IMG Arena launches virtual tennis product amid season suspension

Sports betting service and content hub IMG Arena has teamed up with ATP Media, the global sales, broadcast production and distribution arm of the ATP Tour, to launch a virtual tennis product in the absence of live sport.

The game will be available from April and is designed to support sportsbook partners while the ATP Tour is suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The professional tennis season is suspended until June 7 at the earliest.

IMG Arena has used licensed assets to create what it claims is the first-ever officially branded virtual tennis product, which will include logos from the ATP Masters 1000 series and official tournament names to create a fan-first experience.

IMG Arena already offers virtual products in golf, motorsport, football, horse racing, speedway, greyhound racing and cycling.

ATP Media chief executive Mark Webster said: “This is a landmark agreement for ATP Media at a challenging time. We are excited to be working with IMG Arena to deliver fans around the world innovative content and new ways to enjoy their favourite tennis tournaments.

“Together we are creating a compelling, always-on product that will boost and diversify our sports betting offering, while helping to continue to further develop our international footprint.”

IMG Arena managing director Freddie Longe added: “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.

“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.”

In other news, Sportradar, a sports and betting-related services company, has launched Simulated Reality, an AI-driven product for professional sports matches that will be offered to customers within its portfolio of events.

In what it claims marks a first for the industry, Sportradar will use its AI and machine-learning technology to deliver a sports-betting experience that is “as close to real life as possible”. Sportradar will use its historical football database and statistical output to provide match data for the product, which will launch on Friday covering England’s Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga and Spain’s LaLiga.

The initiative will allow fans to watch all remaining scheduled fixtures on their original dates and kick-off times. Sportradar plans on extending the initiative to other leagues and competitions in the near future, with tennis and basketball offerings also being considered.

With all major sport currently suspended in the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations are seeking new ways to engage with fans and this weekend a ‘virtual’ Grand National will be held in place of the showpiece horse-racing event at Aintree Racecourse.

The virtual race will include 40 runners who had been most likely to compete in the real-life event. The event will incorporate CGI technology and will be broadcast by ITV from 5pm.

Images: IMG Arena