“Make. It. Rain.” So says the Draft Kings spokesmodel ad nauseum every time I watch a baseball game.
Seems like these days all MLB telecasts have some gambling app advertising their wares. What was once ‘taboo’ in the game of baseball, seems more like the norm now. Gambling is legal, so I get it. Gambling brings in money, so again I get it. What I have a hard time understanding is the complete change of philosophy by baseball. The sport has been littered with scandals related to gambling, including Pete Rose being banned for life from baseball.
So now that some teams, most notably, the Chicago Cubs, are lobbying to have sports books built inside of their stadium. The oldest ballpark in the National League would build a two-story facility just outside the stadium at the busy corner of Sheffield and Addison Streets in Chicago. In a statement the Cubs said, “While the game of baseball has largely been the same for the last 150 years, the fans have changed. The way they consume baseball is different through emerging technology and content platforms,” the Cubs said in their statement. “Sports wagering is becoming a big part of that change and this sportsbook will allow us to connect fans to the game in new ways.”
Wow times have changed. So, tell me, when is the press conference to reinstate Rose? When is the press conference to reinstate the members of the 1919 “Black” Sox? I know, before you blow a gasket, these are different times and one doesn’t necessarily beget the other. The transgressions I speak of, were committed during a period where gambling wasn’t legal in most places. That makes it more of a “sin” I guess.
We are coming up on the 32nd anniversary of Rose accepting his permanent ban from the game he loved. By Rose voluntarily joining the list, MLB agreed to not release the findings of its gambling investigation. Baseball rules state that Rose could apply for reinstatement to the sport, but then commissioner Bart Giamatti said, “There is absolutely no deal for reinstatement. That is exactly what we did not agree to in terms of a fixed number of years.”
The Black Sox scandal was a completely different animal all together. Those that participated did so because that was really their only way of getting paid. Salaries quite obviously were paltry compared to the game even 40 years after the event. The yearly salaries of the 1919 players were probably less than the highest paid guys of today, pay in taxes every year. There were no player bonuses for making, or winning the World Series. So, there was a monetary carrot dangled in front of the 1919 Black Sox.
That won’t be an issue this time around. But there are still some folks worried about the Cubs and other teams letting gambling take place in the buildings they play.
In May of 2018, when the Supreme Court legalized sports betting in many states the prevailing thought was concern. Umpire Joe West said to USA Today 3 years ago, “It scares me to death. I’m not worried about any of my guys doing anything (illegal), but I am worried about their security. People won’t have just a rooting interest in games, but now they’re gambling on them. So, if they lose their money, and they’re mad enough, anything’s liable to happen.”
Gambling hadn’t been a part of the game for a very long time, so why now?
You guessed it, money.
“Sports betting happens,’’ Commissioner Rob Manfred told Yahoo Finance in 2018. “Whether it’s legalized here or not, it’s happening out there. So, I think the question for sports is really, ‘Are we better off in a world where we have a nice, strong, uniform, federal regulation of gambling that protects the integrity of sports, provides sports with the tools to ensure that there is integrity in the competition…or are we better off closing our eyes to that and letting it go on as illegal gambling?’ “And that’s a debatable point.’’ Said Manfred.
It’s quite a far cry from Manfred’s predecessor Bud Selig, who back in 2013 testified under oath that gambling was an “evil, which creates doubt and destroys your sport.” Selig stated back then that Las Vegas would never have a baseball team, and responded to New Jersey’s ongoing fight to legalize sports betting by saying, “This is corruption, in my opinion.”
This is 2021 and there is money to be made. Audiences are viewing games differently and some sports are trending older, including baseball, which makes the powers that be, well, nervous.
For the first time in a very long time, baseball is thinking way outside the box. It’s being reported by a few media outlets, including The New York Post, that Major League Baseball and Barstool Sports have had significant negotiations about airing national games on the site’s platforms. According to the Post, the discussions are what Barstool founder Dave Portnoy referred to a few weeks ago when he mentioned his company has had talks with “major leagues.”
