Neale Deeley Managing Director of Gaming at Betradar details to SBC readers the fast yet understated growth of Virtual Sports content for betting operators.
With ‘Virtuals’ becoming a more important market vertical within sports betting, Deeley sheds insight on product development for new client demands, adopting Virtual Sports strategies and future market impacts.
SBC: Neale great to interview you, the significant growth of virtual sports content in a relative short period has never been fully detailed. What has driven Virtual Sports into becoming a key vertical for betting operators’.
Neale Deeley: Simply put, virtual is something punters like to play. The reason virtual appeals to punters is again quite simple. It delivers a betting experience that is very similar to betting on real sports with one small difference – time. Virtual condenses the time between bet placement and settlement. A pre-match bet just before kick off on a football match may take 2 hours to settle whereas a virtual football match takes around 4 minutes for the same bet. Everything else remains the same. The sport, the bet type, the resulting, etc.. For me, this is the inherent value of virtual as it takes something that works very well – sports betting – and tweaks it just a little to enhance the experience while keeping the things punters understand and like.
SBC: You are heading up Virtual Sports development for Sportradar, who are specialists in data and analysis. Was the creation of Virtual Sports content a natural fit for Sportradar and its operations?
ND: It’s a very natural fit. When you do the analysis of how punters play virtual sports it is very clear that they bet on virtual in exactly the same way that they bet on real sports. The motivations to bet, betting styles and enjoyment as the bet unfolds are all carried over from the real sports into virtual so it makes sense for us to take our expertise from real sports betting into the virtual world. You can see this in the way we deliver the virtual sports. At every level we analyse the real sport to ensure that the punter experience feels the same. From the relative strengths of the teams/players in a competition, right down to the frequency of backhands in virtual tennis videos. Everything will be derived from data analysis so that we create an authentic version of the sport that punters find familiar.
How do you see Virtual Sports products evolving as operators’ place higher demands on omni-channel capabilities?
ND: For consumer-facing products like Virtual, I think it’s important to understand what punters are looking for when we discuss omni-channel. While they want the content to be consistent across all channels, they fully expect the presentation of that product to fit the channel they are using. For example, in retail, watching the virtual match unfold on a big screen with crisp HD graphics is a key part of the experience where on mobile, punters are more comfortable with live scores and match trackers on the top part of the screen while they check out prices for upcoming games. In both cases, it’s the same underlying game mechanic with the presentation tailored to the environment the punter is in.
SBC: Should industry operators begin to develop individual Virtual Sports content strategies, in order to optimise customer engagement with content?
ND: This would make sense. As I said earlier, punters bet on virtual in the same way they bet on real sports and this applies to their choice of sport and how you market to them. A punter who loves horses isn’t going to suddenly start betting on basketball because it is virtual. He’s going to bet on virtual horses. Likewise, how operators engage with punters on individual virtual sports should mirror how they present real sports. This is one of the reasons we have recently launched a Euros version of our virtual football. To allow operators to market and promote the virtual football in a way that is consistent. We now have operators using virtual Euros 2016 as a marketing tool for both real and virtual which is something I believe will become increasing the norm as we roll out more competition formats.
SBC: At consumer level, how will future technology developments impact the development of Virtual Sports Content
ND: There is always a lot of speculation in this area as everyone rushes to proclaim the latest gadget as the one to transform the world. Most are technology for technology sake. I personally like to keep things simple and remember that what the punters want is to easily place a bet, when they want and where they want. We are always looking at new technology that helps do that and you can be sure we will be the first in the market with anything that does.
Neale Deeley – Managing Director of Gaming at Betradar