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Why The NBC Sports Betting Broadcast Didn't Work

All right. So I want to talk a little bit about these sports betting broadcasts that we saw last night with the Sixers playing at the Hawks. Philly is maybe the main test market for this since sports betting is live in New Jersey.

The regular game was on NBC Sports Philadelphia, and on NBC Sports Philadelphia+, if that's not a mouthful enough already, they had the NBC Sport Bet Broadcast. And what that did was overlay Marc Farzetta, Anthony Gargano, and Brad Feinberg who were in studio, in the Comcast B Studio by the way, commenting on the game, talking about the betting ramifications, using a Score Bug at the top that had the line, the over-under, and then they were updating it on a quarterly basis. 

This is not totally new. We saw the Wizards do this earlier in the season, and I'm sure a few other teams have done it in other markets and experimented it. And the answer is ... The reason for this is there's a lot of interest in sports betting now, obviously, and the mainstream media both in terms of how they cover the games, how the broadcast them is very desirous to dip into this and incorporate it into their coverage, while at the same time not going all in and stepping on the traditional coverage of actually covering, talking about the game, showing the highlights, and all of that stuff.

Add in the layer of complexity on a national level for ESPN where betting is still an illegal in a handful of states, and really only on a mass scale in New Jersey and Nevada, and you can't go all-in on sports betting stuff, because most of the country, at least legally, can't be doing it yet. So you're finding a lot of tinkering and experimenting, and that's what NBC Sports Philadelphia did last night. And I gotta be honest with you. The broadcast was not good. It was not good. And it wasn't really ... No one, I don't think, was expecting it to be good. These are trials. These are trial balloons, weather balloons to see if it works, how they can do it. You know, trying to poke little holes here and there to see what works and what doesn't.

The thing that rubbed me the wrong way or that I feel was totally misguided is there was no data on the screen other than that tiny little bug that had the line and over-under, and they updated it for the quarterly lines, but as anybody watching this knows, online betting allows a range of real-time bets and prop bets. I mean, you're talking 40, 90, 60, 80, 90 markets for some games. That's a lot of information to put on the screen, and betting is very numbers heavy. It's something we've struggled with here at Crossing Broad as we've built out our studio and set up our betting pages, particularly with video. How do you make numbers visual?

And for a TV broadcast, CNBC and Bloomberg have kind of already solved this problem. The financial market, financial news is very similar to betting news in that a lot of it is numbers that take place on a black board. They change and they update frequently, and that's what people are tuning in to watch, and if you look at a CNBC broadcast, you obviously have this scroll across the bottom, and you have kind of the L bracket on Bloomberg with news on the side and numbers and stock information down below and other data. That's the way these betting broadcasts should be presented.

I believe the Wizards did something like this earlier in the season. The Sixers last night literally just added a little, tiny bug atop the game broadcast, and the commentary was not particularly insightful. Anthony Gargano is trying to position himself as the betting guy in the Philly market, and I think he probably is associated with a certain stereotype around betting, kind of the old school Italian guy, corner bar vibe. That's really not the growth area for legal betting, as I'm sure anyone really watching this knows. It's online. It's young. It's millennial. And it had a very old-school vibe, but I can't really blame anybody on the panel. It is tough to sit anywhere and talk for two-and-a-half hours without a script, let alone when you're not actually calling the game and have to find these betting angles.

And I think what you're eventually going to see with these betting coverages is it's just going to be blended seamlessly into the regular coverage. Look at news broadcasts three, four, five years ago. They treated Twitter and Facebook as these totally separate things where you'd have someone stand over at a board, and they'd read tweets and responses, and it was like this separate entity rather than just being a part of the broadcast if news broke on social media.

Now those walls have come down, and I think that's what's going to happen here with betting coverage. You might just see the announcer reference the line, reference the over-under, reference that a player just surpassed the prop bet. Maybe ... Maybe you have the real-time odds somewhere in the Score Bug or something like that.

For these betting specific broadcasts, however, I'd say go all in. Cover the side with the updated lines. Put rotating player props on the bottom. Put a scroll. Put updates or something flashes on the board when someone passes a prop bet, rather than just having guys sit there and try and talk over it. And you could tell they were very strained to get actual insightful comment, and they seemed to treat betting more as this like weird stepchild where they were giving people definitions about what it means to chase, and what an underdog is, stuff like that. I get that you want to educate the public, and there's an education level to bringing in new betters, but it felt a little weird.

So anyway, the thought for these broadcasts is they're not going to work in the longterm. You're not going to have a regular broadcast and a betting broadcast. These simulcasts ... They try it with the Final Four. I guess we'll see it this weekend where you get the home college gets to give their spin. No one actually really watches these, because it's just never as good as the regular broadcast. I think when betting reaches a tipping point, and it might here soon in the Philly market because we're surrounded both sides of the river, New Jersey and Pennsylvania where betting will be fully legal in all regards in all ways very soon. I think you're just going to see it work its way into the broadcast.

Allow the announcers to talk about the line. Mention prop bets. They too have three hours of time to fill up, and I'm sure would be happy to mix in some commentary on the betting. Once you get rid of those stigmas, you can put those things on the bottom line. You can add little Score Bugs, stuff like that, and then when you factor in streaming services, take a look at the MLB TV app. You're able to pull in overlays with the score, who's on base, who's up next, Comcast, NBC, Amazon ... all these players that are actually streaming games. You'll have the same ability. So if you want to overlay something with the betting odds and just ... or not. Then you have the 
That's where I think this is eventually heading. I think it will just be blended into the regular broadcast. Comcast did what they could last night, and kudos to them for trying. Seems like they're probably going to call an eventual betting product that NBC might come out with. Seems like it'll be NBC Sport Bet, because that's how they were branding this last night. So we'll find out about that. I know there are some tires being kicked in those regards at the very least, and I think this just a way to dip into it and how they're going to present it to the user.

But if you're going to have a betting-specific broadcast, you need that data on the screen, and I think you need to look to CNBC, the Bloombergs of the world on how they present financial information while someone is watching a broadcast. Put those numbers on the screen. That's what people need to see. It's much easier to see numbers than constantly hear them. That's the answer.

Anyway, that's our thoughts on the broadcast. Be sure to check out the Crossing Broad YouTube page for our Broad Lines sports betting videos, and give us a follow on Twitter @crossingbroad. Facebook @cbbroadlines.

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