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This is a developing story and will be updated.
The NFL is officially becoming a part of the legal sports betting revolution in the United States, signing an exclusive multiyear deal with Sportradar to distribute official league data for wagering.
Here’s a look at what we know and can surmise about the deal.
The pro football league and the sports data company have been working together since 2015 in the US market for distribution of statistics. The new deal expands the partnership, which licenses “the distribution of NFL official league data and content to more fans around the world.”
So what does this mean for betting?
“Sportradar has been an excellent partner the last four years and has provided the league, our teams, and media marketplace with innovative data products,” said Hans Schroeder, EVP and COO for NFL Media. “We look forward to working with Sportradar to deliver fast, accurate official league data that will innovate and improve experiences for our fans across platforms.”
The NFL has long held that no legal sports betting would be preferable in the US market, despite the fact that it’s been going on in Nevada for decades. For years, it fought an expansion via Christie vs. NCAA (later Murphy vs. NCAA), the case about the federal sports betting ban.
Even after the ban was lifted by the US Supreme Court last year, the NFL had hoped that a federal regulatory solution would be worked out by Congress. That is not likely to happen any time soon.
The data deal comes as much out of a necessity as anything; sports betting is moving forward in the US with or without the NFL’s help. Legal sports betting takes place in 10 states as of today; an additional eight states and Washington, DC, have passed laws allowing sports wagering.
So, the NFL, if it waited several more years to distribute betting data in the US, would have been well behind the curve. If the NFL had sat on its hands longer, it would have lost the league money and hurt the “official data” narrative from the leagues simultaneously. (Both Major League Baseball and the NBA already have such deals in place to distribute data.)
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In any event, guessing at the exact terms of the deal is difficult. However, given that it’s an exclusive deal and also encompasses more than just betting data, we’re likely talking hundreds of millions of dollars.
If you pay attention to sports betting and sports data, Sportradar will not be a new name to you. But if you’re parachuting in for this NFL deal, you might not be familiar with the company.
Suffice it to say, it’s a behemoth that deals with many professional sports leagues and regulated sportsbook operators, not to mention powers fantasy sports platforms.
The biggest impact in the near-term should be the ability to bet in-play on the NFL, at any sportsbook that partners with the NFL for data.
Of course, not having such a deal isn’t stopping anyone from offering in-game odds or props; they were widely available in both Nevada and New Jersey last NFL season. This year, Pennsylvania online sports betting will be in the mix as well.
In any event, you might start seeing more and more granular live betting options at US sportsbooks. Given the popularity of betting on the NFL, and the need for sportsbooks to differentiate themselves in new and expanding markets, this could be a popular feature for some.
You shouldn’t bet on that happening any time soon.
None of the broadcast rights for the NFL — which total in value in the tens of billions — are up until 2021. That would seemingly leave little wiggle room for distribution in the US before those deals are up.
And even when those deals expire, it’s not clear any sportsbook operator in the US would be able to pony up the kind of money it would take to get NFL games embedded in their apps.
Why not? Even with the rapid expansion of sports wagering, we still only have three states where online wagering takes place as we sit here today. That number will more than triple in the coming years, but it’s still a relatively small slice of the US market.
In any event, the NFL asks its broadcast partners to pay a lot of money for TV rights. The interest on either side of streaming rights going to a sportsbook would seem small unless there’s some sort of broader streaming deal in place. (Think Yahoo, if it were to decide to offer sports betting; it also has fantasy and sports platforms where this kind of deal would make sense.)