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Ted Leonsis: Betting Makes ‘Sports Programming Even More Valuable’

“It used to be, there would be a blowout and everyone would tune out. Now you’re watching until the end of the game to see what your bet will be.”

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Sports betting has exploded in the United States since the Supreme Court ruled against a law that banned commercial sports gambling throughout the country. Legalized sports betting has been adopted in one form or another by more than 30 states, creating a market that has produced over $52 billion in revenue.

On the latest Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, reporter Jim Frankel looked at the sports betting phenomenon, reminding viewers that professional sports once distanced itself from gambling. Two of baseball’s biggest scandals, notably the 1919 Chicago White Sox deliberately losing the World Series and Pete Rose being banned from the sport, involved betting.

Yet betting has now become so incorporated with sports that ads for sportsbooks and betting platforms flood advertising during sporting events and at venues. Studio shows discuss betting, often in sponsored segments, during pregame, halftime, and postgame coverage.

Frankel spoke with one professional sports team owner who’s embraced betting fully. Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics, has opened a Caesars Sportsbook in Capital One Arena. Fans attending games can place bets right there in the building.

Here’s a clip from Frankel’s feature, titled “Legalized Sports Gambling”:

“There was a lot of angst about sports betting. What was the audience going to be doing?” Leonsis told Frankel. “This is the fastest-growing new business in Washington, D.C. and it’s unfolded the way we’re expecting.”

Frankel also includes interviews with fans placing multiple bets and spending hundreds of dollars (if not more), who enjoy the thrill of having an investment in several events. But he also follows a fan whose life was ruined by his betting addiction.

However, Leonsis is among those looking at the bigger picture, who see gambling making sports even more lucrative and more important to fans.

“It’ll make sports programming even more valuable because you’re much more engaged,” said Leonsis. “It used to be, there would be a blowout and everyone would tune out. Now you’re watching until the end of the game to see what your bet will be.”

The latest episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel debuted Jan. 25 and is available across HBO networks. The show can also be seen on-demand and streamed HBO Max.

Sports TV News

Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX

“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”

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FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.

A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.

The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.

Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.

That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.

Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.

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FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”

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The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.

Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.

Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”

Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.

“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.

FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.

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Sports TV News

NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC

“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”

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ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.

ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.

This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.

Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.

“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”

ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.

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