It’s been 16 years since Sportradar Founder and CEO Carsten Koerl launched the sports data and digital content business. Gambling Insider got an insight into both his tenure and key developments in the sports betting industry that have shaped their offering
Since launching the business in 2001, what have been some key personal highlights during your time as Chief Executive?
A significant highlight was starting Sportradar with two talented engineers in Norway and growing it into a world leader in providing best-in-class solutions to the sports betting industry – with over 1,900 employees in more than 30 locations around the world. Also, the truly amazing work we are doing, be it our integrity partnerships with FIFA, data partnerships with the likes of the NFL and NBA, providing statistical solutions to Google, Twitter and Facebook, and by introducing a new US advisory board with Mark Cuban, Michael Jordan and Ted Leonsis. Ultimately, however, the biggest highlight has been leading a great team in producing the cutting-edge tools and efficiencies that enable our clients to further develop their business.
How would you describe your management style? Is there anyone in the industry you particularly admire?
You must have fun and take pleasure in your work to be truly successful. I hope to inspire that at Sportradar. We also have the best people in the right positions to help us stay on top of developments in sport and technology. I want Sportradar employees to be fascinated by this market in order to best engage people with our solutions.
As for who I admire most, this industry has so many passionate and dedicated people - it’s hard to pick one. But if pushed, Michael Jordan is an inspiration. A true superstar, a successful businessman, and… someone who has assured me he can help raise my golf handicap. For that alone, I must admire his optimism.
What were some of the pivotal milestones for Sportradar that have been crucial for its growth and development?
The development of our Odds Solutions (especially our Live Odds offering), risk management tools, and virtual games (to name a few), were all significant milestones in making Sportradar today’s leading solutions provider to the sports betting industry. Combined with our unrivalled and secure data, bookmakers can use these solutions to provide the best-quality service to sports bettors.
Another significant milestone was the launch in 2005 of our Integrity Services, which monitors 180,000 plus sports events each year for potential match fixing. This offering significantly boosted Sportradar’s credibility within the sports industry, and has been a firm contributor to our growth.
In more recent years, we also developed a Digital Sport offering to provide sports data and data-related products to various business sectors: media companies, app developers, digital publishers, fantasy sports providers, and more. Furthermore, our Audio-Visual business was developed to supply streaming content to betting companies and our own OTT platform. Each milestone has cemented Sportradar’s reputation as a valued partner to 65 leagues and federations worldwide. We are experts in monetising sports data, and are now best positioned to help leagues thrive in today’s dynamic, ever-changing media environment.
Protecting the integrity of sport is an extremely pertinent issue to operators and suppliers alike, what sets Sportradar apart in its efforts to keep sports clean?
Data must be trusted by the consumer. This is why Sportradar upholds the highest standards regarding data collection, data management, and when servicing our global customers with the fastest and most accurate data. When collecting data, our scouts are rigorously vetted, even going as far as to film themselves at the match. Our staff are carefully selected and their access is protected and monitored by a robust multi-level security clearance system.
Sportradar’s Integrity Services is well-known for its Fraud Detection System, which is trusted by the world’s most prominent sports federations, including the NBA, FIFA, UEFA and ICC. All of this, and our access to perfect data helps us protect sport from match-fixing. We are honoured that 21 law enforcement bodies such as EUROPOL and the Australian Federal Police work with us. Finally, our Managed Trading Services product unites these features and allows Sportradar to offer the most risk-free, transparent and efficient B2B product for the betting market.
Some in the industry consider live streaming as becoming fairly ubiquitous, what innovation do you think could replace this as a USP for operators?
Only a fraction of bookmakers use streaming to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Today, about 20% of our betting clients use streaming and only some make use of all of our 35,000+ events. There is still growth potential for the market and for us. Streaming has not changed massively in the last few years, but there is still potential for our customers to profit further by streaming on their websites.
We now provide clients with the possibility of interacting with our own stream, which provides a unique combination of live data and live odds linked to the bookmaker’s wallet within a widget. This is a game changer for mobile devices where space and smart interaction is essential. The USP for an operator lies now increasingly in the natural combination of different services; and we want to facilitate this change.
What steps need to be taken to bring gambling on eSports into the mainstream? Will live data on matches help this?
We believe that eSports betting has reached the mainstream betting industry – with over one hundred global bookmakers offering some form of betting opportunity. However there are key areas preventing the industry from maximising its potential; live data being one of the most critical. Blessed with a wealth of data unmatched by any other sporting discipline, eSports has the potential to create a credible and engaging live betting offer. This is something that Sportradar puts a core focus on via key partnerships with data rights holders, such as ESL; and our data-focused partnership with industry heavyweight DOJO Madness. The focus from operators and providers remains a more manual-focused trading approach. Sportradar’s future business plans ensure that data remains a key priority.
How do you maintain your quality of service when providing support to so many other businesses?
Wherever sports data and content is working to grow revenues, drive fan engagement, deliver insights or attract eyeballs, we are there – providing the raw materials to power that process. But customers require fast and efficient delivery of data with 100% accuracy. Moreover, professional services and excellent customer support are the basis of any customer relationship. To consistently meet and exceed customers’ expectations, we undergo critical external audits for review and certification of our services. These certifications underline the efforts we put into quality management and demonstrate our client focus and willingness to constantly invest and improve processes to ensure the highest quality of service.
Has the Betradar part of the business seen significant investment given the growing need from operators for in-play betting?
We constantly invest in Betradar – to meet in-play betting’s changing needs and ensure our in-play tools are second-to-none. This involves understanding our customers and keeping an eye on the latest industry trends. It also means fine-tuning our trading algorithms, optimising our trading operations, and expanding our data collection into today’s more regional sports, such as Sepak Takraw and Kabaddi. Betradar also invests into NBA data rights, whilst extending deals with the ITF and ESL to provide the fastest, most reliable data with the most accurate odds. Our coverage’s breadth and depth is continually expanding and we are committed to ensuring the integrity of all sports at the highest levels; an important aspect of in-play betting.
Do you see the ‘name your bet’ offerings becoming as popular as in-play?
While we believe that ‘name your bet’ offerings have potential, they are currently little more than a nice add-on. In-play betting is a multi-billion-dollar business and this will not be challenged any time soon. We do, however, believe that we have found the next big thing within in-play betting. First there was live betting in 2002, video streaming in 2005, mobile in 2007, and now… well you better stay tuned.
What issues to you expect to be at the forefront of sports data services in the next 12 months?
The main issue is in engaging fans. By focusing on storytelling and providing an intuitive user experience, our products give users a customisable, individual experience, anywhere. Artificial intelligence is already huge. Pro teams are using it for coaching, running simulations, testing line-ups and more. And, of course, fans want to know why certain decisions are made, why the game is going one way and not the other. It’s this data that we want to automate. With it, fans can enjoy all the fresh, engaging content they could ever want.
What were your aims for 2017? Do you have any non-financial targets for Sportradar this year?
We provide fans with bite-sized content that is unique, creative and easy to consume. For the remainder of 2017, we will continue providing a range of offerings to our partners – giving them visualisations and data solutions that are relevant for any given moment. They can then create context and tell relevant stories with that data. This means focusing on the smallest details and understanding precisely what your customers need. Only then can you develop the products that best engage them. When the game is on, real-time data is essential.