NBA announces new deal for stats, player tracking

September 22, 2016 GMT

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The NBA will have a new distributor for its statistical information and its player tracking data starting in the 2017-18 season under a deal that will also spread real-time statistics to legal betting houses around the world.

The league announced deals with Sportradar and Second Spectrum on Thursday that it said will greatly expand the distribution of its statistics. Sportradar, a global company with domestic headquarters in Minneapolis, will distribute statistics for the NBA, WNBA and the D-League to people in more than 80 countries.

In addition, the NBA will switch from SportVU to Second Spectrum for player tracking information. Second Spectrum will spend this season installing tracking cameras in every arena in the league. It can provide highly detailed data on player movement, including how much ground they cover, where they touch the ball most and the ability to guard the pick-and-roll.

“If you just consider how sports data was presented or what was available five years ago, the amount of data is simply exploding,” said Ulrich Harmuth, Sportradar’s managing director of digital sports. “In these days when you have tracking information and you know the exact position of every player on the court, you have a huge amount of data. But the data itself doesn’t have a meaning yet. So we will invest significantly into science and machine learning tools in order to distill story telling elements and meaning out of the core data that makes it accessible to the fans.”

Sportradar, which provides statistical data for the NBA and other major sports to The Associated Press, has expanded into a company with more than 1,500 employees across the world on the strength of its dealings with sports gambling. It also has deals with the NFL and NHL and distributes that data to media, fans and bookmakers internationally.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been as progressive as any leader in sports when it comes to sports betting, calling the legalization and regulation of the industry inevitable. But the current agreement prohibits Sportradar from sending the data to domestic bookmakers, which adheres to the current laws governing gambling in the United States.

“All the betting content is only applicable outside of the U.S. markets,” Harmuth said. “There were no discussions around what might happen in the U.S. markets going forward.”

Sportradar also has “integrity services” that include widespread monitoring of betting patterns at more than 550 bookmakers worldwide to try to detect any irregularities in betting habits that could indicate match fixing. The NBA has had similar measures in place for more than a decade.

“This NBA deal really kind of cements the position and the credibility of what we do in the integrity sports space for sports around the world,” said Alex Inglot, director of global communications and public affairs for Sportradar.

Sportradar will start distributing data to international bookmakers beginning with the upcoming season, but won’t start distributing statistics to media and fans until 2017.

The two sides started negotiating when Sportradar expanded to the U.S. two years ago, and part of the negotiations included the NBA’s desire for Sportradar to bring a player tracking system with it. In 2013, the NBA became the first American sports league to use player tracking in every game.

“We’re thrilled to partner with a forward-thinking league like the NBA,” Second Spectrum CEO Rajiv Maheswaran said. “As a former professor, it’s great to live in a time when machines can deeply understand sports. We’re excited to bring this state-of-the-art technology to the entire league and its partners.”