The magic of live streaming is in the power it has to make people feel involved – and subsequently more engaged – with the betting experience, said Vermantia technical director Menelaos Ladopoulos.
But what came first – the thirst from players for faster, more reliable live streams? Or the emergence of tech which normalised the concept within the increasingly content-driven betting community?
Ladopoulos shared his thoughts on the new age of streaming, including whether it can help to form a more rounded perception of the sports betting experience, and why increased prevalence of the 5G network will be a game-changer for operators in all corners of the world – both in retail and online.
SBC: We talked last year about live streaming’s shift from commodity to necessity, but what was the main driver? Did this come from customer demand or enhanced tech capacity?
ML: A new age of streaming tech is upon us, but the evolution of streaming services began back in the 2010s with the emergence of new technologies that had given rise to a variety of new platforms, targeting a wide array of traditional broadcast audiences online. The emergence of the IPTV technology has spurred the growth of a new user-generated and content-driven web community.
There are many reasons behind the continuous streaming’s widespread appeal and its popularity increased indeed dramatically, making it a vital necessity. I cannot say that just one is the main driver. Briefly, I will answer that the main drivers are ease of access and convenience that comes hand-in-hand with the mobile use which is skyrocketing, content variety, internet speed as well as social factors and even economics. And it’s all about the customers.
Customers’ demands and expectations are changing and improvements in technology are driving new and higher expectations for how companies deliver their services and interact with customers. It’s an interrelated relationship and live streaming follows exactly this path.
SBC: Would you say the popularity of live streaming is helping to shift the perception of gambling from a quick win/lose transaction to a more rounded entertainment experience?
ML: Without any doubt, the way we entertain ourselves has been affected by the digital revolution. Playing couldn’t be left out of the equation, and so does the users’ perception of gambling.
The magic with the streaming lies in its ability to offer players the live betting experiences they are looking for, in a fast and reliable way. By delivering action-packed content with less than one second latency, seamlessly on a 24/7 basis to all retail, online and mobile audiences, betting operators create immersive experiences for their players and bring them a new level of engagement.
It’s a fact that live streaming has the power to make people feel involved, and therefore more likely to be engaged through the facilitation of a new – more meaningful – type of interaction between operators and players. Since it enables operators to keep the satisfaction at the rising curve, it is natural to have redefined the betting process in the minds of the players.
SBC: Keeping this ‘rising curve’ in mind, what new developments can we expect from live streaming solutions providers in 2021?
ML: Operators are fully aware that if they want to keep up their betting momentum they need to carve out a new path in satisfying the demands of the modern player. And the modern player craves for high quality streams, delivered with minimum latency to each and every device used. This is one of the main factors that will turn 2021 an industry-defined year for live streaming.
There is also the 5G that entered the stage. The changes brought about by fifth-generation technology will be key to future success on the field and off it. This technology is a game-changer for any business and the economy itself.
It has the potential to transform the fan experience, change the way sports related organisations, media and other sectors operate and why not to open up new revenue opportunities. It is expected to soon play a key role in the production as well as in the distribution of media services.
Last but not least, streaming providers must gravitate towards a fully flexible approach to accommodate users’ desires in this ever-evolving landscape.
This is exactly what we have been doing here at Vermantia for our partners. By leveraging our extensive know-how in the industry and our customer-centric mindset, we enabled our retail partners to activate their online channels via our real-time streaming in a record-time. Of course, retail will always be detail.
SBC: Let’s look more closely at 5G; how does its increased global prevalence influence your roadmap? Does it tilt your focus even more to live streaming and away from satellite solutions?
ML: If manufacturers, infrastructure operators and equipment providers fully understand the needs of the media industry, it can be assured that 5G will become a success. The key promises are definitely the increased flexibility, lower cost, higher reliability and better quality of players’ experience. If these goals can be met, all involved parties will profit.
5G comes hand-in-hand with the mobile internet technology. With the evolution of the mobile betting is sure to be a surge in betting activity once 5G becomes the market standard. 5G will provide higher speeds and better connectivity, mitigating the concerns of those players who avoid betting on their phones due to slow connections now.
Hence, 5G will be a game-changer for the gambling world and will strongly impact our industry especially during live events and not only for mobile but also for retail and online.
To give you an example, many of our customers – although they understand the benefits of delivering content through IP – are still sceptical because of the quality of the existing network coverage. The increased bandwidth and reduced latency that 5G is offering means that operators will be able to offer more powerful, compelling products to, and in more locations.
We have started doing extensive research on 5G and the way this new technology will allow us to deliver quality, bespoke content to our customers. 5G will allow us to reach remote places that up to now have access to content only through satellite.
But it hasn’t shifted our focus from satellite solutions for one main reason: there is no one-size-fits-all.
While global internet access has increased by approximately 22% the past 10 years, there are still countries that lack a reliable internet connection mainly due to the poor infrastructure and high costs.
By leveraging the latest in broadcasting technology, we can serve these locations via our Satellite broadcasting, providing maximum picture quality with minimum bandwidth requirements in a cost-effective manner.
SBC: Okay, so a bit like the drive for ‘cashless’ and ‘staffless’ gaming is best served up with a balance, will the hybrid approach to streaming and satellite broadcasting become the best bet?
ML: I believe it will. As I mentioned above, there is no one-size-fits-all. Operators have their unique demands and needs and alongside specific infrastructure to support their betting business. Therefore, streaming providers need to be on the same wavelength as them.
From an operator’s perspective, a hybrid approach is a smart move as it will enable them to bridge the gap between operational efficiency and customer expectations.
Our broadcast team has designed a new hybrid solution. Via an HD compact device, our partners can stream and broadcast content simultaneously. This gives them the opportunity to pivot their offering delivery according to the specific demands of each market and its customers and eventually drive growth for their business.
SBC: You mention these unique operator demands. How can the streaming be made bespoke to an individual operator? Is this more about the means of delivery rather than what the end user sees?
ML: Customised products certainly aren’t new to the market, but they are adding an extra perk. Think about Tesla who allows its customers to design their cars, same as Nike with shoes.
We’re reaching a level where bespoke solutions and adaptations are not only a perk for those consumers who are keenly aware of their needs, there are instances where problems outside of not finding exactly what they want are being solved.
Having this in mind, we provide an array of customisations for both end delivery and tech infrastructure to achieve our partners’ demands for a high quality streaming service.
After evaluating a client’s requirements, we provide our ultra-low latency streaming service to both retail and online channels with the quality and latency agreed at a cost-effective price. It’s the available branding customisations, so that each partner can best support their audience viewing experience.
By harnessing our ‘Think Global, Act Local’ approach we provide our partners with a robust offering to enable them to attract new customers and retain existing ones in a demanding marketplace.
SBC: And finally, what are your expectations for live streaming in the next 12 months?
ML: 2021 won’t be like years in the past, where you could just open last year’s plan and make simply “save as” the file, but a more “create new”. Taking as a fact that real-time streaming keeps going strong, in 2021 streaming will soar. Satellite broadcasting will not go anywhere, anytime soon, but all signs point to us living in a streaming world.
In a world where live streaming services are about to become the go-to solution for content delivery in both retail and the online betting landscape, we expect that the required infrastructure will undergo improvements during the coming months.
Also, remote production handling will be a thing during the next 12 months. The specific trend appeared during the past year with the global lockdowns in place, where many companies shifted to a work from home regime for the majority of their employees.
The need from operators to be able to handle their productions without being in the same location with their equipment will be feasible with the incorporation of ultra-low latency streaming services into their workflow to enable the effective reach of the respective audiences.