Few companies have had a busier 2021 than Sportradar. On the heels of two recent acquisitions, U.S. CEO Arne Rees sat with Sportico to discuss the data and technology firm’s ever-evolving quest to meet the needs of a unique American market, where betting and media are mixing in new ways.
Sportico: Let’s start with the big recent news, your acquisition of Synergy Sports. How does Synergy’s business fit into Sportradar?
Acquiring Synergy Sports immediately enhances our presence in coaching and performance video and data analytics for college teams across the U.S. It’s a complementary acquisition for us. While sports leagues, betting operators, and media companies focus on their respective core competencies, we focus on leveraging data and technology to help them run their businesses efficiently and create more engaging experiences. The more betting operators and media companies we bring onto our platform, the broader the distribution we have to fans globally. This attracts new leagues to partner with us. And with each new league partner comes more events, deeper sports data and insights, and new opportunities for betting operators and media companies to engage fans.
As you know, we already have a strong position with the major professional leagues, and this makes us a serious player in the college space. We’re also acquiring high-end computer vision technology as well as engineering talent from around the world that will help us grow our offering at a faster pace.
Sportico: Your other recent acquisition, Fresh Eight, boosts a totally different part of the business, correct?
This is for what we call Sportradar ads, a part of our business which is extremely promising. The acquisition of Fresh Eight complements ads’ highly targeted programmatic advertising capabilities. Fresh Eight is a personalized messaging platform, built specifically around the customer experience of a betting customer. They have an interesting piece of dynamic creative optimization (DCO) technology, in both display and paid social, which empowers sportsbook operators to fully optimize their media investments. We get paid social publisher tools and also paid search products, and this transaction gives us a mature product in those areas. It also turns us into a complete marketing arm for sportsbooks looking for omni-channel performance.
Sportico: That seems especially relevant in the U.S. The state-by-state nature of American legalization has made customer acquisition a fast and expensive enterprise.
No doubt. This is a space where we’re young, but we understand better than anybody else how to combine data with personalization around the sports fan. That transition from sports fan to bettor, which may sound easy, is actually very difficult. Developing tools around that and creating a product that’s a great lead generator is something that we’re putting a lot of shoulder behind. It’s a huge market, but it’s somewhat in its infancy at the moment, right? There’s lots of sponsorship. But over the long term, there will be a need for a more refined approach that we hope to be able to deliver.
Sportico: In the U.S., legacy media companies like Fox Sports are openly discussing their evolution from purely content companies to content and gaming platforms. Is that a new phenomenon?
I’m seeing this trend across the industry. We’ve seen it with others, like the Penn National-Barstool transaction. I’ve spent a lot of my career in the media industry, and what we’re seeing in the U.S., this creation of a new hybrid company between media and gaming, is not something that has happened elsewhere. In many places outside the U.S., gambling has been legal for a long time, so betting companies and media companies each developed on their own. They’ve obviously had very strong interaction on the advertising level, but as companies they never really got together. In the U.S. you have this powerful mature sports media market, by far the largest in the world, and when PASPA was repealed I remember thinking, ‘This is going to be a bit different here.’ Media companies are going to take more control of the user experience than a classic sportsbook would, and that’s exciting for Sportradar, because betting can be a fantastic entertainment product for the fan.
We are quite active in the media space as a provider for OTT media products. If you watched the Australian Open on their OTT channel, that’s provided by us. We have a specialized product that merges the live video OTT experience with live, in-play betting. It’s a great product, and this is something we’re bringing to market here.
Then we also provide both data and live odds to media companies. So, we actually have all the pieces to build you a bookmaker in a box, or to build you one of those new companies, that’s a mixture of media and betting. So, for anybody who wants to take their company and create something that is more of this hybrid, we are really the first port of call and really well positioned on the supplier side to help companies do this.
Ultimately, we are experts in sports data and building technology-enabled solutions powered by that data. The breadth of our solution allows us to cover the end-to-end needs of our clients.
Sportico: You have one of the biggest datasets in media and gaming. What does that data tell you about what the future might hold, product-wise?
We’re very focused on the seamless integration of betting into content, to create a unified entertainment experience. For live video, that’s kind of straightforward and I assume you’ve seen that product. It’s an OTT screen with an L-bar around it where you bet and it dynamically updates. But we’re going to see this around all sorts of content, like highlights or dynamic video. That’s where we hope to head, towards the ability to dynamically bet around content, whatever form the content takes.
So, it’s not a simple product trend, but it’s back to what we just discussed, this merging of media and gaming will lead to some very creative things. What you need for that is great data and great technology that works reliably at speed with the ability to handle major volume. That’s a lot of pieces, and over the years, Sportradar has collected and built these pieces.
We have evolved our product offering from point solutions into fully-integrated software solutions. Our B2B products are highly embedded, mission-critical, and core to our clients’ operations. We offer the most comprehensive solution in the marketplace.