No real money changed hands, but an experiment launched by YES Network and using proprietary technology powered by Simplebet may have the potential to dramatically reshape the way sports betting works all over the globe.
Sound a little overstated? Well, maybe, but many people in the sports betting industry are putting a lot of time, effort, and dollars into developing a one-screen experience, and last summer the New York Yankees’ network proved just how alluring it can be.
Unlike most free-to-play prediction mobile games that require the customer to watch the game on a TV or separate device, the YES Network’s PIck-N-Play feature that ran during Yankees games — and is available now for Brooklyn Nets games — is entirely housed within the YES App. It allows fans to win prizes if they make accurate predictions.
Many strategists believe that, when it’s all said and done, sports gamblers will watch games on the same screen where they monitor odds and place wagers, perhaps even while listening to an alternate feed geared to bettors. That’s the Holy Grail so many in the industry are chasing, because whichever companies win the race to the single-screen experience might just be the last players standing when the market settles out.
Data reveals one-screen ‘stickiness’
Simplebet — which provides the technology to set, freeze and reset odds in a matter of seconds for in-play betting — studied the data from the first season of Pick-N-Play. People watching Yankees games could take a stab at deciding whether the next pitch would be an out, a single, a double, a triple, a home run, a walk, or “other.” Similarly, NBA fans can predict the result of each possession.
Simplebet founder and CEO Chris Bevilacqua said the average fan playing the game made 40 predictions per Yankees game. He said the network reported that ratings were slightly better when the game was running. Bevilacqua said fans who were playing the game were watching the game, on average, 8% to 10% longer than those who weren’t.
That’s the kind of data teams and leagues will pay close attention to as they search for more and more fan engagement, particularly as the dollars from regional sports network deals are declining with so many people cutting the cord.
“This type of engagement is very sticky and it’s fun to do and it causes just increased consumption,” Bevilacqua said. “That’s, ultimately, what you’re after.”
While we have yet to see a true one-screen betting experience in the U.S., it could be approaching soon. Caesars Sportsbook in the last month has struck partnerships with Simplebet and Genius Sports. It is licensed to stream some NFL games now, and eventually, it could be poised to unveil a single-screen betting experience through its app. Rest assured that the other major sportsbook companies are endeavoring to catch up or surpass Caesars in the race to the experience many people think will take over the industry.
Gamblers just watch more
Along the same lines, Variety released a study last week that examined the intersection of sports gambling and the media business and demonstrated, again, just how much more sports people will watch if they have money riding on the outcome. Seems intuitive, but the data still is pretty eye-opening.
For example, millennials between the age of 26 and 40 will watch an NFL game 69% longer if they have a bet on the game, Variety reported. Similarly, Gen Xers between 41 and 57 report they’ll watch an MLB game 43% longer if they have action. Leagues and teams are going to follow that data or similar findings closely.
The entertainment industry publication summarized the findings thusly: “If you’re not a fan of sports betting, you’re out of luck; leagues and networks will increasingly feature sponsorships and product placements from the many legal sportsbooks in operation, as well as possibly run alternate feeds of matchups designed to give the latest in-game stats. Betting is becoming a strong subculture within sports fandom, and with more states opening themselves up to it, expect the amounts wagered to keep growing.”
As long as teams, leagues and networks are seeing people’s interest level piqued by gambling, they’re going to pursue it as a path to greater engagement and, eventually, profit.
Sunday Ticket drama wrapping up?
The competition to take over the rights to stream every NFL game from DirecTV appears to be coming to a head. The New York Post and Wall Street Journal reported this week that Google, through its YouTube TV property, has emerged as the frontrunner, surpassing Apple, and could wrap up a deal in a matter of days. Disney, which owns ESPN, and Amazon, which now broadcasts Thursday night games, also were in the running.
Since 1994, DirecTV has been the sole provider of the Sunday Ticket package. It has paid the NFL $1.5 billion per year for those rights.
Presuming YouTube TV does take over Sunday Ticket, some fans might not be happy about it. YouTube TV doesn’t carry many regional sports networks, including YES Network, which means some sports fans could have to decide between blanket NFL coverage and the ability to watch their local teams.