STARNBERG, June 1, 2020
With the coronavirus pandemic raging across the world, events and occasions where people would gather by the thousands have become impossible, as governments have imposed strict lockdown measures in an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus. One of the worst-affected sectors has been the sports industry, with virtually all major sports coming to a standstill. Hosting matches and events with fans in attendance is out of the question for the foreseeable future, while some sports are slowly limping back to a semblance of normalcy, conducting matches behind closed doors and with extremely strict and rigorous testing and isolation protocols in place.
Genius Sports Group, which is a data and technology company, has partnered with Topnotch Management (TNM), the leading tennis agency which represents many ATP and WTA athletes, to launch the Grand Slam Tennis Tours MatchPlay 120 series. This tournament, which will feature players ranked in the top 300 in the ATP and WTA rankings, began in late-May, with over 120 live tennis matches to be held over a six-week period. Some of the names taking part include Australian Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren, WTA Tour title-winner Lauren Davis and ATP Tour title-winner Stevie Johnson. There will be an automated, AI-powered camera and production system on site, minimizing the need for camera crews and thus keeping the number of people needed for every match to a minimum. Genius Sports Group will also be hosting live betting markets on these matches, along with a number of streams provided to sportsbook operators to increase the reach and audience for the event. TNM will handle the operational aspect, running the various courts and locations which will be needed for the matches, while Genius Sports Group will work on delivering the matches to customers through live streams, interactive Match Centers, schedules, live scores, leaderboards and so on.
This is yet another step towards going online in the world of sports, with more and more sports going down this route to provide content to their fans during this difficult time. It may not even be a temporary situation, as success on this platform could ensure that such events are held on a regular basis in the future as well. Demand for online entertainment has been growing, especially as people have been stuck inside their homes, and one example of a growing sector is the online casino industry. More and more people have been logging on to play casino online games, in the absence of physical casinos which have had to shut down to comply with lockdown measures, and the popularity of these services could lead to a permanent shift in how the gambling industry delivers its services in the future. We may see a similar change in live sports as well, especially if fans cannot be allowed in stadiums and arenas for an extended period of time, and events like this will be important in demonstrating if going online is the way forward for live sporting events.
Football is the biggest example of this, with Germany’s Bundesliga resuming last week, and the leagues in Spain, Italy and England all set to return in the next few weeks. However, not all sports have been able to do this, so while, say, Formula One is planning to stage races soon and golf will also return imminently, tennis events still seem to be off-limits for now. However, organizers have been trying to bring some action to fans even in the middle of the pandemic, and there may now be a solution which allows tennis fans to finally be able to see live action.