YES Network Pick-N-Play.

Something oft-discussed for both fantasy and gambling products is finding ways to integrate them into an actual broadcast. We’ve seen betting-focused alternate telecasts, we’ve seen discussion of odds on main broadcasts, we’ve seen betting data integrated into broadcasts, and we’ve seen fantasy apps broadcasting games, but actually having users engage in predictions on the same screen of the broadcast feed itself feels like a new step. (MLB YouTube games have done this with polls, but not with predictions.) That’s what YES’ new partnership with Simplebet for “Pick-N-Play Live,” debuting Tuesday night for their Pistons-Nets broadcast (7:30 p.m. ET) is promising. Here’s more on that from a release:

Simplebet, the technology company reimagining the way fans engage with live sports, and the YES Network, the most-watched regional sports network in the nation, tonight are launching “Pick-N-Play Live,” the first-ever, real-time, in-game, single-screen watch and play experience. The revolutionary free-to-play prediction game, the first to be integrated within a live sports broadcast, will be available on the YES App to authenticated YES Network viewers in conjunction with YES’ Brooklyn Nets telecasts beginning tonight, when the Nets host the Pistons (7:30 pm ET). The product will also be available for the YES App’s streamed New York Yankees games this coming season.

Available via the YES App on iOS and Android, “Pick-N-Play Live” will allow users to make predictions around an assortment of in-game occurrences, such as possession result and player points. Fans can compete against friends and strangers for prizes such as a variety of gift cards, team merchandise and occasional unique in-person experiences, with a live leaderboard updating throughout each game. Simplebet’s innovative suite of products, fueled by its proprietary machine learning and automation capabilities, is designed to encourage longer watch times and deeper fan engagement.

…”This is the first inning of a convergence between media and gaming, and we’re thrilled to be at the bleeding-edge with a partner like the YES Network,” said Chris Bevilacqua, Co-Founder and CEO of Simplebet. “Micro-market technology is reimagining the fan experience and drives longer watch times, which in turn is beneficial for operators and media partners alike.”

“‘Pick-N-Play Live’ is just the latest YES App enhancement designed to fuel engagement as we continue to introduce immersive and innovative products and experiences to our audiences,” said Jon Litner, CEO of the YES Network. “Through our new partnership with Simplebet, our viewers will now have the opportunity to play along in real time with the exciting action on the screen through a free, state-of-the-art predictor game powered by industry leading technology.”

Potential predictions for basketball include everything from the very specific and instant (“What will be the result of this possession?” “What team will score next?”) to longer-term (“How many points will a player score this quarter?”).  Baseball broadcasts will offer a similar mix, from the results of an individual pitch or at-bat to longer-term predictions. Here’s a sample video provided by YES for how this might work. (The switch to a sideways view at 30 seconds is intentional, showing what this would look like on a portrait-mode display like a phone; it’s rotated to show the whole picture in YouTube’s landscape mode, but it obviously would be right-side up on a proper phone.)

It makes a lot of sense to try this out as a free-to-play predictor with no actual money on the line (other than prizes). That will give YES and Simplebet a chance to evaluate how this goes, how much engagement produces, and if there are technical hurdles that show up. (How well these streams handle latency seems like a key question, especially with “next pitch” predictions; we’ve heard lots of talk about plans to dramatically reducing streaming latency, but it seems to still be an issue relative to cable in many cases.) But if these types of broadcasts go well, someone is likely to turn this into a betting product at some point. For now, though, this is an interesting step forward in the next-play-prediction game, especially with the integration into the stream. And, as Bevilacqua notes in that above quote, if this helps keep fans watching longer, that’s a win for all of the businesses involved.

[YES Network]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.