The Future Of Sports Entwined With Betting, Says TV Exec

Wagering elevates ratings, ad dollars, and franchise values, David Levy said during Advertising Week
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You’re in a restaurant at 9:30 p.m ET when your phone pings you with an alert that the Knicks are tied with the Warriors at 101-101.

Do you want to watch the last two minutes for a dollar?

And do you want to place a bet on the game? (And here’s the line.)

That was the scenario laid out during an Advertising Week 2020 webinar last week featuring David Levy, who spent 30 years at Turner television overseeing sports on TNT and TBS as well as other entertainment offerings such as The Cartoon Network.

“That is all going to be happening in the next three to five years — there is no doubt in my mind,” said Levy, who last year served briefly as CEO of the Brooklyn Nets.

Levy is in a position to know. In 2018, Turner’s B/R Live launched a platform allowing NBA fans to watch portions of games for a reduced price.

But what Levy sees coming next is a complete integration with gambling so that a fan who also wants to have a monetary interest in the result does not have to switch over to a different website to find odds and place a wager.

Betting better for all stakeholders

“Betting does one thing: It engages the consumer more,” Levy told moderator John Kosner, president of Kosner Media. “If you bet on anything, you are 98% more likely to watch. That means ratings go up, that means media values go up, that means advertising dollars go up, that means franchise dollars go up.”

Levy is putting his money where his prediction is, holding an investing stake in SimpleBet, a company with fellow investors in Devils and 76ers owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer that seeks to allow for even more in-game betting than already exists.

The problem to be solved, Levy said, is “latency,” a lag between the actual play in sporting events and the consumer seeing the play on a broadcast. That limits the live betting options, in some instances, to questions such as “Will a team score in the next half-inning?” or “Which tennis player will win the next game?”

The ultimate goal is a stream that allows viewers to not only watch the game in exact real time, but also to place wagers on the next play or point.

Which sports will shine worldwide?

Levy envisions four sports, in the long run, achieving premier global status.

The first and most obvious is soccer — known as “football” in much of the world.

The second is the NBA, Levy said.

Third is “combat” — some combination of sports such as UFC, boxing, and karate.

Finally, there is eSports, though Levy adds, “The jury is still out on how to make money on it.”

Levy said that eSports currently “is very small in the betting pool of money,” but he expects that to change when its younger-skewing audience gets that real-time wagering opportunity that it would expect.

“The jury is still out on whether TV is the place for eSports,” said Levy, noting that after six months, his young adult son living at home in the age of COVID-19 has yet to turn on the family television. “I could see maybe big tournaments going there, and maybe a dual deal where the event is streamed both on TV and on digital.”

Photo by Shutterstock.com

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