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By Juan Martin

What were the odds only a few years ago that sports betting on TV would have become a sure thing so quickly?

In the three years since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on state authorization of sports wagering, stakeholders have scurried to place bets in the ensuing race. In the U.S., Sinclair Broadcasting, ESPN, Fox, NBC, and others have parlayed the decision into wagering content that might give them an edge as the sports betting landscape evolves. In Canada, where wagering on multiple events has been legal for almost two decades, legislation that would allow single-game sports bets is moving closer and closer to passage.

Earlier this month, Dish Network scored big when they unveiled a new partnership with DraftKings that positions the TV directly within the betting arena. You can read here all about how technology and business are working hand-in-hand to make this happen, but the game-changer is this: Bettors can initiate bets directly from their TVs, complete transactions via their mobile devices, and can watch live or recorded events that correspond with their wagers.

Sports betting is a market that seems poised for a breakout moment. Pre-pandemic, the category was on a roll; the $370 million placed on sports in Q4 2019 represented a 174% year-over-year increase. Half of the 50 US states have approved or pending legalized sports betting in some way, and the real possibility of legalization exists in another 14 states.  Wagers on March Madness alone are projected to top $1 billion legally and $8.5 billion overall this year. That said, there still are hurdles to clear as betting comes to the TV: Leagues, teams, content providers and broadcasters may jockey for percentages of the television wagering take; and the industry at large must overcome opposition from some sectors of the public.

But while the sports betting story often focuses on the audience engagement and revenue benefits of the wagers themselves, the “action” doesn’t stop there. The exacta of sports betting on TV has other implications that should go the distance for how video is delivered, viewed and monetized:

  • Dramatically lower latency – Anybody who’s ever been shut out by a long line or a slow mutuel clerk knows that timing is everything in sports betting. Even an 18-second delay, notes nScreenMedia’s Colin Dixon, could keep an interested wagerer on the sidelines, impairing subscriber satisfaction and costing content providers and rights holders revenue.
  • Editorial engagement  – Horowitz Research found that making a bet on a sport not only increases the likelihood of a person watching that sport (80%) but also the likelihood of the person watching news about the sport (77%), indicating higher demand for sports content beyond individual events.  
  • Advertising attraction – More engaged audiences mean more value to advertisers. March Madness is on target to generate more than $1 billion in revenue this year alone. According to investment guru Mario Gabelli, integrating sports TV with sports betting means sports fans will likely boost viewership of games, attracting more marketers.
  • New and improved viewing experiences – When fans have a wager on the game and their eyes glued to the TV, they’re seeking the best possible viewing experiences. Look for content providers to leverage flexible cloud-based platforms to quickly deliver innovations such as real-time statistics, interactive apps, and even game telecast targeted to betting audiences.

The shift in the U.S. of legal sports betting from the courtroom to the living room and the anticipated approval of single-game wagering in Canada are transforming the gaming industry and sports media.  While the landscape is still evolving, one thing is certain: OTT platforms with broadcast-quality performance and the ability quickly to spin up and scale new services and features will have an inside track to success.

Juan Martin