SBC Barcelona: Creating efficiencies and harnessing AI for media and sports

September 21, 2023 11:34 AM
Photo: Jake Pollard
  • Jake Pollard, CDC Gaming Reports
September 21, 2023 11:34 AM
  • Jake Pollard, CDC Gaming Reports

The ability to harness the opportunities provided by the convergence of media, sports content, and online-betting platforms will determine how those verticals combine to benefit the industry, according to key executives discussing the topic at the SBC Summit.

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The recent $1.5 billion 10-year agreement Penn Entertainment has signed with ESPN in the U.S., the move by the scores specialist Livescore to becoming a sports-betting operator, and the acquisition by Entain of the Latam-focused 365scores were all cited as signs of the convergence among the different verticals.

The panelists from a number of sports publishers and affiliates, and sponsorship, advertising, and technology providers all agreed that the moves were logical and, as sports betting has become a lot more mainstream in recent years, were being facilitated by the whole advertising-sponsorship-betting-technology ecosystem.

John Maylam, founder of the sports fantasy company 7qz, said, “Online sports betting is much less stigmatized than before and media houses are much more willing to include them in their packages.” And as operators drive this convergence, “Sports betting keeps audiences engaged for longer periods.”

Matt Heiman, founder and CEO of the sports affiliate The Game Day, said the rise in convergence was also due to economic factors. “There is lots of money chasing advertising slots and online (inventory) is always available to the highest bidders. But it’s not like (advertising slots for) drinks or other consumer goods and betting businesses will always bid the most. It’s often a case of ‘follow the money.’”

For Patrick Mostboeck, SVP of audiovisual at Sportradar, the direct relevance between sports content and sports wagering for groups like “DAZN or Fanatics is about increasing ad revenues from a certain customer and from an OTT (over-the-top media) perspective, sports betting becomes really interesting to increase revenues.”

However, he also cautioned, “Sports betting is not for everyone. Streaming and betting platforms must cater to fans in a targeted way and not have a one-size-fits all for customers.”

Dean Akinjobi, CEO of sponsorship agency Football Media, commented, “Convergence is around driving efficiencies and the betting market is very competitive. One example of this was the move by Livescore from a score and statistics content provider to becoming an online sports betting operator. Entain has also bought 365scores and being part of the media ecosystem and owning a media outlet is a very powerful proposition.”

Marco Castaldo, CEO of the gaming and betting services supplier Microgame in Italy, noted that there is “a natural match between the two verticals: media has a sizable audience that can be matched with sports bettors.

“But why is it exciting now? Because betting has become much more mainstream and different parts of the customer experience need to be serviced to extract the value of the user experience. Audiences consume sport in lots of different places and there’s lots of friction between different outlets. There are great opportunities for whoever manages to combine them and offer them all in one place.”

The panelists agreed that the influence of artificial intelligence on the betting-media ecosystem will continue to grow. Dean Akinjobi and Matt Heiman said the technology offered great efficiencies and, if used appropriately, could be highly productive, but John Maylam expressed caution about the value it was adding to the sector, in particular with regard to its commoditizing information.

Giving the example of fantasy sports picks, he said his friend group “used to pick teams ourselves and the results varied quite a lot after each weekend. With teams picked by AI, all the results, the team lineups are the same now and that’s the concern going forward.”

Marco Castaldo said his company would not use AI in the content it produces for Italian media outlets. “You need insights and nuance to add value to the brand. We’re not ready to use AI for content, because it would be going down the road of a ‘me-too’ offering if you generate content with a machine. There isn’t as much value there as with content generated by humans.”