ONTARIO—Legalized betting has become an increasing source of revenue for broadcasters since the Supreme Court struck down federal laws prohibiting it in 2018. According to Nielsen, online gambling ad sales increased from $10.7 million in Q1 2019 to $154 million in Q1 2021. Local television received just under 80% of these ad dollars, with the remaining amount being shared between national online sites, network TV, local radio, and outdoor advertising.
Hand-in-hand with the growth of online gambling ad sales is the integration of betting information into national TV sports broadcasts on networks such as CBS, ESPN, and NBC.
“When it comes to the betting audience, we know that’s growing as legalization of sports betting expands across the country,” said Scott Clark, ESPN senior coordinating producer, sports betting & fantasy sports for ESPN. “We have been aggressive in looking to attract that audience in the last couple years and will continue to look to expand what we do across TV and other platforms.”
Here’s a look at how some broadcasters are integrating betting information into their sports programming.
In February 2020, CBS Sports and sports book operator William Hill US (now rebranded as "Caesars Sports" by new owner Caesars Entertainment) announced a strategic partnership that made the sports betting firm the "Official Sports Book and Wagering Data Provider" across all CBS Sports platforms. Since that time, CBS Sports has integrated William Hill’s betting information, content, and products into its digital platforms.
“When it comes to linear content, it is our CBS Sports Digital streaming service that is really benefiting from William Hill’s betting information,” said Kieren Portley, CBS Sports Digital’s senior vice president of programming and production. “Through our partnership with William Hill, we provide the over/under and winning percentages for each team in each game. This goes along with the scores and standings, and other data that signals to the fans that we offer the most innovative gambling-centric ticker in the business.”
To assemble the ticker, CBS Sports Digital integrates betting information from William Hill with live sports data provided by Sportradar. All of this data is analyzed and packaged by SportsMEDIA Technology (SMT), and then sent to CBS Sports Digital where the network’s own graphics teams package it for air.
“We designed and built the entire functionality of the ticker,” said Portley. “The impact of offering all this data during our program streams, including betting information, has been significant. Time spent on our program feeds per viewer is up, which means that their involvement in the content has increased as well.”
Worth noting, Sportradar provides turnkey sports data solutions to media rights holders worldwide. These solutions integrate with the visualization tools these content creators utilize, such as tickers, graphical overlays, as well as research products for producers and talent.
“For the content itself, Sportradar works with the majority of sportsbooks, offering our customers pre-game and live odds, as well as player props for each league and game,” said Per von Rosen, Sportradar’s product director of broadcast solutions. “On top of this, we offer betting market insights, which allow our customers to leverage sports betting content for deeper storytelling. Between our betting data and media data streams, we have created an automated solution ready for broadcasters to take to air.”
ESPN is a big believer in the power of sports betting information to attract and retain loyal viewers, which is why the network has a deal with Sportradar to ingest odds from its official partner, Caesars Sports, among other sportsbooks. Sportradar receives those odds via API from the sportsbooks, and this data is then received by ESPN for formatting into its on-air tickers and graphics, as well as for use in a range of its programs, according to Michael Protos, ESPN Associate Director, Stats & Information Group.
“Sports betting content is part of the majority of shows on ESPN, with the amount and type of content varying from show to show,” said ESPN’s Clark. “It differs from a standard sports broadcast in terms of the types of conversations being had throughout the game, with the focus being on tracking pregame odds, discussing live odds and providing context around all sports betting storylines. It also has a unique look, with odds integrated into graphics throughout the game.”
The use of sports betting content varies on ESPN programs. Shows such as “Get Up” and “First Take” regularly use odds to frame discussions, while SportsCenter features odds in every episode.
“Then there’s 'Daily Wager,' ESPN’s sports betting news and information show,” said Clark. “It’s basically everything a sports bettor would need to get ready for the night in sports, with odds discussion, picks, bigger picture sports discussion and reaction to the biggest news of the day.” This daily show is reinforced on an occasional basis by shows such as ESPN’s ‘Daily Wager Special,’ which was the first linear broadcast of an event focussed solely on sports betting.
ESPN sees betting information as fundamental to its future success.
“We know that our fans engage with sports through betting,” Clark said. “The reaction has been very good and has led to growth. For example, in the time since we launched ‘Daily Wager,’ we moved it from its original home on ESPNEWS to ESPN2.
“We also have expanded our sports betting content with a thrice-weekly digital show ‘Bet’ and most recently a ‘Daily Wager' podcast,’” Clark added. “We also have ‘Daily Wager’ radio specials connected to big events like the NCAA Tournament and the NFL Draft.”
Last year, NBC Sports announced a partnership with online sportsbook operator PointsBet, in which the network provides PointsBet with multiplatform media and marketing opportunities across its many platforms, including the ‘NBC Sports Edge BetCast.’ In return, PointsBet content is used in linear/streaming content produced by the eight NBC Sports Regional Networks, and in the NBC Sports Predictor app, among others. This data is fed from PointsBet for integration into NBC Sports content by the network’s graphics department.
“Our original ‘NBC Sports Edge BetCast’ presentation focused on basketball,” said Nicolina O’Rorke, senior vice president, NBC Sports Enterprises and GM, Sports Betting & Gaming. “It was in April 2019 on our regional sports network NBC Sports Philadelphia with a 76ers regular-season game, followed by a playoff game.”
The experience, which included audio from sports-betting analysts, was enhanced for the 2019-20 season to feature expanded sports-betting data and other information during a 10-game 76ers schedule on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ (formerly Comcast Network).
In February, NBC Sports and PointsBet broadcast the first-ever betting companion show during the Waste Management Phoenix Open PGA TOUR event. This live second-screen experience also included “NBC Sports Edge BetCast,” which was shown on the Peacock Premium streaming service.
“It was a fully betting-focused alternate viewing experience where fans watched along with an engaging group of analysts as the drama of the tournament played out,” said O’Rorke. “The production uniquely presented golf entirely from a bettor’s perspective, integrating PointsBet odds, with the head oddsmaker at the PointsBet trading desk in Denver providing regular updates as outcomes unfolded and odds shifted.”
The results from this event are worth noting. Working together, NBC Sports and PointsBet were able to create over 1,000 unique markets for the “Waste Management Phoenix Open” betting show, which NBC says was four times as many as the next sportsbook for that event. NBC Sports also launched a pick tracker with PointsBet ("EDGE Tracker") where bettors can track their bets and auto sync their betslips from PointsBet.
As well, PointsBet has a “Name-a-Bet” feature where people can suggest betting for events not yet covered by PointsBet, which has been used in some NBC Sports productions.
Based on viewership and feedback from fans, NBC Sports plans to extend this second-screen experience into broadcasts/streams. “We learned from the golf BetCast, and will add that knowledge to the takeaways from our prior BetCast experiences,” O’Rorke said. “We expect that there will be potential for BetCast presentations across other sports.”
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James Careless is an award-winning journalist who has written for TV Technology since the 1990s. He has covered HDTV from the days of the six competing HDTV formats that led to the 1993 Grand Alliance, and onwards through ATSC 3.0 and OTT. He also writes for Radio World, along with other publications in aerospace, defense, public safety, streaming media, plus the amusement park industry for something different.