SBC Barcelona Digital Summit Keynote: 2020 has accelerated innovation

The SBC Summit Barcelona Digital kicked off on September 8 with a hard look at the Future of Sports Betting. In the Keynote, Sue Schneider VP Growth & Strategy for SBC Americas led a conversation with Carsten Koerl, Founder and CEO of Sportradar, and Jason Robins, Founder, CEO and Chairman of DraftKings, on the Future of Sports Betting.

The conversation began with the elephant in the room, how Covid-19 affected their respective businesses. “There are three main phases. The first one, was for me, fear,” Koerl shared. He noted that he was the last person allowed to return to Switzerland, and had to immediately go into damage control mode as the world of traditional sports shut down.

Phase two was figuring out cash flow planning, protecting employees and figuring out how to increase the content Sportradar could provide. The company managed to triple their offering by July, which lead to what Koerl deemed the last and current phase, hitting the gas. “You can only achieve it with learning and being humble,” he said.

Robins has the unique spot in early 2020 of taking DraftKings public, which he thought was going very smoothly until the pandemic hit. But thankfully, the market started to throw out the current situation for the next quarter, he said, betting on companies that could come out strong from the pandemic.

The two touched on the challenging dilemma of how to support employees during the pandemic. DraftKings has been fortunate, having enough growth to continue hiring through the year, but Robins noted that there has been some element of burnout for those working from home. Meanwhile, Koerl commented that in some countries where Sportradar has offices, there is no government support for those who might be furloughed, so the company has had to step up.

Schneider asked for both of their input on a new addition to DraftKings ownership group, and a board member of Sportradar, Michael Jordan. “We’re very excited to be working with him on business strategy and a number of a different issues…like diversity and inclusion,” Robins said. Koerl added, “He’s a legend, but for me he’s a very special person because he’s down to earth, he’s very normal, he’s very humble.”

The lessons each have taken from 2020 aren’t that different. Koerl commented that the pandemic has pushed innovation to happen faster, with retail operators moving online and sports federations figure out how they can survive without live crowds. Robins added, “Almost any large shock to the economy or the way of life that I’ve experience in my life, it doesn’t create new trends, it accelerates trends that were happening anyway.”

Going forward, Robins said nothing can be taken for granted, as even a successful NBA return was put at risk due to reasons entirely unrelated to the pandemic. “It’s a very unpredictable world right now,” he said. The focus has to be on healing and finding some sense of normalcy, but that may not return for some time.

Koerl agreed, and noted that from a business perspective, emergency content is here to stay. Operators have learned that they may never be able to completely rely on traditional content entirely ever again.