SBC NEWS | Written by Ted Orme-Claye
Changes in consumer demand for betting innovations are driven by the operators themselves, Sam Sadi laid out to SBC. The key step now is how the industry responds to the demand it itself has created.
Recent years have seen a range of new betting products hit the markets, such as cashouts, in-play wagering and request a bet/bet builder offerings, LiveScore Group’s CEO noted, which has in turn fuelled customers’ desire for more innovation.
“It’s not the consumer demand that has changed but the rollout of new innovative products that have moved the customer towards different types of betting and behaviours,” he said.
“There is a lot of argument to be made that the consumption of media has changed a lot to a more short form and those types of platforms, but in my opinion betting behaviours have been driven by betting operators’ delivery of the products.”
At LiveScore Group, the primary tool in its arsenal for meeting this demand is the firm’s convergence model – as discussed by Sadi in SBC Leaders magazine earlier this month.
A combination of sports media and the LiveScore Bet and Virgin Bet bookmaker brands, LiveScore Group’s convergence model underpins the group’s ambitions to become the market leader in the increasingly intertwined sports betting and media ecosystem.
“Just another type of content”
Sectors learning from one another – especially sectors as closely linked as sports and betting – is nothing new, and Sadi outlines that betting has some important insights to gain from its sports media counterpart.
Betting is really just “another type of content”, except more transactional in nature than traditional sports content. The primary difference between the two is that when a customer visits a bookmaker’s app, they have ‘intent’ – and the job of the app is to allow the customer to “execute that intent with ease”.
Sadi continued: “UI/UX is really important for ease of use and for the customer to choose that brand, whereas on the traditional sports content, the user has time and is expecting to arrive at your product and find something entertaining.
“It’s really your content that drives the loyalty of the user, whereas it’s more the user experience that drives loyalty on the betting side. Of course, for us, it’s really how seamlessly these two experiences are integrated together that delivers something unique and that’s what’s driving loyalty and retention on our products.”
Content is nothing, however, without distribution, and for many operators seeking greater leverage of content and media assets as part of a wider, entertainment-oriented offering may face hurdles in this regard.
“A lot have tried but have failed”
Sadi had already outlined to SBC Leaders that the somewhat common saying “content is King” is slightly inaccurate, as “it’s really distribution that makes a difference”, because content can be acquired but ensuring it reaches the right customers is another matter entirely.
Of course, it is not just operators who are targeting a greater media presence. In many markets the inverse is also true, with media outlets eyeing up the revenue potentials of sports betting. This has had its success stories, but also its failures.
From Sadi’s experience, the national market which has seen the most development on sports media and betting convergence is the US, although he noted that much of this was “out of necessity”.
“The US operators have been looking at and exploring new business models that can give them better unit economics,” he said.
“They’ve spent billions in marketing and have understood after a couple of years that that is not a sustainable model. They are now looking at different types of convergence to see if they can improve those metrics.”
Despite this, North America has seen a mix of stories on media/betting convergence models – Sadi noted that whilst TheScore did exit the US it is finding success in Ontario. Meanwhile, Sky Bet has found its place in the UK market, although this did take around 10 years of hard work.
The main issue many media firms have faced and may continue to face with regards to their betting ambitions is simple – these outlets need to integrate a true tier one sportsbook, and many have not.
An overreliance on brand recognition has meant that some media outlets have integrated poorer quality sportsbooks. The fact that has not been considered is that most sports bettors will willingly downgrade their wagering experience “just because it is offered by the same brand they read the news at”.
Sadi emphasised that LiveScore Group, by contrast, has found success by ensuring “each component of our ecosystem is best in class”, continuing: “You can make the argument that there is no better scores app than LiveScore or that there is no better bookmaker than LiveScore Bet in the UK.
“If instead of being the best or best in class and just being in the top 10 in that space in terms of products and features, that ecosystem fails from day one. This is really the challenge of trying to replicate that business model.
“I have not seen any other territories where companies have tried to replicate the ecosystem, a lot of media companies have tried but have failed due to this exact reason.”
“Building in a compliant and responsible way”
It is clear from a conversation with LiveScore Group’s CEO, and from looking at the company’s performance, that betting and media convergence has strong commercial potential – but that does not mean hurdles don’t remain.
Particularly in Europe, concerns around the visibility of betting and exposure of young consumers to gambling material has prompted criticism of betting’s presence in media, particularly sports media.
This has been seen in the debate around English football’s relationship with betting during the UK Gambling Act review, but perhaps most prominently in the bans on advertising and sponsorship introduced this year in Belgium and the Netherlands.
In the long-run, how much of a challenge does this pose to the convergence model’s development? Although acknowledging that regulatory pressure could cause problems for some companies entering the space, Sadi is confident of LiveScore Group’s continued prospects.
He explained: “We are very transparent with what we do. We talk to regulators all the time and never hide our business model or how it is constructed.
“We have millions of users on LiveScore media and they frequently engage with betting, so we are building the ecosystem in a compliant and responsible way and we feel we are offering a single product to our ecosystem that is well within the new regulations.
“If you’re trying to build this and deliver an ecosystem that is the equivalent, then you are going to have trouble with the more strict regulations that are coming in.”