Sports betting will soon be legal in states other than Nevada, and sports television networks are determined to be ready.
According to a piece by John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, ESPN, FS1 and NBCSN are all looking into gambling-related shows that they could have ready in the coming months. Per Ourand, FS1 and NBCSN remain in the exploratory phase, whereas ESPN plans to have two shows on ESPN+ by the end of the year.
Like SNY at the local level, expect national sports networks to test new types of gambling-related programming. Sources say FS1 and NBCSN already have started to look into developing gambling shows that could make their schedules as early as this fall. Plus, sources say ESPN will have two gambling-related shows up and running on its over-the-top platform, ESPN+, by the end of the year.
Ourand reports that with New Jersey rushing to get its gambling operation up and running, regional sports networks such as New York-based SNY will also look into betting shows. SNY president Steve Raab told Ourand that “this is an opportunity for us in the second half of 2018.”
Shows will post on ESPN+ between 5:00-6:00pm ET several times per week exclusively for ESPN+ and be available on demand.
ESPN and Action Network execs say the show was in the works at least a month before the Supreme Court’s decision on May 14. “We got lucky with the timing,” said The Action Network Head of Media Chad Millman. “We had been talking with ESPN for a while about this.”
The show will be around 15 minutes and will feature a pair of The Action Network’s “betting experts” picking bets from a board.
Each 15-minute show will feature two betting experts from The Action Network alternatively picking 10 bets from a betting board. Picks will be made “fantasy draft style,” with one host making the first pick and the second host making the second pick. Hosts will include Millman, a former Editorial Dir at ESPN; former MLBer Paul Lo Duca; former NFLer Geoff Schwartz; and NBA reporter Matt Moore.
In tonight’s episode, Lo Duca’s first bet looks into where LeBron James will play next season. Other bets will look into the NBA Finals, ranging from who wins Game 1 to who wins the series to who will be named MVP. “We have a chance to give the audience content in a way that others aren’t,” Millman said.
Why are networks so anxious to get gambling content on air? Because as legal betting spreads from state to state, as it surely will in the coming years, more and more fans will become financially invested in the games and seek out analysis, making betting programs a potential ratings bonanza. Via SBJ:
There’s also the ratings question. It’s a nearly unanimous opinion that the legalization of sports betting will lead to bigger TV ratings. TV executives consistently cite the burgeoning popularity of fantasy football as a main reason why NFL TV ratings climbed so high several years ago.
“I don’t think there’s any question that it will help ratings,” Raab said. “People who wager on games not only are more likely to watch, but they’re more likely to watch longer. To what degree? I don’t know. But it’s more about it becoming a meaningful contributor to the ratings than if we didn’t have gambling.”
Plus, as ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt said two weeks ago, “everyone’s got way more hours than they’ve got good content.”
When the Supreme Court first struck down the federal law banning sports betting in all states but Nevada earlier this month, we explored different ways the ruling would affect sports broadcasting, from odds listed on tickers to discussion of spreads on NFL pregame shows to bigger ratings for exclusive window games to gambling-specific shows. Now it appears we’re not far from at least one of those changes becoming a reality.