Sports betting has been on a fast track to mass adoption across the United States ever since the Supreme Court’s monumental 2018 ruling in Murphy v. NCAA. As soon as 2022, it is projected that 32 states could offer legal sports betting and with it, generate almost $6 billion in revenue. Even with the pandemic bringing traditional sports to a grinding halt earlier this year, betting didn’t stop. Rather, esports stepped in to fill the void.
Esports betting has ballooned since the onset of the pandemic. The sector alone is expected to reach $14 billion in gambling revenue this year; European bookmakers have already seen a 40 times increase. With traditional sports such as baseball, basketball and soccer playing again, the sports betting industry has massive opportunity ahead.
In order to capitalize on this interest, industry players must reconsider the importance of the technology that powers their streaming in order to drive betting handle, and thus bottom-line revenue. Today’s platforms are riddled with delays which leaves all parties susceptible to leaving money on the table. To solve this problem and successfully progress to the full potential of sports betting and “micro-wagering” — betting on every pitch in a baseball game, every down in a football game and so on — streaming technology must change and become a priority.
The opportunity to amplify the fan viewing experience has increased tenfold this year, since watching live sports in person is off the table for now. Broadcasters and sports leagues alike have the chance to create a more engaging and interactive virtual viewing experience — bringing the stadium experience into living rooms and mobile devices across the country.
These gamification elements can come from features such as Q&As, trivia games or even a chance to purchase merchandise from a team. But one of the largest categories is certainly sports betting. If leagues can provide the opportunity to bet within a game on every play without leaving the live stream, revenue opportunities will skyrocket. Bringing true in-game micro-wagering to viewers allows them to place bets not just on an entire golf tournament for, example, but on whether or not Tiger Woods will make this putt.
The PGA Tour recently announced an expanded relationship with DraftKings to include betting integration in golf events designed to drive fan engagement. The true test for these kinds of gamification features, however, is whether or not streaming services will find the sweet spot to ensure they can minimize delays and support a simultaneous influx of online viewers. Lackluster streams will not cut it for viewers who are looking forward to placing their bets and engaging with others while streaming an event.
The age of cord-cutting has led to an increased number of fans tuning in via live streams. Yet, these viewers have become accustomed to seeing a tweet or push notification about the winning touchdown before it happens on their screen. While this may lead to dissatisfaction for some fans, it can be downright devastating for bettors.
In order to incorporate successful in-play or micro-wagering betting operators must work hand-in-hand with streaming platforms to provide a synchronized, real-time stream with no delays. Accomplishing this is easier said than done. During this year’s Super Bowl, fans streaming the game experienced delays of anywhere from 45 to 55 seconds, rendering many betting opportunities moot.
The success of betting/platform integrations all circle back to the necessity of using technology that provides a real-time experience. At the end of the day, this technology will drive user engagement and have a substantial bottom-line impact.
Increasing Take With Tech
With today’s subpar streaming technology many sports leagues and betting operators are using, hundreds of millions of dollars in total wagering is being left on the table. When most “live” streams are riddled with delays, operators are forced to cut potential betting windows short, thus, less time for users to engage with the content and less time to generate revenue for all parties involved. In addition, real-time streaming removes the possibility for fraud or courtsiding because the streams are coming in too fast.
Right now, fans are able to bet on the outcome of games, and maybe on specific outcomes of quarters, halves or innings, but true micro-wagering is not possible. This kind of instantaneous action is even more important in fast-paced events such as esports. For example, no fan is going to be comfortable placing a bet on the outcome of a FIFA livestream if their stream is 20 or even sometimes 60 seconds behind a fan elsewhere. The popularity of legalized sports betting across the country is the meta-level of a real-time streaming requirement, with tangible consumer dollars on the line.
The “old normal” of live sports doesn’t look like it will be back for a while, as in-person viewing is not going to be plausible for the foreseeable future. Even if games start allowing fans, many viewers will be tuning in from the comfort of their own home rather than an arena. Ultimately, all parties involved must take a hard look at the technology being used and consider how it’s holding the betting and sports streaming industries back from maximum success.
If streaming platforms can provide a synchronized real-time stream to masses of people, the potential of legalized sports betting in the U.S. could be realized.
Jed Corenthal is chief marketing officer at Phenix, a Chicago-based streaming technology company.
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