One maybe-far-off, maybe 2023-ish day in California, a sports fan transitioning into California sports betting fan will thumb into their wagering app of choice and find the in-game plays, or live betting, that all of those television promos have been pitching.
The Dodgers’ most recent ridiculously expensive mid-season acquisition will be striding to home plate on a splendid afternoon at Citi Field in New York, looking to continue a torrid hot streak. Excitedly, the bettor punches into a next-outcome market and indulges in a home run at lucrative odds at DraftKings California. They confirm the bet.
The Dodger homers. Would-be sports bettor throws phone at TV. (Misses, luckily, but creates a sound metaphor for what just happened.)
Yes, when and if sports bettors will be making these types of bets legally in California depends a lot on the fates of Prop 26 and Prop 27 in November. According to a California Casinos survey, plenty of Californians are making wagers illegally already. But the fans that sportsbooks will entice to become bettors will soon learn a new word, or at least a phenomenon that has annoyed their compatriots in the 26 states that already offer mobile sports betting: latency.
Basically, that’s the speed with which an electronic signal travels from the point of origin to the recipient’s device.
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At this hypothetical Dodgers-Mets game, a TV broadcast signal and a data feed detailing every granular outcome leave Queens at the same time. But the TV signal never has a chance of arriving at the phone of the bettor in Riverside at the same time. Federal Communications Commission guidelines designed to mute “obscene, indecent and profane broadcasts” will slow the television signal by at least 30 seconds — thanks, Timberlake. The data feed, meanwhile, should be virtually instantaneous.
So, the reality for the bettor trying to partake in the buzziest of buzz trends pushed by gambling companies is that the home run hitter had already circled the bases before the brilliant bet was attempted. Ouch.
Streams provided on the internet and through sports betting apps could have shown the dinger in real time because they’re not confined to the same FCC regulations. But they lag because of tech, not the problems that hobble broadcasts. If sportsbooks care or pay to use them at all. Options are limited domestically for now, but streaming services fuboTV and DAZN have sports betting designs on the U.S.
But for now, in essence, sportsbooks are asking bettors to patronize a product they may love, but with no real hope of delivering the goods consistently.
How to fix this?
Phenix Real-Time Solutions claims its proprietary technology can. Right now. Claiming that it can deliver “high-quality synchronous video with less than 500 milliseconds of end-to-end latency at broadcast scale.” Translation: The bettor in Riverside gets their bet in if they’re streaming the Dodgers on a platform with Phenix tech. The trick now is getting American sportsbooks to buy in, and buy broadcast rights.
California Casinos spoke with Phenix chief marketing officer Jed Corenthal on the topic:
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Why Is Phenix the Answer?
CORENTHAL: We continue to advance in our technology. One of the advantages that we have over the very few people out there that are also either doing or trying to do real-time streaming is that we’ve been doing this for almost nine years and got quite, quite a good head start. And it’s all we do. So we have adopted a number of additional ways to invest from joining the SRT Alliance to minimizing our delay with the RTMP streams, which are now down to about 500-600 milliseconds. A couple of years ago we were somewhat reliant on hardware and coding or hardware and coders that we have, which we still have and still offer our customers.
But we now also offer software encoding in case they have their own boxes or they don’t want to go down the hardware road.
We have continued to apply for and receive patents on some of our technology. One is on our SyncWatch technology, which allows for synchronizing streams across all devices within 100 milliseconds or 1-3 frames, which is essentially imperceptible to the human eye.
How Can You Help Synchronize and Speed Up Video Streams?
CORENTHAL: Most people don’t look at latency from beyond the delay from the field of play to your device. We don’t measure by broadcast because broadcast has a delay from the field of play anywhere from 7-15 seconds if you’re over the air or a cable or satellite. The concept of drift, meaning if three of us were watching a game, all of us would be watching at different times on sort of legacy or traditional HLS technology goes away with our IP for SyncWatch. We synchronize the streams across all devices. So even if we were on the same platform on all the technologies, we’d be watching at different times. With us, we’ve solved for that.
So I call you and say, ‘Holy cow, did you see that catch?’ Today without our technology, you would be like, ‘What catch? I haven’t seen it yet.’
