The level of knowledge around data capture and its commercialisation seems to, understandably, vary among federations and leagues according to their respective sizes and commercial maturity. While the likes of Perform’s Opta Sports and Sportradar have been active in the sector for years, there remains a perception that the full value of data is still not being derived by some rights owners that have been slower off the mark.
In a bid not only to own, but to reap the benefits of commercialising data, the DFL struck a joint venture deal with Deltatre in the second half of 2016. Sportec Solutions was created, handling the collection, administration, quality management and provision of match data from Germany’s top two soccer divisions. This brought an end to the DFL’s previous practice of awarding data collection (and commercialisation) contracts to third-party companies.
Sportec Solutions – owned 75 per cent by the DFL’s Sportcast subsidiary and 25 per cent by Deltatre – has been up and running since the start of the 2017-18 season, amalgamating volumes of data that can then be provided to member clubs or rights-holding broadcasters, or sold on to third parties, notably within the betting industry.
As Hendrik Weber, Sportec Solutions’ managing director, tells Sportcal Insight, the data collection has been collected initially by Deltatre, although that role will be partly “insourced” over the coming months, and, in the future, the responsibility will be fully performed internally from the joint venture’s Cologne headquarters (although not from the first year).
He says: “We believe it is already an important asset but it will be increasingly more important in the future. Being in control of the value chain brings us into a better position.”
At the time of the Deltatre tie-up, Giampiero Rinaudo, the company’s chief executive, noted: “Our view already for two or three years is that for major federations data are like media: they say ‘they are my rights’. We [Deltatre] don’t want to own data; we want to provide services to major rights-holders, as we are already doing with Fifa and Uefa. We see data becoming like video: owned by the rights-holders. But it is becoming more and more complex and sophisticated.”
The Bundesliga first turned its gaze towards the commercialisation of match data in 2011, appointing Impire (a German firm later acquired by Deltatre), before awarding Opta a four-year contract from 2013-14 onwards.
Now, the Bundesliga can lay claim to being ahead of any other football league in providing the most in-depth array of data services to clubs, including an ‘Official Match Analysis Portal’ and a scouting feed that offers a specially-created ‘tactics cam’ for all 617 matches per season. Sportec Solutions now promotes itself as providing a database of match information that is “one of the most comprehensive sources for statistics in world sport.”
So what were the motives behind the DFL’s move to take the data collection and commercialisation operation in house?
“There are cost synergies in the long run, even if at the start some things might be more expensive. But the main reason is that you can create more value out of it,” according to Weber, who also heads up technology and innovation at the DFL.
“For example, an international TV partner will be interested in players in their country or continent, so Sportec Solutions can collect specific datasets for one TV partner, given their interest. We can be very flexible and we’ll produce a lot of customised feeds in the future.”
While the business models of the likes of Perform’s Opta and Sportradar are based on “scalability, leveraging and standardisation,” according to Weber, the Bundesliga’s data operation will offer standard feeds “that allow clients to plug in,” but also “a huge customisation and flexibility approach.”
Being in control of the whole value chain puts us in good shape to deliver to everybody to the extent that they need it
Looking forward, he predicts: “In the next five years you will have a very heterogeneous media landscape with OTT, traditional broadcasters and even the big tech companies coming in and they all have different levels of knowhow, interest and demands. Being in control of the whole value chain puts us in good shape to deliver to everybody to the extent that they need it.”
Projecting the future value of data rights has its difficulties, given that much of the information and services are provided, in this case, to satisfy member clubs or existing broadcast partners already paying a media rights fee.
Third-party revenues are derived chiefly from the betting, gaming and sponsorship sectors, but also from companies offering scouting databases. While Sportec Solutions (with the help of Deltatre) collects and manages the data, its commercialisation is handled by the DFL.
Weber observes: “The value of the data is monetised currently by TV broadcast deals, where data is part of the offering. It doesn’t necessarily have a separate price tag and that’s difficult to quantify. The increase we had in the last years was immense but is still on a way lower level than other rights.
“The value has to be seen in context of the whole product service offering a league has.”
Alongside the business segments of Broadcast & Digital Services, Club Services and the Official Bundesliga Database, the fourth pillar of Sportec Solutions is its work in innovation services, and new products are currently being developed.
These include ‘NextGen’ statistics to be displayed by media partners via on-air infographics, while Weber and his team continue to work with ChyronHego on improving player tracking technology. Sports technology activities are also undertaken, including operational responsibility for wearable technology, goal-line technology and Video Assistant Referees (introduced to the Bundesliga this season in partnership with Hawk-Eye).
While it remains to be seen how sizeable will be the revenue streams the Bundesliga can garner from match data by taking the operation in-house, the project appears typically comprehensive. This will, in turn, help to equip Bundesliga International, the league’s rights sales arm, with a powerful offering when trying to drive more value from a particular broadcast market amid the ever-increasing competition between Europe’s leading leagues.