An odds on winner

In this world of using social media for business, it’s easy to forget that there are other devices out there on which business can be done, it’s not all about laptops and mobiles. I went to see the launch of a new product last night that – on the surface – may not seem remarkable compared to what can already be done on the web, but it will have far-reaching implications.

The product was a new betting platform developed by Betfair. The novelty is that Betfair have worked with TV manufacturers to ensure that their betting platform is available within the on-screen menu of their Internet-enabled TV sets. I was watching the Champion’s League game last night between Manchester United and AC Milan and I was placing bets on the game using one thumb on the same remote I could use to switch channel – and without anyone instructing me on how to do it. The system (I was using a Samsung TV) is as intuitive as the volume control.
Betfair are not expecting a huge wave of business overnight from this channel, but they have been working directly with the TV manufacturers so they do have a good idea how many Internet-enabled TV sets are rolling out – and it is millions. A year down the line from now, guess which betting platform will be built-in to the TV sets in living rooms around the country?
This changes the platform in a number of ways:
  • Sports viewing will become truly interactive. Watching football, cricket, boxing or other sports will often involve betting on the outcome in a way that is not currently familiar because the viewing channel will also be the betting platform so the process of betting on the game can easily become an integral part of the experience.
  • An enormous new market of people who may never have considered betting online can be tapped into using this tool, because it is easy to use and integral to the experience – it’s not like walking to the betting shop or logging into a betting website.
 And there will be greater societal changes as betting becomes a more integrated part of sports viewing, not least the issue of compulsive gambling. Can you imagine watching a late-night boxing match after a few beers in the pub and betting on each round with the TV remote? I know the facility to bet as much as you like is already out there on the Internet, but integrating it so closely into the viewing platform is something that will need to be closely monitored.
Companies seeking a way to use media platforms to work more closely with their customers have been entranced by social media marketing campaigns in the past year, but the guys at Betfair are adamant about the continued power of TV. Many many multiples of people are still watching broadcast TV on a TV set, rather than engaging with brands online or through other devices. Don’t forget that every time Coronation St is on, nine million British people sit down with a brew and watch it. You don’t need nine million people focused on one topic to start a trend on Twitter. In fact, you probably don’t even need nine thousand.
The exciting aspect of the Betfair tool is that they can find new customers who might never have interacted with their website, and after the demonstration of their system last night I can see that this is a very powerful medium and they will make sports more engaging and fun by making it easy to put a couple of quid on the result. There will be a lot of people – people like my parents – who will feel comfortable engaging with brands like Betfair via the TV remote, but not on the web or a social network. Now, excuse me while I switch on the shopping channel…

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