Why Isn’t Everyone Using This Now?
CORENTHAL: There are a number of reasons. One, of course, is, even though legacy technology or HLS technology isn’t as good, CBS and NBC and ESPN, they all use it and they’re used to it. And it works for them, even though it has delays in the stream and people are not watching and synched. It ain’t broke, as they say. They’re not taking the next step in streaming and providing their users with what we would consider a better user experience. They’ve got a lot of money invested in their tech stack. They’ve got a lot of people doing it.
Just to turn around and switch is not the easiest thing for them to deal with, although we are convinced. And even from speaking with most of them, it’s not an ‘if’ it’s a ‘when’ they’re going to have to do it. How much will it move the needle today? And how much will it move the needle tomorrow?
As betting starts to become even more prevalent and even interaction becomes even more prevalent, I think they’re going to have no choice.
Are You Working With Sportsbooks Who Are Featuring Data Streams Live in the App?
CORENTHAL: Yes. In general, our customers or anybody who owns content or writes the content, from a sportsbook standpoint overseas, we have probably 25 sportsbook partners that we do the streaming for on a number of sports, primarily horse racing. We’re probably streaming maybe 80% of the horse racing overseas in Europe and UK and whatnot. We work with Bet365 and Paddy Power and Sky. All the big guys.
Here in the states, there are far fewer books that stream video. Most of them get their video from their data providers and they all know that they cannot survive in the long run streaming 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 seconds, or more with delays if they want to have people betting. And especially if you want legitimate in-play or micro betting.
So the Sportsbooks in the US Are Getting the Feed From Sportradar or Someone of the Like?
CORENTHAL: They may get it from Sportradar. They may get it from Genius or IMG Arena. They buy not only data, but they buy video to some extent. Again, you’re talking about very few. FanDuel streams, some, (but) none of the major sports. DraftKings streams a little bit. I think PointsBet streams a little bit. Caesars doesn’t. BetMGM doesn’t. Barstool (PENN Gaming) really doesn’t yet. So it’s still early days for some of the books in the US from a video streaming standpoint. But they’re all really looking at it and they’re all talking to us because they know that it’s the future.
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And It Would Eliminate the Blue Circle of Frustration When the Micro Bet Doesn’t Go Through?
CORENTHAL: There’s one sportsbook where you can watch the video of a sport on the book and then look at the data and the data is five or 10 seconds behind. It doesn’t make for what you really want from a sportsbook. It’s the difference between a bet-and-watch and a watch-and-bet.
In Europe, the books have sort of gotten the picture, if you will, and are getting more and more into streaming video. You are able to now instead of bet on the app and then watch it elsewhere, you can watch on the app and bet on the app and that’s engagement. All these books, what do they want? They want transactions. However, biggest one, they live on volume because the margins aren’t big. But they live on volume. And the longer you spend with the app, the more you’re going to bet.
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Streaming Will Be Faster Because of FCC Broadcast Guidelines?
CORENTHAL: Correct. There is no mandatory delay with digital as it is with broadcast.
Wouldn’t a Selling Point for Sportsbooks (Understanding Rights Fees Are Massive) Be That Their Feed Is Faster Than Broadcast?
CORENTHAL: I don’t know the legality of it, but I would think, and I’m not a lawyer, but I would say I’m pretty sure they can say that.
At least in the US, the major sports, when the leagues sell those rights, they sell them to the broadcaster. So the broadcaster then has to sell them to the sportsbook. They may not. ESPN says, ‘Sorry, DraftKings. I don’t want to sell it to you because if you end up working with a company like Phenix, we’re 60 seconds behind you.’
There are some cases where the league holds the betting rights. I think the NFL still has some betting rights that they’ve held amongst themselves. The Indian Premier League was the first league that I can think of that split its rights between linear broadcast and streaming. They sold them completely separately. And I’m a little surprised that we haven’t seen that yet. That may be because it’s not big enough yet. I think the NFL was, it is, or was, or maybe trying to do that.
I would say in 10 more states (legalizing sports betting), when we’re in the 40s and (sports betting) becomes national, then I think things can really get interesting and change.