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As summer fast approaches, the gaps in betting activity during the downtime between major tournaments will soon become increasingly evident.

The Germany-hosted Euros will undoubtedly bring a flurry of activity for bookmakers, but how will operators maintain that momentum once the tournament has ended, and we await the return of domestic football? Esports may hold the answer.

A breadth of content

Unlike more traditional sports, esports as a whole is less confined to ‘seasons’, with tournaments taking place throughout the year. According to Oliver Niner, head of sales at Pandascore, it is this fluidity that makes esports the ‘perfect product’ to fill that gap in the sporting calendar and retain bettors who may have signed up during major tournaments.

He began: “I think that after the Euros this year, there will be a drop-off in betting activity across different sportsbook platforms. Now really is the time to get thinking about how to incorporate esports into your offering.

“It will give you the chance to go straight into advertising new products and maintaining that momentum with players who may have signed up to your site ahead of the Euros.”

Esports isn’t simply just one product, Niner explained, but rather multiple different titles that each operate independently to one another. Counter Strike, League of Legends, DOTA 2 and Valorant all have their own calendars and tournament cycles.

This may sound somewhat complicated, but for operators, this can give them the opportunity to offer a wider array of content for their audiences. If you combine this with content-based esports titles, such as eSoccer and eBasketball, Niner believes that operators can offer round-the-clock content.

“There are tournaments taking place throughout the year – each sport has annual tournaments, but then you have events which take place on different dates throughout the year too. It means that operators will always have different markets to take bets on,” he added.

Filling the void

Between the Euros ending, and the English Premier League starting, there is a month where operators will be rushing to find new ways of engaging with bettors that may traditionally bet on sports such as football. And filling that gap in the calendar is much easier said than done.

For Niner, operators shouldn’t wait until the lull in sporting activity to consider adding esports to their portfolio. Instead, they should be looking towards esports sooner rather than later.

Niner said: “During major events such as the Euros, you want to have code freezes; nothing is to be touched. But while working at Pandascore, we are working with Tier One operators who are due to go-live with their esports offering in August.

“It’s a smart move on their part because they’ll have that hype surrounding the Euros, but then during that gap between the Premier League starting, they have a great opportunity to push esports products.“

The overall integration process can take between three and six weeks, Niner explained, with processes in place to remove that integration burden from operators’ development teams.

He added: “Pandascore has a solid team with a wealth of industry experience who help streamline that integration process, not to mention that our API is constructed in a very smart, easily consumable way. We also have software development kits that help remove the burden for operators, making it less onerous to integrate.”

Operators may have some concerns that adding esports to their portfolio may have a detrimental effect on their current sports betting products. However, Niner remained confident in the fact that esports will not cannibalise existing traffic.

Instead, it will be complementary to sports betting markets. Niner said: “Esports is largely an acquisition piece; you’re looking at a completely new demographic who aren’t necessarily looking to transition to sports betting. 

“What we’ve seen is that when you integrate esports into your sportsbook, it isn’t taking away from the number of players betting on sports. What happens is that esports establishes itself as a product in its own right.”

Drawing upon Pandascore’s experience, the Head of Sales has found that once an operator decides to add esports to its platform, it’s not long before it becomes one of the most popular products with players.

He did warn that while esports may be very complementary to sports betting, operators do need to employ completely different strategies for engaging bettors with each vertical. However, Esports Battles may be able to bridge that gap between sports and esports.

“There is a perception that esports audiences tend to be younger. But sports such as Counter Strike have been around since the early 2000s; it is an established video game with a strong following. It will be interesting to see whether more sports bettors will begin to engage with sports such as Counter Strike.

“Esports Battles will show players that they can bet on such content. Operators can then market Esports Battles to audiences who enjoy League of Legends or Call of Duty.”

In addition to content-led esports, Niner suggested that there are two other considerations that need to be made. The first is creating an esports-dedicated experience and marketing that to your audience.

He explained that many operators include sections on their websites which are dedicated to esports, but they need to go beyond that by including interactive features such as widgets, streams and scoreboards.

The second consideration is including features such as player props and bet builders – two products that have shown to be incredibly popular with more traditional sports bettors. Player props are not only highly engaging, but give esports fans the opportunity to go beyond the team level and instead follow individual players.

Niner concluded: “Player props have been integrated into all of our bet builder products, with plans to add more soon. Player props are especially important for two reasons: the first is engagement, and the second is that they are also very high-margin and good for business. 

“I would say that player props are a signature product for us. We encourage all our partners to have them as they are great for bringing new experiences to bettors. Our pre-made bet builder markets will also include player props; those will be combo markets where customers can create their own accumulator bets.”

Oliver Niner is the head of sales at PandaScore, the betting industry’s leading esports data and odds supplier. Having studied history Oliver started his career at Betgenius when it was still an odds comparison and white label business and moved through senior positions in customer service and account management.

He then held roles at Marathonbet, Oulala Games, PIMS SCA and most recently at start-up platform provider Atlas IAC where he was dommercial director. His knowledge and experience has taken him to various global locations over his over 15 years in the industry and he has built an extensive global network having lived in both Malta and Estonia for his previous positions.

Having worked for both B2B and B2C organisations across all product verticals in the gambling sector, Oliver aims to use his end-to-end knowledge of product and service to deliver sustainable, high-yield returns for PandaScore’s clients

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