Sportradar founder Carsten Koerl has warned cynics not to dismiss the relevance of the metaverse and NFTs when planning the future of their businesses.
Koerl developed one of the earliest online-sports-betting platforms in 1997, going on to found Austrian brand Bwin, then sell it to legacy Entain business, GVC Group, in 2016.
Speaking in the keynote session at the SBC Barcelona Summit on Thursday morning, Koerl recalled being dismissed by brick-and-mortar bookies who liked the product, but believed “the internet was unsustainable” in his early discussions with them in the late ’90s.
“So we’re looking now into the metaverse, gamification, NFTs, all the things you see around you. Yes, a lot of people are making the statements, ‘It doesn’t play a role’ and ‘It’s not part of our future’. Hey, open your eyes. Amazon is going into this. Microsoft is moving in. Sony has the tracking system now in 11 sports. Do you think they’re not looking into that space? They’re looking in that space and we’re going to need to innovate ourselves”, he said.
Referring to his experiences in the late ’90s, he added, “We should not make the same mistake now and say the metaverse will not play a role. That’s wrong. It will play a role”.
Koerl said he saw the metaverse as an opportunity to improve customer engagement, a topic that receives a lot of airtime in his conversations with operators in the U.S.
“Fan engagement from a sports-betting perspective means you want to be in contact with your client and not even when he wants to do a bet. You want to catch him before he’s doing this”, he said.
He envisaged moving from a world of simply gathering customer data to improve the experience to one that involves using data for simulation. “That’s having graphics. You’re creating avatars based on this data, but they look real.”
He said Sportradar’s partnership with Formula One is an example of how the firm can access the sort of data needed to create realistic simulations.
“We get the data with a 0.1 millisecond delay, very accurate, parametric data from the cars, from the drivers’ reaction times, so we can tell you exactly in that second on this racetrack, the car has this power and the driver has these reaction times, so I can create a race”.
He continued to describe the simulation, only now including a player, as though he were racing in the real event. “It might be that this is happening in a metaverse and your friends are joining”, he said.
While Koerl’s vision of future engagement may seem like a departure from traditional betting and gaming models, he emphasised that such companies as Amazon, Sony, and Microsoft are already looking to occupy this space.