Genius aims streaming at sport’s long tail, will offer betting rights fees ‘if value there’

Genius Sports, the sports data and technology company, is targeting “underserved” and “long-tail” sports with its new streaming production and betting streaming offering.

Having established itself in sports through its data and rights-holder integrity partnerships, Genius announced in October the launch of GeniusLive, its automated streaming and production service, on the back of the acquisition of Belgium-based streaming and performance analysis company Oppia Performance.

To coincide with that move, Betgenius, the company’s sportsbooks supplier arm, began offering its live streaming service, signing up international operator bet365 as one of the first clients.

The main rationale behind the move into streaming is to provide a valuable broadcast platform (and the commercial opportunities that accompany it) to rights-holders with whom Genius works, and in doing so create an enhanced fan experience.

However, the strategic shift has prompted observers to ponder how real Genius’ ambitions are in the media and particularly the betting streaming rights space that has been hitherto dominated by the IMG Arena, Sportradar and Stats Perform trio.

Speaking to SportBusiness, Sean Conroy, commercial partnerships director at Genius Sports, said: “In terms of our commercial proposition on the media and sportsbook side, we’re looking at sports that are underserved.

“Long-tail sports that do not have the attention, can’t cover the hardware and production costs of other solutions and therefore don’t have major profile or visibility.”

Competitions that take place during specific windows, namely on weekdays or during summer months in which there can be scheduling lulls, are of particular interest, Conroy specified.

He continued: “If you can aggregate a lot of that content through affordable provision of tools and supply that on our media platform, via OTT and into advertisers and sportsbooks, there’s value in filling those scheduling gaps.”

The Dutch Basketball League is one of the first rights-holders to work with Genius Sports in the live streaming space. GeniusLive already works with the French Volleyball League (LNV), Belgium’s EuroMillions Volley League, and the volleyball federations in the Czech Republic and Portugal.

The GeniusLive platform will soon be rolled out in the Americas and Asia, beginning with basketball and volleyball but also in “multiple other sports”, Conroy said.

On the issue of whether Genius is ready to put down minimum guarantees for betting streaming rights to challenge its rivals in that space, Conroy said: “We’ll look at it on a case-by-case basis and each partnership will depend very much on the level of the rights and rights-holder that we’re working alongside.

“Where we are different from some of our traditional competitors is in our current and historic focus on sports technology and the deep requirements of sports around performance analysis.

“We’re offering very high-value work and complex systems to generate value and in some cases in consideration of their rights.”

Through GeniusLive, Conroy said that rights-holders are being offered solutions that would “otherwise be very expensive to get from the market” and that Genius provides “a flexible business model that allows them to have some form of reduction”.

In its agreements to provide streaming and data solutions, GeniusLive often, but not always, receives betting rights to then showcase through Betgenius. That doesn’t always require a “financial component on top”, according to Conroy, but Genius is willing to do so “when the value is there”.

Conroy said: “We do that with other sports on the data side and we’ll do the same in streaming as and when the right opportunities present themselves.”

The supply of the betting rights depends on the rights-holder, with some deciding to hold on to them for fear of impinging on their media-rights distribution strategy. If the betting rights are provided, then Genius also provides a consultancy service through its integrity unit to help clients understand the risks.

Conroy continued: “We are going to bring a slightly different type of solution to the market in terms of a commercial proposition and reselling content. It will be one focused on long-tail sports that solves scheduling issues for media and betting businesses.

“And providing a solution that’s automated, that a sport can run and manage themselves and provides them with a unique opportunity to live stream each of their games for the first time.

“This overall approach will allow us to scale quickly, reach different types of sports in different time zones and markets than perhaps have been the focus of traditional streaming businesses, which tend to focus higher up the sporting ecosystem.”

Those properties “higher up the sporting ecosystem” include top football or tennis properties targeted by IMG Arena, Sportradar and Stats Perform. One such property is the ATP Tour, for which IMG has been in the final stages of negotiation over a 10-year, $1bn betting streaming and data rights deal.

Varying production levels

The GeniusLive technology allows leagues and federations to automate the video production of their events. Using AI-powered algorithms, GeniusLive automatically tracks, pans and captures the live action and with one camera often deemed sufficient for rights-holders who have struggled for broadcast exposure.

However, there are different levels of production offered depending on the rights-holder in question and how they intend to use the video content. Often coaching videos will require just one camera behind a court for a tactical view.

Conroy said that the production level “depends on comfort level and appetite of the sport and what level of production value they want to get to”.

French volleyball’s LNV for instance, requires a multi-camera production for their over-the-top subscription offering.

Conroy added: “We don’t think we’re ever going to replace proper [top-tier] broadcast quality. That’s not the part of the market we’re playing in. We’re really looking more at the long tail and up through the mid tail.”