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SBD Global/October 15, 2013/Media

Sportel: Opta CEO Cooney Says Nascent Sports Data Business Has 'Huge Potential'

Opta CEO Aidan Cooney told SBD Global that the sports data business is only at the beginning of its journey and has a huge potential. Cooney said, “Ultimately, we are only starting to see the potential for this business. Social media is driving a lot of what’s happening in media, but our customers are really only at the start of the journey of using data, for example, to recruit players, to look at performances of players in other leagues. That’s a very small market for us at the moment, but we think it has got a huge potential.” While using data to recruit and rank players might be only a niche market at the moment, other sectors appear to be more lucrative for Opta. Asked about it on Monday at Sportel Monaco, Cooney said, “In media, there’s a long way to go, looking at X-Y coordinates, heat-map type tactical information that happens during the game. Some sort of visualization, I think, will drive a big part of the market. And then obviously the digitalization, the video content, such as exploiting archives as well as real-time indexing of video. That’s something that is completely new, and I believe that we are only at the beginning of the journey.”

CUSTOMER IS KING: The newfound demand for sports data has a lot to do with technological advances. Whereas in the past people watched a game and read the box score the next day in the newspaper, technology has made it possible to do both at the same time. Asked who is driving the demand for data, Cooney said, “It’s very much the consumer, who’s driving the demands of the media, and they have a voice via social media for the first time. So that is definitely driving the use of data, no question.” Clubs, which might profit from data more than any other customers, still seem reluctant to adapt and use the information. Cooney said that clubs “are moving on a slightly different speed.” He said, “I don’t know if you are familiar with the film ‘Moneyball,’ but that sort of tension that exists between due diligence on players and a scout’s eye for a player still exists. But we believe that obviously is going to change over time. It should be complementary rather than an alternative.”

FANTASY-FREE EUROPE
: Another business sector that would require a lot of data is fantasy sports. A phenomenon that has taken the U.S. by storm has barely gained recognition in Europe. There are theories that sports betting is a major contributor to fantasy’s inability to gain a foothold in Europe. However, Cooney does not believe it is that easy. He said, “Fantasy has not been a big business in Europe and obviously it’s massive business in the U.S. The U.S. professional leagues and broadcasters are very good at using fantasy to deepen the engagement with their fans, and, obviously, that’s great news for data. That hasn’t happened in Europe, and I think it’s only partly to do with the fact that betting cohabits. I think it’s also to do with the fact that fantasy hasn’t been probably utilized by the European sports. I think that is true about a lot of things, not just fantasy.”
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