This week, the NBA seems to have taken yet another bold step in bolstering its leading position in the U.S. sports gambling world by way of how to watch their product. This season, the league is going to offer a special edition of its League Pass subscription model which will allow viewers to watch only the 4thquarter of any game. You will be able to choose any individual game for $1.99, while the rate to watch one full game will remain at $6.99.
In a press release announcing this new initiative, Adam Silver said:
The new micro-transaction offerings on League Pass will deliver more customized experiences to meet the needs of NBA fans,” He continued “Instead of waiting to watch highlights after a game, fans will be able to enjoy a portion of a game in real-time.
The league also plans to make it possible to watch any quarter of a game in real time by the end of 2018. This is an interesting stepfor the league to take – in essence,the league issaying that itknows you are not likely to watch a full out-of-market game, but you maybe interested in the final outcome.
It sure seems as though, however, that the group of fans that Silver mentions in his statement are really a cover for what really matters to the league – gamblers.
There are many reasons that the leagues should be catering to the sports bettors that are about to flood the regulated market across the state. First and foremost, almost every study performed spells out how valuable sports betting will be for the leagues.
There will no doubt be an increase in viewership across the board, which in turn will drive higher advertising rates. There will also be lots of opportunity for in-venue marketing and sponsorship – we have already seen the beginnings of that in hockey, and the NBA can’t be too far behind.
Also, as the sports betting business moves across the states, there is more of a chance that people will either be staying at home or in a location that isn’t showing one of these out of market games rather than watching it in a sportsbook.
When that is the case, gamblers are definitely going to be interested in watching the end of a game with their bet result hanging in the balance. With the ease of streaming to phones these days, it only makes sense for someone to pick up the tail end of a close game to see if they will end up a winner.
In-play betting is going to be a huge part of the U.S. sports betting landscape in the future, and this is where being able to watch only a portion of a game is going to be of value. Prop bets on events in any one quarter of an NBA game will make each individual quarter more valuable to a viewer, so the league is taking an excellent stance by being this progressive with this new option.
However, all of this pales in comparison to what the NBA is really after – a piece of the pie. The league has not been shy about wanting to receive a percentage of the handle for providing the product. Yes, they have masked this as an ‘integrity fee” in most conversations, but let’s face it – the league knows how much money is going to be bet on their games, but it can’t run a sportsbook itself.
Adding more value to the end user in deals and offers like the one announced this week gives the league more of a hold over the conversation, and that in turn could end up swaying some states to allocate a percentage point or two of handle to ensure the “integrity” of professional basketball.
It will be interesting to watch what other sports do in response to this announcement by the NBA. With the NFL already offering RedZone to subscribers, this leaves baseball and hockey as sports that could use the bump in viewership, and maybe gambling is the source of those increased numbers.