The NFL’s partnership with Sportradar sees all four major US pro-leagues establish official sports betting data partnerships.
Although the value and length of the NFL deal have not been disclosed, the exclusive Sportradar agreement will have significant implications for the post-PASPA US sports betting landscape.
With NFL matchday 1 kicking-off this weekend, Dr Laila Mintas, Chair of the Advisory Board at Bet.Works, and a legal expert in global sports data and media rights details a breakdown of the partnerships potential stakeholder implications:
- NFL streaming rights outside the US
The deal includes the NFL’s live audiovisual game feeds to sportsbooks in selected international markets – basically streaming rights for sports betting purposes.
Outside the U.S., it is very common for leagues to sell or licence these rights to data companies. The data companies allow sports betting operators to use these streaming rights for their live betting products. As around 75% of all betting in Europe happens during the game, it is a significant market, and these streaming rights are almost essential for bookmakers to provide their customers with an appealing live experience.
Only through the streaming rights can bookmakers provide the watch-and-bet experience, allowing the sports fan to visit the bookmaker’s application or website to watch the game and place a bet at the same time. This way they make sure the customer stays on their application or website.
For sports fans who want to consume sports and place bets, this means a much less fragmented experience.
While this is a totally common way to consume sports in Europe, it is new to the US and could revolutionise how fans place bets on games.
However, as the NFL has made these rights available to some markets outside the US only, we cannot expect to see such new products that enable a watch-and-bet product in the US anytime soon. It remains to be seen whether other leagues will make their streaming rights available for sports betting in the near future.
A reason why the rights might not have been made available yet could be the broadcast deals that the NFL currently has in place.
In most jurisdictions, using live audiovisual game feeds for sports betting is not seen as a conflict or competition to the broadcast rights. In jurisdictions outside the US, both usually go hand-in-hand with each other.
While the broadcast rights can be made available to a broader market and are much more expensive, sports betting operators are only allowed to use the provided stream on their properties.
Also, usually the size and quality of the stream is limited so that the streaming experience cannot replace or compete with the viewing experience via broadcast.
- Official betting data
Through the new partnership, Sportradar will exclusively offer official NFL sports betting data, which means that all bookmakers that want to use official NFL betting data instead of an unofficial feed need to purchase it from them.
There is no other jurisdiction around the world where leagues and operators have been fighting so hard about the value of official versus unofficial data.
Official data means that the company selling the data has an official mandate to do so by the league or rights holder. It does not necessarily say anything about the quality of data.
Official data often comes with higher pricing and often the only value it provides is that it is labelled as “official data”, which can be used by the bookmaker for marketing purposes.
Up until now, all the different data companies have been selling unofficial NFL data as there was no official feed available.
- NFL official play-by-play statistics and player-tracking data
The deal expands Sportradar’s relationship with the NFL, with the company being the exclusive distribution partner for the league’s official play-by-play statistics, as well as the NFL’s proprietary Next Gen Stats player-tracking data partner for media outlets.
However, through the new deal, Sportradar will also be able to use the data for sports betting in the US and internationally where sports betting is legal and regulated.
As sports betting is in the process of being legalised throughout the country, will the tracking data be used for NFL sports betting products? The insights provided through tracking data can be used to create a new generation of sports betting products that are yet to exist.
Fans could, for example, bet on the speed of players or even predict if the next play will be a run or a pass based on various factors. The new types of betting products based on tracking data could revolutionise the betting market.
- Integrity Services
The new deal also includes integrity services to monitor betting across all NFL games – pre-season, regular-season, and post-season.
Monitoring systems compare the performance of the athletes on the field with the movements of the betting market to identify irregularities that could be linked to match manipulation. According to studies, $200bn in bets were placed by Americans in off-shore markets before PASPA was repealed.
These black markets are difficult to monitor and are more susceptible to manipulations than regulated markets. As more states legalise sports betting, the likelihood of match manipulations decreases. However, integrity monitoring is still essential and, even when it is overdue, it is still a milestone to see the NFL finally officially using an integrity monitoring service.
U.S. fans cannot expect a watch-and-bet NFL betting product any time soon, while fans outside the country might see the first products of this kind shortly.
The jurisdictions covered by the deal have not been disclosed. However, NFL tracking data can now be used for betting products that could revolutionise the market and motivate other US leagues to innovate in this direction.
It will be interesting to see what the impact of the change of direction by the NFL has for the teams and players.
So far, the NFL’s policy allows teams to agree sponsorship or marketing deals with casinos and almost half of the league’s teams have such deals in place already. However, so far it has been prohibited for the teams to do deals with the casinos’ sportsbooks.
It remains to be seen whether that changes now thanks to the NFL’s deal with Sportradar meaning the league has, for the first time, officially embraced sports betting.
Another question is whether NFL players might soon be able to strike sponsorship deals with betting operators or monetise their image rights through licensing deals with operators.
The NFL is the last of the major four established US leagues to have sold their official data to be used for sports betting, which is an additional and significant revenue stream for the leagues.
Time will tell whether the NCAA will be adjusting its strategy to the new reality that 10 US states have implemented legal sports betting and eight more states plus Washington, DC recently passed legislation and will sell their data rights as well.
Dr Laila Mintas, Chair of the Advisory Board at Bet.Works