Sinclair Exploring In-Game, On-Screen Betting, Opportunity Limited Without Streaming Rights


Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBGI) CEO Chris Ripley told Reuters that the company is “exploring” in-game, on-screen betting with The Tennis Channel and that there are plans to “eventually” offer a similar viewing experience on company’s newly acquired RSNs. Ripley said, "we're going to add on extra stats, the ability to do prop bets in the game, pitch by pitch, play by play; fans [will be able to] play along and wager while they watch."

Those plans will include the formation of a strategic partnership with a licensed gaming operator (think: FOX Bet, though it doesn't have to be exclusive) as SBGI “doesn’t [believe it] makes sense to be the licensee and run the book.” The decision by Sinclair to place odds on-screen during game broadcasts could impact as many as 44 clubs across the sporting landscape (16 MLB, 16 NBA & 12 NHL). The company obtained the local cable rights to 42 teams via their recent $10.6 billion acquisition of the 21 FOX RSNs and maintains ownership interest in both YES Network and Marquee Sports Network.

Howie Long-Short: Sinclair’s control of the RSNs would seem to give it a significant advantage over the established gaming companies as it relates to capitalizing on legalized sports betting - even if the company needs to align with a licensee (in each state) to profit on the wagers placed. While gaming operators wait for the leagues to carve up digital streaming rights for in-app wagering, SBGI can immediately begin to show odds during game broadcasts in states where sports betting is legal.

Sinclair also has the advantage of giving fans access to their game on the biggest and best screen available, making it more likely they tune in and thus bet through the company's 3rd party platform (remember, media companies can't just take bets on their own platforms without running afoul of regulations); in Europe, gaming operators with streaming rights broadcast in a lower resolution so not to dilute the audience of the leagues’ core digital rights holder(s).

Adam Candee (managing editor, isn’t so sure - at least, not without the RSNs acquiring local streaming rights too. “If you think of the Wizards alternative broadcast, the easiest way to place a bet while watching those games was still through a smart phone. So, what is gained by showing odds on a television screen during a sports broadcast? How does the fan mechanically place that bet? If the fan needs to be on their phone, then I’m not sure how much of an advantage it provides.” For Sinclair to maximize gaming revenues they’ll need to integrate odds into digital media (of course, that assumes league gives local streaming rights back to teams) and hope the DGE gets more comfortable with operators on 3rd party sites.

Speaking of alternative broadcasts, Sinclair is considering producing them in the mold of what the Wizards and Clippers have done. In the short-term, it sounds like a reasonable solution (particularly if they can force carriage), but if you consider Candee's point that the marriage between live sports and gambling will occur via digital means and you believe that local streaming rights holders (again, assumes the league gives local streaming rights back to teams) will have in-app betting functionality and the DGE's blessing, who exactly is watching?

Fan Marino: Ripley’s comments come on the heels of FanDuel’s announcement that the company would begin offering in-game betting on tennis matches and Bundesliga soccer games. FanDuel became the “first U.S. sports betting operator to offer live-sports broadcasts alongside odds on its website and mobile app” in the process.

Existing television broadcast rights deals signed long before PASPA was struck down have prevented gaming operators from streaming NFL, NBA, MLB & NHL games, but it’s been a lack of interest from bettors in wagering on sports like tennis or German soccer that have prevented in-game wagering from making its way overseas sooner. U.S. gaming operators are well aware that “interest in specific events can double or even triple when odds are offered alongside live rights”, but the costs associated with putting on these streams has outweighed the potential returns to date. It’s unlikely that FanDuel expects much to change with the rights they’ve acquired, so it’s reasonable to assume that the company is looking to achieve a proof of concept and has plans to pursue the rights to bigger sports leagues down the line.

It must be noted that while FanDuel is the first U.S. gaming operator to combine live odds and game content in the U.S., DraftKings acquired the rights to stream Euro-League games within their DFS app back in February ’18.

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