Genius Sports: Power behind the Price – Why premium data should be at the heart of sports betting

Data rights may not be a subject matter that sets heart rates pumping, yet as the betting sector expands its global profile, its incumbents will face greater scrutiny with regards to sports data management, integrity and collaborations.

Through betting/data subsidiary Betgenius,  Genius Sports has developed one of the world’s fastest growing data and technology enterprises, detailing to SBC why in 2019 wider sports data dynamics are becoming a crucial component for the sector’s next evolution.

Providing SBC with its latest ‘leaders insight’, Matt Stephenson, Henrik Ahuna and Sean Conroy deliver a full sports data breakdown… Pay Close Attention!  

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Matt Stephenson – Betgenius

SBC: Why are data rights partnerships with sporting leagues and federations a critical component for Genius Sports Group and specifically the Betgenius product offering to sportsbook operators?

Matt Stephenson (Managing Director – Betgenius): Ultimately, sportsbooks need total confidence that the data they use to manage huge amounts of revenue is always going to be there. Our relationships with sports ensure this is the case, and that this data flow won’t suddenly be cut off when, for example, an unofficial data collector gets removed from a match. We think that’s a risk operators’ won’t and frankly cannot accept.

This shift towards premium, sanctioned data is a natural evolution for sports betting and another sign of our industry maturing. In days gone by many sportsbooks were content to turn a blind eye to where their data feeds were coming from. But today, in a sector facing far greater regulatory and public scrutiny, serious businesses simply can no longer do that. They need to be sure of the legitimacy and reliability of every part of their supply chain.

It has been our strategy to use the fastest and most reliable data sources available wherever possible for many years. Access to superior quality data, via official data partnerships or captured by our network of 7,000 accredited in-stadia statisticians, is also hugely beneficial to sportsbook operators for a number of reasons beyond sheer peace of mind.

Sean Conroy – Genius Sports

Sean Conroy (Commercial Partnerships Director – Genius Sports): Close partnerships with sports rights holders are at the heart of Genius Sports Group’s business. Sitting at the intersection of the sports, betting and media industries as we do, our technology is built to make capturing live sports data at the source, and distributing it to our partners, as fast and reliable as possible.

On most occasions, sports choose to take control of their data to help protect the integrity of their competitions, open up new data commercialisation opportunities, and grow fan engagement via products like stat-driven content. This strategy has been deployed by several tier one sports leagues for some time, however, recent years have seen professional leagues of all sizes look to their data to reap the obvious benefits.

SBC: Are sports rights holders becoming more comfortable when engaging with the sports betting sector? 

SC: The dynamic between the sports and betting industries is evolving rapidly. Historically, the two haven’t necessarily been comfortable bedfellows and in certain instances still aren’t. So for many sports leagues around the world, our initial role is to educate them around how the betting sector works, both operationally and from a regulatory perspective, and the role that sports themselves can play in that.

For almost every league or federation, the reality is that betting on their games goes on whether they decide to engage with the industry or not. By ignoring it, they have zero transparency over global betting activity or which operators offer live betting on their games, which can also present its own integrity issues.

Often a key pillar of a league’s wider digital transformation strategy, we encourage sports to invest in an official data product that can power their partnerships with licensed betting operators as well as their own engagement platforms such as websites, mobile apps and social media feeds to give their fans a great experience.

Hendrik Ahuna – Betgenius

SBC: What are the real benefits of using a ‘premium’ data feed?

Hendrik Ahuna (Head of Sportsbook Operations – Betgenius):  High-quality data provides huge value by enhancing the quality of the betting product and minimising all potential risk associated with poor quality, unreliable data. This is due to three big factors: latency, accuracy and integrity.

Slow collection and transfer of data means anybody present at a match can become a courtsider, placing bets on events as they happen much faster than a bookmaker can update their markets. Even a 10 second delay is enough for a casual punter to be tempted to take advantage.

MS: Premium quality data allows bookmakers to trade live games with far more precision than with data from, for example, TV pictures. Not only can trading teams have complete peace of mind that the information they are receiving is 100% correct, it also means they can drive turnover by keeping in-play markets open for longer, offer a greater variety of bet types and manage new and innovative products that rely on split-second odds changes.

What sportsbook operators are also beginning to understand the risks they face as more and more sports take control over their data and enforce the rights agreements they have in place. If they are relying on live data from an unsanctioned source – such as an in-stadia scout with no permission to collect data from that game – that data feed is cut off the moment that scout is ejected from the ground or even questioned by a league official.

SBC: How is this raw product i.e. a live data feed transformed into a valuable product for the sports betting sector?

HA: The process of getting the data to end users – punters – starts at the venue. From pitchside or courtside, either an umpire or one of our trained statisticians monitors the match and captures the data using our proprietary application on a tablet device.

The data points collected varies by sport and is handled in priority order, with betting-related metrics gaining priority over media-related information. For example, in basketball, we record the scoreline first, and after confirming the accuracy, we will turn our attention to who scored, from where he scored and who gave the assist.

This data then moves forward within a split-second to our in-house trading solutions. The data will power our trading algorithms in real-time, which is then operated by one of our expert traders.

SBC: How do you see the data rights landscape evolving during 2019 and beyond? What does the changing landscape mean for both suppliers and operators?

MS: It’s impossible to answer this question without taking into account what is happening in the U.S. right now. As we’ve alluded to, the trend of sports taking greater control of their data assets is just getting started and the approach by the major U.S. leagues has been pragmatic but commercially-driven.

As more rights holders take this route, the more investment will be made into enforcing data rights agreements – in other words sports will crack down on unofficial data collection at their events.

For us, this trend is not about forcing bookmakers to pay for official data. Fundamentally, sports are creating a product which gives operators access to the fastest, most accurate data possible while also guaranteeing the secure supply of that data. That’s hugely beneficial for bookmakers. And therefore it’s a value exchange in which sports should benefit

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