – offering data, advertising, media services and risk management options alongside its sports book products.
“We are a B2B business, it always boils down to how can Sportradar provide value to the clients,” notes Koerl, pointing out that the company is “very much focusing on the live data.”
“We have by far the biggest portfolio for this, we are covering now close to 900,000 live matches a year. This year, we will hopefully break that number and cover more than 1 million. So we need to cover it, we need to transmit it and we need to have a high quality. Then the client can decide: do they want to use this data and information by themselves, but coming with probabilities, or do they want to use Sportradar.
“Asian markets have a different need, because traditionally the volume on the markets is significantly higher than in Europe,” points out the CEO, noting that while the overall number of matches is limited, “the volume is fairly high”.
Live play and AV as a package
“Whatever we do, we try to do it live,” notes Koerl – pointing out that “live betting is driving much more revenue for us at the moment, the number is around 90 percent of all the revenues which we generate from sports betting […] we are getting much higher payments for this from our clients”.
This comes with its own difficulties: “it’s much more challenging for a technology company to come up, in real-time, with these calculations and to find the right expression and the right products for it”.
Buying the audio-visual rights to stream these matches, at ultra-low latencies, is a key component, but doesn’t come cheap.
“AV is the biggest spending from a sports-rights cost for us, around two-thirds of our costs are related to AV and not to the database. The data business is a much more difficult one, if you come to the structure, AV is very simple,” notes Koerl.
One of the primary properties driving global interest is the NBA – a group Sportradar has a long-standing partnership with and aims to further create immersive experiences with.
Main Asian opportunities and sports
Currently football is the number one sport for Sportradar, looking at Asia, while the NBA is also a high contender, and cricket leads in India. But, while developed markets such as the United States are huge, Asia “is simply mind-blowing”, notes Koerl, with particular interest on India and eventual hope for China (but not within the coming years). Other key interest sports for Sportradar in Asia are table tennis and baseball.
“Everybody from a political perspective wants to do something for the[ir] country. How can you unite these interests? How can you use sport in the best possible way for this? And sometimes that might point into gaming and gambling and betting activity, sometimes that might give only products to the leagues and to the teams or products to the media, which can be played back to the fan. So, I think there is a not one-fits-all approach,” points out Koerl.
Demographics are also shifting. With “a generation which is more interested in virtual gaming […], you have a higher proportion of young people in the population and they may not differentiate between a real sport and a virtual sport.”
Koerl notes the strong appeal of being able to play fantasy matches that wouldn’t be possible in real life – by mixing and matching players from different clubs – given the massive amounts of data now available on how such matches could play out.
This could result in events with are “completely virtual, or you can make hybrid versions. I think in Asia specifically, this might be a very interesting development in the area, because you have a mix of population which is very receptive for that”.
These virtual sports could even completely overtake real sports, depending on the market.
No matter what, Sportradar is committed in its approach: “in whatever market we are active, we can only work if it is a regulated market with (regards to) sports betting”, notes Koerl, lauding the Philippines for its move to regulation.
The group is also offering free-of-charge integrity services to federations to help maintain sport integrity.
The group’s head notes that it’s goal is growing sports appreciation throughout the continent – whether there’s a betting component, or not.