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How social betting will reshape fan engagement

The monetisation and engagement opportunities that are available through social betting on over-the-top streaming platforms have the potential to redefine the viewing experience for sports fans worldwide.

By Rory Squires for SportBusiness September 29, 2021

It is increasingly recognised that integrating social elements into sports coverage can help to counter a generational challenge that has been amplified in recent years. In the US, the average viewing age increased for 23 of the 24 most high-profile sports properties in the decade up to 2017.

Social elements, though – such as social video and audio – can play a key role in bucking the trend.

To illustrate the appeal of social interactions for younger audiences, research has found that 25 to 34-year-olds dominate in terms of Facebook usage worldwide. This, for example, is considerably younger than the average age of nearly 50 for a viewer in the US for last year’s NFL Super Bowl.

Furthermore, a pre-pandemic survey by PwC found that more than half of viewers wanted more interactive features during sports coverage, suggesting a solution to a long-term problem.

With this in mind, more sports media platforms and companies are opting to bring social elements in house to engage and understand a younger audience, generate a new revenue stream, and build brand loyalty through a more tailored, data-driven approach.

Generational challenge

Simultaneously, an increasing number of rights-holders from the US major leagues are joining sports clubs and media companies from across Europe and beyond in embracing sports betting, as the monetisation opportunities in the expanding sector become irresistible.

As sports platforms and publishers seek a foothold in a global market that, according to Goldman Sachs, could expand at a compound annual growth rate of 40% in the US alone to be worth $39bn by 2033, there are signs that social betting could prove to be a particularly strong proposition.

In the US, whilst the most recent figures available suggest that most sports fans are over the age of 50, it is the 30 to 44-year-old demographic that is most likely to gamble and wager on sports.

The combination of social and betting elements through social betting can therefore attract a younger audience as part of a more personalised experience.

A refined fan engagement experience

Team owners and media platforms have long recognised how betting on sport can drive engagement. Just a year after a federal ban on sports betting was overturned in the US, research by Global Web Index in 2019 revealed that 60% of sports fans in the country were more likely to watch a game if they had placed a wager on it.

To attract sports fanatics who want to bet on live sports and offer superior waging experiences, rights-holders need to add a social layer with enabling real-time engagement (RTE) for interactive betting.

With RTE introduced, rights-holders can deliver streams with less than 200 milliseconds of latency worldwide and is well suited to interactive betting scenarios.

“We have the fastest Glass-to-Glass streaming across global footprints from our camera to your screen in real-time to enrich new betting scenarios such as “micro” in-play betting and social betting. It brings a familiar social and interactive element to betting,” says Brighton Shi, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Agora, a social video and audio technology provider.

Social betting

The social element of watching and betting on sports in a group introduces ‘peer-pressure’ scenarios, encouraging the viewers to participate in a friendly wager – or, as Shi explains, when friends challenge each other to “put your money where your mouth is”.

Despite the rise of mobile and online betting, gambling is set to remain a social pastime for many people for the foreseeable future.

For example, online sports betting is currently active in 19 US states. However, in five states, the activity is only allowed in a retail environment – such as a racetrack or a casino. Across established gambling markets like the UK, betting shops and casinos retain fiercely loyal customers.

In-play wagering

The worldwide growth of in-play betting over the past decade has fuelled further opportunities via real-time engagement.

For the in-play wagering scenario, ultra-low latency and feed synchronisation is essential in the context of maintaining the integrity of placing wagers. With so-called ‘rapid markets’ increasingly offered – enabling bets to be placed at short intervals and in relation to events that are seconds away from happening – viewers can discuss and place wagers on even more scenarios as they watch a game.

For example, a viewer can bet on whether or not a penalty will be converted in football, or whether the next serve in a tennis match will be a fault, and the results of each bet can be delivered in a matter of milliseconds.

There is the opportunity to generate incremental revenue for a rights-holder that has integrated betting options into streaming coverage, but it is also about building customer loyalty by catering to the needs of viewers who are seeking an experience that is tailored to their interests.

Betting without boundaries

Social betting means punters are not only restricted to discussing and betting on a game with the person they are standing next to in a betting shop. Instead, they can link up with friends across the world to share the experience.

The opportunity to bet without physical boundaries via OTT is made possible by providers like Agora that are able to offer ultra-low latency and high-sync playback, ensuring the viewers are capturing the action simultaneously and virtually in real-time.

“Compared to current CDN broadcasting where the latency is more than three seconds, Agora offers latency of 300 to 400 milliseconds,” Shi says. “It also integrates the video or audio of the friends, so it is like being in a Zoom-style call, but without latency lags. Watching the match together means that the engagement factor is much higher and you can feel much more immersed in the game and open to betting than just watching the stream by yourself in a ‘lean-back’ experience.”

Enjoying shared watching and wagering experiences on digital platforms is therefore set to make a significant impact as sports coverage becomes an increasingly social experience.

This article originally appeared on SportBusiness HERE

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