- The Washington Football Team (WFT) have announced first-in-its-class alternative StatsBlitz Broadcast featuring Next Gen Stats (NGS), powered by AWS and brought to life by SMT for the team’s preseason games.
- The feed provides extensive statistical data and analysis clearly targeted toward in-game sports betting enthusiasts.
- This notwithstanding, WFT managed to not use the word ‘betting’ in the press release making the announcement.
We’ve come a long way since live sports broadcasts in the US could only make vague references to sports betting in their coverage. Here’s an example–for years, Al Michaels was known for making extremely veiled references to the pointspread and total of NFL games he was calling. In this clip, it’s the last few seconds of an August 22, 2010 preseason game between the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers. The Niners opened as -2.5 point favorites and got bet up to -3 point favorites. With time winding down, the Niners are up by 3 and it looks like most bettors will take the ‘push’:
Today every media outlet is trying to jump onto the sports betting bandwagon. ‘Try’ is the operative phrase here–for the most part there is little conceptual understanding of sports betting, handicapping theory, linesmaking, etc. There are exceptions–VSIN has been the ‘best in class’ for sports betting media for awhile now and the majority of their on air talent is the real deal–but quality media betting coverage is in short supply on a macro level. One upside to all of this is that it’s all of a sudden OK to talk about pointspreads, totals, betting, sportsbooks, etc. It’s funny now to listen to Al Michaels bob and weave around the pointspread but at the time the mere fact he had to was an insult to the intelligence of the American sporting–and betting–public.
The more things change, however, the more things stay the same. There are still those who are stuck in the past and uncomfortable with sports betting. At the same time, many of the entities that worked to deny Americans their freedom to bet as they please are rightfully sheepish about their change of attitude now that they’re making money from it. The NFL may be the most egregious offender but there’s plenty of others and for that reason there are now a series of euphemisms that you hear over and over again in press releases and media coverage. The classic example is the term ‘fan engagement’ which has become to sports betting press releases what Stairway to Heaven once was to classic rock FM radio. A NFL team, for example, can’t say that their partnering with a sportsbook because it’s a cash grab. They have to make it sound like they’re doing a favor for their fans–one that they just so happen to get paid for. Example–the Detroit Red Wings made a promotional deal with PointsBet (emphasis added):
The Detroit Red Wings have entered into a strategic multi-year partnership with PointsBet, a premier global sportsbook operator and provider of a market-leading sports wagering app. The partnership, designed to ***enhance fan engagement and game-day excitement***, includes the rebranding of Sports & Social Detroit at Little Caesars Arena to the PointsBet Sports Bar. Expected to be operational in 2021, the PointsBet Sports Bar will offer a full-service food & beverage menu, high-definition televisions, live betting odds, special guests, unique programing, VIP access and fun gaming promotions.
You can also add ‘game day excitement’ and ‘game day experience’ to the sports betting euphemism list while you’re at it.
The Philadelphia 76ers signed a partnership with BetMGM (emphasis added):
The Philadelphia 76ers announced today that BetMGM, a leading sports betting and digital gaming company, is now an Official Sports Betting Partner of the team, following BetMGM’s recent mobile launch in Pennsylvania. The partnership features TV-visible signage including BetMGM’s logo on the pole pads during 76ers games, and ***fan-focused engagement campaigns*** including promotions within the official 76ers app, 76ers-branded casino games, and more.
It isn’t just the major sports–earlier this year, the American Cornhole League signed a deal with DraftKings and it was all about the engagement (emphasis added):
“First and foremost this is another way for our fans to experience and access the game and we’re very much looking forward to how our partnership with DraftKings will help enhance their enjoyment of the sport. Not only do we expect this to help expand our audience through additional exposure on DraftKings channels, but we look at this is as positive in terms of engagement with our broadcast partners and fans as a whole.”
