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Volume 25 No. 29
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Sports Betting Fallout: Sports TV Industry Eyes Opportunity

The Supreme Court "injected a dose of optimism" into the sports television industry when it ruled to allow sports betting, a decision that execs say will likely "produce the next major boost to the value of live, televised sports ... at just the time when it is most needed," according to Kevin Draper of the N.Y. TIMES. Nearly all observers agree the "appetite for sports consumption both online and on traditional television will surely rise." History has shown that the "ability to place a bet on a sporting event makes fans pay closer attention to the action, and watch more." Sports bettors watch about "twice as much sports coverage as non-bettors do," so it stands to reason that "making it easier for people to become sports bettors will make them more likely to watch sports." Even less "high-profile events are likely to see a boost in interest." That would "benefit ESPN, which recently introduced ESPN+." The net "hasn’t solidified its plans to produce shows that target sports betting fans." However, ESPN Exec VP/Content Connor Schell said that "such programming has been on the ESPN+ 'content road map' from the beginning." Schell: "We’ve thought about betting and the conversation around betting in line with what Doug Kezirian is doing on the ‘Behind the Bets’ podcast." William Hill U.S. CEO Joe Asher "cautioned that it might take a few years for the big advertising money to find its way to national channels like ESPN, Fox and NBC, as states need to go through the legislative process to legalize and regulate sports betting." Targeted advertising on RSNs in states where gambling becomes legal first "seems more likely" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/16).

NEW AVENUES: In L.A., Randy Harvey notes media outlets will "start preparing sooner rather than later." Those broadcasting NFL games can use the American Gambling Association's estimates on how much bettors watch television to "start selling advertising today." There will be "countless of hours of other gambling-related inventory for them as well from media outlets that don't carry games." Fans likely can "expect television shows, perhaps even channels, devoted to gambling." Some newspapers and other outlets with websites will also "begin covering it like they do the stock market." Vegas Stats & Information Network Exec Producer Rick Jaffe said, "This is going to open up a whole new direction of reporting on sports. Games that normally people might have turned off previously because they were too one-sided in one way or another will hold fans' interest until the end" (L.A. TIMES, 5/16). 

TAKING THE LEAD? On Long Island, Neil Best writes ESPN likely will "carve out its piece of the pie" regarding sports betting coverage. That likely will include "added revenue from advertising and sponsorships, but it also will play into editorial strategy -- as it will for most media outlets." ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said, "The space is interesting to us, especially from a programming perspective." Schell: "Going forward obviously we’re going to look at where we can find more opportunities." ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Scheduling Burke Magnus said that one trick will be "navigating the different approaches from various sports entities, from the liberal attitude of the NBA to the NCAA’s more cautious approach given 'the mission they serve'" (NEWSDAY, 5/16).