Could legal sports betting be a boost for the media business? If a new partnership between Major League Baseball and MGM Reports is any indication, league officials and gaming executives certainly think so.
At a press conference at MLB’s headquarters in New York City Tuesday afternoon, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and MGM CEO Jim Murren announced a multiyear deal that will see the gaming and entertainment giant become the official gaming partner of the league.
The deal includes data, with MLB providing MGM with its official statistics feed on a non-exclusive basis, and with select data from its “Statcast” data package on an exclusive basis.
It includes media, with MGM committing to promote its brand and gaming options on MLB’s digital and TV platforms, like MLB At Bat app, and MLB Network. It will also include sponsorships and activations at a local level, and internationally in Japan.
Both Manfred and Murren were most optimistic about the interactive nature of sports wagering.
“Baseball is perfectly suited for this,” Murren told reporters at the presser. “It will increase social networks, people will be talking about the next pitch, the next out, the next inning. It will extend the viewership of games through multiple innings, even regardless of the outcome or the score.”
“I think it is an areas where the natural pace of our game—which we actually like on the whole—is an advantage in terms of in-play betting,” Manfred said. “It allows for an opportunity to be creative with the types of wagers.”
The companies provided no more details of how that interactive in-game wagering could play out. After all, for now sports betting is only legal in a handful of states, although that number is likely to increase in the coming months and years, now that the Supreme Court effectively paved the way with a ruling earlier this year.
That ruling also opened the door to leagues making official deals with gaming companies, something that would have been unthinkable just a few years
Manfred said that league research suggested that the change in legal framework, as well as in public opinion, “presented an opportunity.” He added,
“We operate in a really competitive environment, and we have to take advantage of every [chance] to drive engagement by our fans.”