As sports made a comeback after the pandemic induced lockdown, all sports fans rejoiced in unison. But perhaps nobody was happier than sports bettors. After all, one of the fastest growing pastimes of sports fans across the world is live sports betting. In fact, why shouldn’t you try and win some money on the sports that you love? In the USA, which features some of the richest sports leagues on the planet such as the NBA, the NFL and the MLB, 18 of the 50 states have completely legalized sports betting. Many others have partial legalization while only three states don’t have any bill to legalize sports betting (yet). The potential for the industry’s growth is immense. And more states are expected to completely legalize sports betting even faster. 2022 projections expect 32 states to completely legalize sports betting, a move that will generate over $6 billion in revenue. While this figure seems impressive, there’s potential to extend the dollar amount tenfold as long as sports properties and bookmakers have the proper streaming technology that can allow punters to bet on every single play of the game. Streaming technology needs to be prioritized as more and more people are getting rid of cable. Right now, streaming platforms are riddled with delays making the complete potential of sports betting impossible to succeed in. Let’s find out the role that technology will play in getting rid of that hurdle.
The Future of Sports Betting
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed not only the way sports are played, but also how we watch, engage, and enjoy games as fans. Teams are generally playing in empty stadiums or with an extremely limited number of fans. As the entire industry adjusts to the new normal, many are turning to technology for help, but not necessarily using the right tools.
Leagues like the NBA and MLB are using digital innovations to fill empty stadiums – from Fox Sports’ plan to place virtual fans in MLB stadiums to the NBA’s partnership with Microsoft to accomplish an equivalent goal, there are many new initiatives being tested. These programs, however, don’t have an immediate effect on revenue generation like sports betting can. Leagues and broadcasters must address the core technology which will drive sports betting and specifically, micro-wagering. The idea of betting on every dig in a baseball game, every down during a football game and every shot in a basketball game is really lucrative. If games can’t be provided in real-time and be synced so that every fan can watch at an equivalent time, then we won’t be ready to reach virtual fans and implement micro-wagering – which is where the large money will come from.
For example, the PGA recently announced an update to their DraftKings partnership which allows fans to access a betting integration within the hopes of driving engagement. While this is often a helpful next step within the industry, a real test is going to be if streaming delays are going to be eliminated and if they’ll be ready to support an influx of online viewers simultaneously. The current established order of sports streaming will simply not cut it for the modern, tech savvy sports bettor.
Taking Sports Streaming to the Next Level
Even before the pandemic, many long time users were “cutting the cord” or ditching their cable providers and switching over to online streaming services instead. However, sports broadcasting was something that kept pulling them back to their cable providers. So when Coronavirus hit the U.S. earlier this year and all sports leagues suspended play indefinitely, cord cutting reached record levels. Sitting at home and binging on your favourite shows made even more sense during the lockdown. Now, sports are back but many Americans are still finding themselves without cable packages meaning it’s an opportune time to take advantage of the streaming services for live sport. Enhancing the current streaming service is critical as a faulty, inconsistent streaming service won’t be enough.
Historically, sporting events have struggled with live streams. Fans who streamed Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers witnessed a delay of 45-55 seconds. Not only does this leave fans frustrated (who wants to read a tweet of a touchdown or an interception before it happens on your screen?) but it also leaves sportsbooks and bettors out of potential money. No fan will ever be comfortable placing a bet where subsequent digs in a baseball are going to be a strike, a ball, or a home run if their livestream is 5, 20, or maybe sometimes 60 seconds behind the actual play.
To capitalize on the potential of micro wagering, operators need to work towards developing technology that can give synchronized, real-time streams with no delays. Not only will this technology create happier fans, but it’ll also have a considerable bottom line impact.
What’s the potential of micro-wagering?
Fans wanting to back sports and sportsbooks, leagues, and broadcasters alike should be jumping at the prospect of micro wagering. Right now, simple bets on the result of a game are the established order for several, but what if fans could back whether or not Tiger Woods will make a putt or Steph Curry will sink another free throw? Right now, that’s impossible because most “live” streams aren’t even on the brink of really being live. With frequent delays, operators are forced to chop potential betting windows short thanks to a spread of reasons including the likelihood of fraud or courtsiding (someone giving real time updates from the court). Delivering real time streaming will give users more opportunities to bet on live outcomes and generate more revenue. It will also eliminate the risk of fraud.
While fans can bet on the precise outcomes of games (halves, innings or quarters) true micro-wagering isn’t available. Recently, there have been conversations around using biometric data like an athlete’s respiration, temperature, vital sign and more, during in-game betting. This level of betting is something beyond what we’ve seen before and can be considered as the meta-level of micro-wagering. While the insights alone are often helpful in betting—conceivably, a bet could even be made around whether or not a kicker’s pulse has historically increased while attempting field goals late in games forcing him to miss.
When you get into this conversation around biometric data and betting, you can easily see how vast the opportunities of sports betting are. The industry is extremely popular across America. As sports keep coming back to normal, more people would like to engage in sports betting. Even though the betting is on a virtual medium, the money involved is real. Platforms need to work towards improving their streaming abilities so that users can get a synchronized, real-time experience. When this takes place, the world of micro wagering will be ripe for the taking and the potential of sports betting can be well and truly realized.
The major US sports leagues – the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Hockey League (NHL) – are all signed up with numerous data operators. While the early deals, such as NBA’s with MGM, focused on marketing and promotion, newer deals are being signed with a desire for sports properties and broadcasters to get more innovative with deals that involve equity stakes and rights to names.
The deal of NBC and Sinclair point towards the general direction the industry is headed. Tapping into marketing and/or advertising assets will not drive the revenues that are required to increase the viability of the betting industry. Creative deals that include naming rights, equity positions and integration into each other’s business are bound to eventually become the norm that drives the billions of dollars of revenue that everyone is eager to see. While there will always be an offshore market to help with legalities, more and more states are expected to pass legislation that will improve the flow of money into legal markets.