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HPA Tech Retreat: How Legalized Sports Betting Will Change the Content-Creation Game


HPA Tech Retreat: How Legalized Sports Betting Will Change the Content-Creation Game Broadcasters and streamers take major steps with an eye toward a potential windfall By Jason Dachman, Chief Editor

Tuesday, February 25, 2020 - 2:49 pm

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Regulatory constraints are being removed from the gaming industry, and technology makes it possible for fans in some states to place bets in real time from any device as an integrated event experience. With legislation and technology advancing rapidly, the sports-media industry is gearing up for a potential windfall demand for sports-betting content.

Thus far, NBC Sports Regional Networks has begun producing betting-specific and predictive-gaming telecasts; digital outlets like The Action Network, SportsGrid, and VSiN are creating content focused on betting data and analysis; and major sports broadcasters like ESPN and Fox have launched betting-focused studio shows with The Daily Wager and Lock It In, respectively.

At the HPA Tech Retreat's opening day of TR-X sessions, executives from Sinclair Broadcast Group (which is bullish on sports betting after acquiring Fox's 21 RSNs last year), betting-data provider Sportradar, research firm EK Gaming, and sports-betting-focused streaming company InPlay Studios took the stage to discuss the basics of today's technology, where the best business opportunities are in sports betting, and how betting data can be used to drive storytelling within the game. Here's a look at some of the take-aways from the session.

Chris Grove, principal, sports and emerging verticals, EK Gaming, on the rapid legalization: Sports betting is spreading across the U.S. at a pace that has historically been unmatched by other forms of gambling expansion. The short way to put it is that sports betting simply does not play by the same set of political or cultural rules that other forms of gambling play by in the U.S. We're seeing the bulk of this expansion happening east of the Mississippi, and that's the trend that we expect to continue for the next few years. There's also a great deal of uncertainty among the [most populated] states - California, Texas, Florida, and New York - [in terms of] mobile sports betting. While we are generally bullish about the path sports betting has across the U.S., it does come with the caveat that the major markets may end up being a lot trickier than some people suspect.

InPlay Studios' Ron Luniewski

Ron Luniewski, CEO, InPlay Studios, on how the rise of in-game betting will change the content-production business: 70% of European [wagering] is in-game betting, and the U.S. market is projected at $100 billion in wagering, so that's $70 billion that's going to be in play. Right now, [content] production is still heavily [focused on] pregame; there's not a lot of in-game production about the wager. I think you're going to see a shift occur. Play-by-play [announcing] is still going to be [traditional], but you're going to see smaller niche channels develop that are going to be dedicated to in-game [betting].

Del Parks, EVP/CTO, Sinclair Broadcast Group, on how the sports-betting ecosystem in the U.S. is still in its infancy: We are really at the beginning of this process. I've been [in the broadcast business] for a lot of years, and I can tell you that we don't know what we don't know right now. We can look at Europe, but Europe has been betting for [several decades] so I think we're at the very beginning and need to look at what sports betting is and what it's going to become. And I think the U.S. market is very different than Europe.

Steve Byrd, head of global strategic partnerships, Sportradar, on what the U.S. market can learn from Europe and how betting-centric content will vary from sport to sport: If you look at soccer broadcasts in Europe, you see [sports-betting] advertising and sponsors on the jersey and [LED] boards, but the production is not [centered] around betting. I think that's because it's already the culture over there. They don't need a separate broadcast [because] they're already betting on the game. That's why I think you won't see the NFL really change because everybody's already betting on football and they're already engaged.

Sportradar's Steve Byrd

Byrd on how leagues besides the NFL could embrace sports betting within game coverage: The other sports [leagues] see betting as a way to get more fan engagement, so I think they're going to be more creative [in serving] these sorts of niche deliveries. Whether it's doing more [betting content] with the NBA League Pass out-of-market product or doing the alternative [broadcasts] like NBC [Regional Sports Networks]. I think you're going to see a little bit different [approaches] depending on the sport.

Grove on whether there will be demand for betting-specific sports broadcasts in the future: We can look to really mature betting markets in relatively analogous cultures across Europe, and the answer that we get from those markets is that there does not seem to be a tidal wave of interest in a betting-centric broadcast. There is certainly a saturation of advertising for betting around sports media, and it permeates the commentary, but there isn't going to be a willingness to embrace betting directly in the broadcast - certainly not from a league-sanctioned [standpoint].

EK Gaming's Chris Grove

Grove on the promise of predictive-gaming content vs. betting-specific content: Where I think you are more likely to see integration [into the broadcast] is with gambling-adjacent products that are sports gaming as opposed to sports gambling. Major broadcasters think little to nothing of heavy integration of fantasy sports alongside broadcast, even thou
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