MLB and Barstool potentially could team up to create a new type of broadcast with a focus on in-game gambling. The Post reported that the talks have only recently started and while they’ve picked up some steam, an agreement is not a certainty.
What does that actually mean? Well, there is a hole to fill in baseball’s midweek broadcast schedule. Under new agreements with television partners, there are no longer exclusive Monday or Wednesday broadcasts. It’s uncertain if baseball would turn to YouTube, which has aired MLB games before, or if Peacock which just did games in July are really contenders.
This is where Barstool could come in. It would really be a win-win for both the league and Barstool. The site would serve up a younger audience to MLB. The league has been trying to create ways to target millennials for a long time. Barstool has that built in already and would be able to create an “event” every time they air an MLB game. They would likely deliver games on the Barstool website and also its Instagram and Twitter accounts as well. The site’s many correspondents across the country are terrific at promoting their product and this would be no different.
As the Post, points out, if a deal is reached and it’s “non-exclusive”, the games would likely still be broadcast on RSNs, making Barstool’s stream an alternative broadcast. That would allow for those that want a traditional broadcast to get that and those that want a different approach, will get what they want.
The “different” approach would likely not feature a play-by-play and color analyst like you are used to seeing. This would be more like a host, and a bunch of other people, sitting around watching a game, talking about it. They’d also be discussing the gambling aspects, like money lines. It would be a little baseball and a lot of gambling. Just the way some people want it.
As I write, I’m thinking about how I feel about all of this. Not just as a broadcaster but as a lifelong fan of the sport of baseball. I come to the conclusion that as much as the new stats we use in baseball took some getting used to, so will gambling.
I don’t think we’ll notice much difference in the way a normal game is covered. Yes, I’ve already seen “tickers” at the bottom of the screen give me different information. During a broadcast I can get the latest in money lines and spreads. I’m sure that broadcasters will have to read promos for the various outlets their teams may have a partnership with. That’s not anything unusual these days, with most every element sponsored. As a play-by-play announcer, I think the audience understands YOU, yourself aren’t endorsing a product. I don’t really think any credibility issues will arise.
I mean, Al Michaels has been alluding to gambling during football games for years. Like, “this game is now OVER”, not meaning the game is finished, meaning the total has gone over the number. All good, because Michaels is one of the best to ever turn on a microphone.
I have to admit, I never thought I’d see the day where baseball welcomed and partnered with gambling establishments, like apps and casinos. At the end of the day as a fan, I’m not a big gambler, but why would I be against what a lot of people really enjoy?
Oh yeah, and it’s legal. The thing that is strange is how quickly and comfortably baseball has been willing to partner with what was once so forbidden.
Here’s a fact. Whether you want to believe it or not, there are fans, sitting in your favorite ballpark today that are wagering on games. Baseball and other sports are just trying to get in on the action and tap into this very lucrative market. Hard to really blame them.
The only thing I hope is that baseball seriously does its homework. How will it separate the teams from the wagering? If bets are being placed in the actual ballpark they are playing in, the criticism they’ll hear from the fans will be a little different, I’m sure. “Hey you just cost me money with that strikeout!” Can you imagine?
The probability of players or umpires or officials to willingly participate in a conspiracy are low, but you have to consider the future. What haven’t they thought of? What are some of the loopholes? How could baseball be opened up to its next gambling scandal?
I’d be willing to bet there is a lot of scrambling going on at baseball’s headquarters in New York.
Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC
“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”
NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade. A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well. However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).
NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season. NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.
NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.
Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.
Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.
If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.
“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”
Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.
Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm.
“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”
While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.
Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock.
Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week.
My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic. When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV. Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams. After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England. They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.
I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.
I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters.
By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.
Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.
This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.
Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.” NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.
Media Noise – Episode 45
Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.
6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio
“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”
For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.
Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?
Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?
Well, let’s go Digging for Gold.
The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.
Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.
If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way? I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:
- Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
- Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
- Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
- Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
- FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $
- Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months
The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details.
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