• “Predict the Game” broadcasts on NBC Sports Washington aim to engage fans and gamers
  • Shows are also pilots for “fully synchronized” sports betting programs
  • Network that takes advantage of the introduction of legalized sports betting in its geographic presence

The Washington Wizards game broadcasts launched by NBC Sports Washington earlier this year put both the network and the NBA team’s majority owner, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, at the “forefront” of sports betting innovation.

In January, the regional sports network owned by Monumental – owners of the NHL Washington Capitals and the Wizards of the NBA – and NBCUniversal jointly produced a secondary, playful basketball show of the game Wizards vs. Milwaukee Bucks on overflow channel NBC Sports Washington Plus in partnership with the Wizards. It was the first of its kind.

For the second half of the 2018-19 NBA season, the network is producing seven more. A central point of the show is a free “Predict the Game” competition, the $ 500 winners of which will be announced in the network’s post-game coverage. Real-time sports betting data and statistics are also displayed on the screen during the game.

The programs, which run at the same time as the Standard Wizards programs on the main channel of NBC Sports Washington, are intended to inspire fans for games in the regular season at short notice and to appeal to fans who are interested in games.

The results so far have been encouraging. During that first broadcast by Wizards versus Bucks on January 11th, the contest had over 4,000 responses. Of those who streamed the game online, 20 percent were on the alternative gambling show.

In the long term, they’ll be pilots for much larger gaming shows when sports betting is officially legalized throughout the mid-Atlantic region covered by NBC Sports Washington.

Monumental majority owner and founder Ted Leonsis, the former AOL senior billionaire, has been a huge proponent of sports betting for several years and is eager to capitalize on new revenue opportunities. Leonsis’ venture capital firm Revolution Growth has already invested in fantasy sports operator DraftKings, data company Sportradar and sports betting start-up WinView.

Speaking at the Charlotte All-Star Weekend earlier this month, Leonsis said sports betting was the NBA’s “most important new business.”

Monumental sports and entertainment owner Ted Leonsis

The current bill for sports betting in DC allows gaming in the Capital One arena, home of the wizards and capital cities. Sports betting at the facility is planned, as are commercial partnerships with gaming operators. The sports betting shows on NBC Sports Washington hold Monumental ahead of the game.

“From a team and organizational perspective, we always strive to keep up with the latest technology and engagement tools,” said Zach Leonsis, senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Monumental, to SportBusiness.

“Instead of shy away from the inevitability [of sports betting] We want to embrace it – to maintain the integrity of our sport and create really engaging tools that our fans can have fun with.

“We really tried to be the leader in media distribution, new technology and new live event products, and this is consistent with the things we want to experiment with. We’re really trying to appeal to a Millennial and Gen Z-oriented audience who usually get excited when they’re on the phone while watching a live linear broadcast. Why try to move away from it? We should try to encourage this and focus on people’s mobile devices, whether in the future via the internet or an application.

“There is so much publicly available data about performance on the pitch, on the ice and on the field, and young, savvy viewers really crave data for content. This, of course, combines with trying to play with this data and make a few dollars off it. And when you have money from a game on the line it increases the stakes and makes everything more interesting and fun. “


Requirements for innovation
“This is a project really run by NBC Sports Washington, but we’ve been talking about this for a while,” added Leonsis, who is Ted’s son. “I think there is certainly a reason this has happened in Washington compared to other RSN markets: We have been very open and progressive on this issue and have shown a genuine willingness to experiment.”

Damon Phillips, senior vice president and general manager of NBC Sports Washington, said, “We have a very close relationship with Monumental – this group of owners is one of the most innovative and technology-driven in all sports. We have ongoing discussions with our team partners about new initiatives that we would like to try or that they would like to try and this was one that we mutually agreed on. The team is very supportive of what we want to do in this area. “

Significantly, in NBC Sports Washington’s Mid-Atlantic Footprint, lawmakers were quick to adopt sports betting. Delaware and West Virginia have already legalized sports betting, while Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia are on the right track this year.

“What we wanted to do as the world moved in this direction was to get a head start and try to experiment with free games to introduce fans to sports betting,” says Phillips, “but also to be able to to gather. ” Some key takeaways on what works and what doesn’t. Once sports betting is legalized across our entire footprint, we can participate in more meaningful ways. “

In the future, NBC Sports Washington and Monumental plan to improve the product by introducing a dedicated play-by-play team to broadcast bets and generating additional income through sponsorship and advertising contracts. Maryland Casino MGM National Harbor has already been signed as the official presentation partner of the alternative broadcast.

“I can assume that in the future we will have a separate on-air talent for this alternative show, and it could also be tied to a specific sports betting partner or sponsor,” says Leonsis. “This really creates a unique opportunity to create a fully synchronized, two-picture experience that few partners are likely to be able to fully utilize.”

Alternative broadcasts of bets for Capitals games are also planned. “Whatever we end up doing in its entirety for the wizards, we’d definitely want to do it for the capitals. We wouldn’t make a pilot with it if we didn’t believe that at some point we could make the jump to an alternative feed for each of our programs, ”says Leonsis.

There are no plans to roll over the betting broadcast to the main NBC Sports Washington broadcast. “The choice is very important for the fans. There will be a group of fans who just want to watch the game and we want to make sure that it is available to fans, ”said Phillips. “We’re not necessarily addressing hardcore gamers, but sports fans. We try to make the game more interesting and fun for them.

“We will always have a traditional show for fans and on our secondary channel we will have something different. We want to make sure that a fan who is not interested in gambling does not need to see or hear gambling references. “

First of many?
NBCUniversal has been interested in the initiative and could launch it together with other RSNs in coordination with state sports betting laws. “One of the great things about NBC Sports is that we have a number of regional sports networks so we can share best practices across the portfolio. Something that works here could work in San Francisco, Chicago or Boston, ”says Phillips.

“Overall, our head of the regional networks is very satisfied with what we have done so far. It’s the first inning of a very long ball game and we hope to continue to know. “

The Capital One arena could soon get a sportsbook

Monumental is meanwhile in “active discussions” with a number of potential sports betting partners, says Leonsis, and ultimately intends to install a sports betting facility in the Capital One Arena.

“We would likely partner with an existing blue chip brand that is a professional, experienced operator that could operate a room in our building with street access. It’s a really unique opportunity to create an experience that is outside of the actual game window, ”says Leonsis.

“People are usually out of the building by 11pm [on game nights]With a sports betting operation, we could potentially keep the storefront for as long as they’d like – from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. – and that creates more all-day programming.

“We’d love to have people finish a game in the arena and then go to sports betting and watch the games on the west coast. It would also be a great place to spend Sunday afternoons and watch American football on the internet for a full day [autumn]. ”