sportradar virtual stadium

Sportradar’s Blaz Zitnik: Virtual Stadium and the art of user engagement

Last week saw the unwrapping of the Sportradar Virtual Stadium, described by the sports technology company as an ‘artificial intelligence and machine learning driven social engagement solution’ for sportsbook operators, providing bettors with the opportunity to socialise with each other during the world’s premier soccer tournament. Blaz Zitnik, Managing Director, Betting Entertainment Tools (BET), at Sportradar, explains more.

Replete with a host of functions including game specific chat rooms and a ‘cheermeter’, the Sportradar Virtual Stadium looks set to bring a healthy dose of user engagement when it comes to betting on this year’s World Cup competition. Blaz Zitnik, Sportradar

Outlining the rationale behind the solution, Zitnik said: “What we are focusing on is fan engagement and fan entertainment and how we can evolve these factors that are being echoed in other industries.

“Player engagement is a term that is being used across industries; and I would say that it’s wrongly used. It should be ‘user engagement’. Because when you’re a player you’re already engaged. There are two things from a betting perspective that are very important. On the one side, acquisition – how to get new users on your page. And second is retention – how to keep them on the page without going anywhere else.

“On the visualisation side we are focusing on computer vision and 3D models. On the statistical side within our player markets, we are going deeper into athlete data and statistics. What we believe is very important for the future of betting in general is a mixture of betting and media and the challenge to acquire users.”

According to Zitnik, one of the main ingredients that is missing from today’s betting environment is a social component. “Firstly, we’re addressing that through chat,” he said. “Secondly, the challenge is to get new users on board and explain to them what all those markets and strange numbers are about. Those things are very hard to understand for somebody who is new on the site.

“So, we are starting with two modules, firstly social (chat) and secondly a leaderboard (prediction) so that new users can check what’s happening, why those odds are there and what they mean. Those users can also see how good they are at predicting the outcome and that will be shown in the chat.”

Sportradar Virtual Stadium, with its social-heavy approach, marks something of a departure from traditional betting industry practice according to Zitnik. He explained: “In general the betting industry is very, very focused on hard-core wagering – odds, markets, where the difference is being made against competitors. That is leaving space in the frontend for engagement and entertainment tools. This is something we have already been building with our Live Match Trackers and Betting Widgets. Sportradar Virtual Stadium is the next step – an evolution of that.”

Turning to the solution’s chat function, Zitnik noted that rather than just have one single chat platform for the competition, there will be an individual one for each and every game. To have just one, generic room, he said, does not work. “There are users that are watching different matches – and that would not allow them to communicate with each other. For each match, we will be opening different chat rooms, so all users involved can be talking about exactly the same thing. Also, we’re looking to introduce interesting betting features to that chat such as key event pop ups and several sticky elements such as a ‘cheermeter’.”

The opportunity for bettors to interact also brings with it the added risk that ‘chats’ could get out of hand. On that front, Sportradar has worked hard to ensure that sufficient moderation has been built into the platform to ensure that banter doesn’t escalate beyond acceptable levels. “We have developed a moderation platform that is very easy to use and incorporates machine learning and AI,” Zitnik confirmed. “It gives additional power to the bookmakers’ moderators to predict which users might potentially cause problems.”

The Sportradar Virtual Stadium solution looks to satisfy two KPIs according to Zitnik. He stated: “Firstly, increasing dwell time; giving operators more time to interact with their users. The second is increased loyalty. This platform is for operators who like to work on their brand, on their recognition and their user base and are willing to invest more than their competitors. This is a key differentiator when it comes to loyalty.”

And beyond this year’s World Cup tournament, Sportradar Virtual Stadium evidently has the potential to work perfectly alongside other sports and events. Zitnik described the platform as ‘sport agnostic’ and open to the needs of operators across all sports, particularly those that enjoy less traffic. “We are not limiting ourselves to specific sports or tournaments. It can work across any event,” he concluded.


SBC News Sportradar’s Blaz Zitnik: Virtual Stadium and the art of user engagement

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