The May Supreme Court decision paving the way for the expansion of legal sports gambling by states has unsurprisingly led to numerous sports gambling shows, as well as to increased ad buys by gaming operators in states where sports gambling has been legalized. But there’s at least one area of sports broadcasting where gambling isn’t going to be explicitly mentioned, at least for now; NFL on CBS broadcasts.
CBS held a NFL media day in New York Monday, and one of the more notable things that came out of it was Sports Illustrated writer Jimmy Traina’s report about how CBS Sports president Sean McManus plans to have his announcers (like the lead team of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, seen above during the 2017 AFC Wild Card game between Buffalo and Jacksonville) avoid making gambling references during NFL telecasts:
At CBS’ NFL Media Day. CBS Sports President Sean McManus just told me CBS NFL announcers will not mention point spreads, teams covering the spreads, etc, during telecasts this season.
— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) August 28, 2018
That’s pretty much the way things have been for a long while in most game broadcasts, which led to the likes of Brent Musburger using references like “my friends in the desert” as ways to discuss the line or the spread. (Musburger, of course, is now talking gambling daily on the radio in Vegas.) But it sounds like there won’t even be those kinds of nods on the NFL on CBS, and there could be a couple of reasons for that. One is that CBS legitimately believes mentioning the line or spread doesn’t add value for most viewers. The other, and perhaps the more likely one, is that they’re partners with the NFL, and the NFL doesn’t want gambling mentioned on its telecasts.
If this is about an NFL desire to avoid specific references to gambling, it will be interesting to see if the league’s other broadcast partners (Fox, NBC and ESPN) follow suit with their telecasts. Nothing’s been specifically stated on that front yet. But given the value of the NFL to those networks, and given that the league’s broadcasting contracts with those networks expire in 2022, it seems pretty likely that they’ll do what the league wants. (Consider how much has been written about new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro’s attempts to repair their relationship with the league, for example, to the extent of making much-criticized hires like rules analyst Jeff Triplette reportedly at the NFL’s request.) So those hoping to hear gambling talk during NFL telecasts this season may be disappointed
Of course, that doesn’t mean these networks won’t have gambling talk at all, as they’re all talking about either gambling-specific shows or incorporating even more gambling information into their existing shows. And even during broadcasts that don’t mention the line, it won’t exactly be hard for viewers to find line information on their phones. And maybe this will even be refreshing, given the likely saturation of gambling coverage coming. And broadcasts of other leagues with less ability to influence broadcasters (such as NCAA football, which already has seen some gambling coverage and some pushback, but not enough to stop it) may have more information on the spread or the line relayed directly on the telecast.
But it’s interesting to see CBS (which, after all, was a pioneer in NFL gambling coverage with Musburger and Jimmy The Greek on The NFL Today from 1976-88) explicitly stating that their announcers won’t talk about the reason many are watching these games. It may be a new world order when it comes to the legality of sports gambling in many states, but it seems the NFL and/or its broadcasters still have some reluctance to explicitly discuss it during telecasts.
[Screencap from a video by Devin945 on YouTube]