THE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM AND THEIR ALTERNATE BROADCAST FOR (REDACTED):
You get the idea. Anyway, last week the Washington Football Team (WFT) issued a press release that did nothing less than reset the bar for sports betting euphemism. One of the big trends in live sports coverage is now the ‘alternative broadcast’. Remember the NFL broadcast done by Nickelodeon? That’s exactly what we’re talking about. There’s been plenty of alternative broadcasts for bettors including NBATV’s ‘BetStream’. You can add ‘next gen stats’ to the euphemism list as well. They’re not exclusive to betting but that’s the ‘discreet’ way to say that a broadcast is offering actionable data for betting purposes.
The WFT is creating a ‘next gen statistics’ feed that is obviously targeted at sports bettors, more specifically in-game bettors. What’s amazing is that they issued a press release announcing this in great detail without not once saying anything about betting! Here’s some highlights with my annotations (emphasis added throughout):
Building on their innovative partnership from the 2019 preseason, the Washington Football Team and NBC Sports Washington today announced another ground-breaking, first-in-its-class alternative StatsBlitz Broadcast featuring Next Gen Stats (NGS), powered by AWS and brought to life by SMT. This landmark, alternative live-game coverage on NBC Sports Washington Plus will further drive ***fan engagement*** and deliver unique programming to Washington Football Team fans throughout the Washington, D.C. region. During the Team’s 2021 preseason games, viewers will be able to experience StatsBlitz Broadcast geared to ***fans eager for robust engagement, inclusive of statistical and in-game data components that provide insights not otherwise provided in traditional broadcasts***.
That’s an amazing line…instead of just saying ‘the broadcast is focused on the betting component of the sport’ or ‘we’re doing a alternative feed for sports betting enthusiasts’ they come up with this line that had to be written by a lawyer. It’s so good I’ll repeat it:
“…fans eager for robust engagement, inclusive of statistical and in-game data components that provide insights not otherwise provided in traditional broadcasts.”
Scott Shepherd, Chief Partnership Officer for the Washington Football Team, offered this quote:
“We are constantly collaborating with our valued team partners and other technology and innovation leaders across industry and globally to provide meaningful experiences to our fans. In 2019, fan engagement levels across our alternate broadcast and corresponding digital channels were significant; we couldn’t be more excited to advance this truly unique game broadcast experience for the 2021 preseason. Today’s announcement is a result of not only the technological advancements in this space, but the groundbreaking partnership we’ve forged with NBC Sports Washington, on behalf of the greatest fans in football who we are incredibly privileged to serve.”
NBC Sports Washington General Manager Jackie Bradford also chimes in focusing on ‘innovation and engagement’ and ‘enhanced real time statistics’:
“We are committed to delivering innovative and engaging live sports coverage, so we are proud to again collaborate with the Washington Football Team and their partners to present StatsBlitz Broadcast on NBC Sports Washington Plus this NFL preseason. The enhanced real-time statistics integrated within our best-in-class live-game coverage, along with its interactive second-screen elements, will provide fans a unique and insightful experience surrounding all three exhibition games this month.”
The press release concludes with yet another buzz word laden quote that dances around the whole ‘in game betting’ thing:
The 2021 alternative broadcast will showcase live, in-game stats, with an additional opportunity for fans to participate in an interactive sweepstakes that will be hosted in parallel via the Washington Football Team’s social media accounts. On the right- and left-hand side bars along the viewer’s screen, fans can enjoy ***relevant data, reflecting pivotal moments in the game and trends within the competition***.
Not everyone is couching the alternative broadcast feed in these vague buzzwords. Here’s JP Finlay who works on DC sports radio as well as NBC Sports Washington:
I was hoping to find some video of the StatsBlitz feed but so far to no avail. Here’s a couple more screenshots I purloined from Twitter:
The in-game betting feed…err….the feed for ‘fans eager for robust engagement, inclusive of statistical and in-game data components that provide insights not otherwise provided in traditional broadcasts’ looks really cool. They’ve got to quit being so evasive about sports betting though. It’s legal and/or in the works in Virginia and Maryland. It’s legal–albeit a complete dumpster fire–in the District of Columbia.