IMG Arena has teamed up with ATP Media, the broadcast sales and production arm of the ATP Tour, to create what it claims is the world’s first officially branded virtual tennis product for the sports betting market.
The game, which is due for release in April, will feature official logos and names for each of the nine tournaments that comprise the ATP Masters 1000 series, the highest category of events in men’s tennis besides the four Grand Slams.
According to IMG Arena, the agency giant’s sports betting service and content hub, the new game ‘will help sportsbook partners fill the void whilst the ATP Tour is suspended’ due to the coronavirus outbreak, with all levels of men’s professional tennis on hiatus until at least 7th June.
It is not yet clear whether bookmakers will be taking bets on the virtual matches, nor which types of markets will be offered should gambling operators decide to do so.
Since its June 2018 acquisition of Leap Gaming, IMG Arena has produced virtual games for other sports, including golf, motorsport, soccer, horse racing, speedway, greyhound racing and cycling. It now works with more than 460 sportsbook operators worldwide, delivering fast-path data and live streaming services as well as virtual sports products related to over 45,000 sporting events per year.
“When we invested in virtual sports specialists Leap Gaming, our vision was to create official products and unlock new revenue streams and forms of fan engagement for our clients,” said Freddie Longe, IMG Arena’s managing director.
“ATP Media share this vision and desire to evolve the way that its fans could connect with tennis. The result is a game-changing product that maximises player engagement and operator returns. As with all of our virtual sports offerings, we have developed the most realistic look, feel, and betting experience.”
News of the ATP-branded product comes as organisations across sport turn to virtual simulations in the absence of live action.
In a similar move announced this week, sports data company Sportradar unveiled plans to roll out Simulated Reality, a new artificial intelligence-based product that will be available to each of its clients in professional sport from Friday 3rd April.
The new offering will combine Sportradar’s data gathering and machine learning capabilities to create games for sports bookmakers that the company says are ‘as close to real life as possible’ and which ‘reflect team form and normal match play’.
Bookmakers will be able to use the product to offer pre-match and in-play betting markets, starting with the top-tier soccer leagues in England, Germany and Spain – all of which are paused until further notice owing to the Covid-19 outbreak.
All remaining fixtures in the current 2019/20 season will be simulated on their original date and kick-off times. The matches will run for the full 90 minutes, with fans able to place bets, access match analysis and watch real-time visualisations of the game.
“We have listened carefully to our customers and the betting community who have made it clear there is an appetite for alternative means of betting during this time where this is a void in live sports action,” said Carsten Koerl, Sportradar’s chief executive.
“Simulated Reality will give our sports betting partners seamless access to a highly unique product that is first to market at no extra cost and integration. As market leaders in the industry, we pride ourselves on our ability to quickly pivot our business strategy and redirect our resources towards delivering new and innovative solutions such as this.”
Sportradar – which has an extensive client portfolio including all four North American major leagues as well as Fifa and Uefa, among many others – has also said it plans to extend the Simulated Reality product to ‘several other leagues and competitions in the near future’, including tennis and basketball.
Elsewhere, meanwhile, a host of event organisers and media outlets have looked to simulations in a bid to fill the void. In the UK, for example, a Virtual Grand National will take place on 4th April and will be televised by ITV after the actual race was called off, while the likes of Nascar and Formula One have created their own virtual games for distribution online and via broadcast partners.