Commentary

Legalized Sports Betting Is Here, But Rise In TV Viewing Hasn't Followed

Sports betting continues to be key for a growing sports future, say professional leagues -- and hopefully for TV networks that air those sports.

All this was hyped when a Supreme Court decision in May allowed for legalizing sports betting in the U.S. But the road is bumpy -- especially when considering virtual sports betting sites.

The New Jersey division of gaming enforcement says Atlantic City casinos have seen a 60% jump to $430 million this year from virtual sports betting sites, according to CNBC. But as with legalized cannabis businesses, the issue comes down to payment and money. On virtual game sites, it can be difficult to move money from the player to the casino.

Still, with this year’s news in legalized sports betting -- and heightened interest among TV networks -- one might have expected a significant rise in TV viewership. Added to this, sport TV networks have started up or unveiled more sports-betting elements in their schedules.

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But for now, effects from sports betting aren’t clear for TV networks. The NFL has seen a 5% jump in overall average viewership among regular season games this year. A year ago -- before the big court’s decision -- the NFL had a similar 3% hike.

What about the NBA? Even with massive changes in the league’s top stars moving to different teams, the interest -- from a TV perspective -- hasn’t seen any appreciable results.

One noted example was the Christmas Day game between the Los Angeles Clippers-Los Angeles Lakers -- two major teams contending for the championship of the league. Viewership was down 14%, to 8.8 million, from Christmas Day 2018, when the Los Angeles Lakers-Golden State Warriors game earned 10.2 million viewers.

Overall, for the first month of NBA season through November, national TV ratings have been down around 20%. Sports Business Journal says TNT was 23% lower; ESPN sank 20%; and regional sports networks were off 13%.

Early season NBA TV ratings are always a bear for TV network executives. Getting closer to playoff season brings much more interest -- as it does for the NFL, NHL and virtually all other pro sport leagues.

So let’s wait and see -- not only for higher playoff interest, but for more states to organize around legalized sports gaming and a smooth payment structure. Place your bets.

1 comment about "Legalized Sports Betting Is Here, But Rise In TV Viewing Hasn't Followed".
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  1. Howard Shimmel from Janus Strategy and Insights, LLC, December 30, 2019 at 2:13 p.m.

    Wayne- you should ask Nielsen to report ratings in the states with sports betting. Maybe the trend is there, but not enough states to impact national ratings.

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