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Sports betting advertising now 'material' revenue stream for several NBC RSNs

➤ The programmer is eyeing alternative NHL telecasts.

➤ Mobile betting, state tax infrastructure are among the factors that will determine market size.

Legalized sport betting is continuing to grow in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a law in May 2018 that had limited the practice to Nevada. NBCUniversal Media LLC's NBC Sports Regional Networks has aired select wagering-oriented NBA telecasts. Nationally, "NBC Sports Predictor," a free-to-play gaming app, kicked off with soccer’s "Premier League Pick 'Em" in December 2018, before adding golf in February, NASCAR in July and the NFL with "Sunday Night 7" in September. Thus far, NBC Sports has awarded over $1 million in prizes, while the Premier League and NFL contests recently registered their highest weekly participation levels with 111,000 and 143,000 entrants, respectively.

SNL ImageNBC Sports Regional Networks
President David Preschlack

Source: NBCUniversal

David Preschlack, president of NBC Sports Regional Networks and executive vice president of content strategy at NBC Sports Group, has spearheaded the programmer’s sports betting gambits over the past 18 months. S&P Global Market Intelligence recently caught up with Preschlack to discuss some of those initiatives. An edited transcript follows.

S&P Global Market Intelligence: Who is playing NBC Sports Predictor games?

David Preschlack: There is a lot of overlap among those playing the Premier League game and Sunday Night 7. These are not sharks, but casual fans. These predictive games are not about the outcome, but rather the number of touchdowns passes thrown or total rushing yards.

Have you seen an uptick in ratings?

The idea is to improve the engagement level, to keep fans interested throughout. That being said, it’s hard to map a direct correlation to Nielsen Holdings PLC averages at this point.

NBC Sports Radio’s weekday betting show, "The Daily Line," is now simulcast on the regional sports networks. Is the show performing better on some of them?

This show was designed for radio, and during the dayparts it’s running on the RSNs, [Households Using Television] levels are low. This is additive; we’re pleased with the numbers.

Is NBC Sports considering a betting show like "Daily Wager" on ESPN2 (US) or "Lock It In" on FOX Sports 1 (US) for NBCSN (US)?

We’ve done some wagering shows and segments around the Kentucky Derby and other horse racing. But at this point, legalized sports betting is far from national. It makes more sense to work with our regional assets.

Have the RSNs picked up advertising from sports book operators in their areas?

For our RSNs in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Boston, sports betting advertising is a material business. William Hill US, DraftKings and FanDuel have inventory in NBA and NHL games and shoulder programming. We’re also starting to see some ads on NBC Sports Chicago now that sports betting is underway in Iowa.

NBC Sports Washington (US) and NBC Sports Philadelphia (US) aired a number of alternative telecasts with under/over, odds and other betting info around NBA Wizards and Sixers games last season on overflow channels. Did they cannibalize the traditional telecasts?

The numbers were not huge, but they were additive.

What about sports betting telecasts around the NHL and the Washington Capitals this season? Monumental Sports & Entertainment LLC, which owns the Capitals and the Wizards, has a stake in NBC Sports Washington.

It’s possible. We’re looking for ways to differentiate our products. We want to experiment with various elements in the space.

Are MLB games on tap for next season?

It’s not allowed by MLB at this point. You would have to ask them.

How big can this market become over the next few years?

Maybe 25 states, but there are a lot of variables. It depends on the [population] of the states and the operations. In New York, there is sports betting upstate, but not in New York City. There isn’t any mobile wagering. In New Jersey, 75% of the wagering is coming through the mobile apps.

You have to consider, too, that most of the bets are small: the average bet in New Jersey is $20, not a $1,000. These are casual bettors.

Tax infrastructure is also key. If there is a high threshold [on taxes] by the state government, that makes for a different incentive level for operator involvement.

As sports betting becomes more prevalent, is the long-term goal to let viewers bet through the NBC Sports app, or interactively via NBC (US), NBCSN and the RSNs and to pick up a piece of that action?

That would involve changes to the [Federal] Wire Act that prohibits the transfer of monies across state lines. I don’t think betting through the TV, like they do in the U.K., is on the near horizon. Maybe as technology improves on the phone, which knows everything we do. You’re watching a game, and there is contextual message inviting you to make a bet.