Viewers of NBCSN’s coverage of the Ally 400, the network’s first NASCAR broadcast of 2021, saw betting elements interspersed during the pre-race show and the race itself, as TV and league executives look to strike a balance between offering gamblers the content they seek while not turning off fans uninterested in betting.
As Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Paisley kicked off pre-race coverage on “Countdown to Green,” betting odds ran across the ticker on the bottom of the screen, along with Sunday’s lineup, Cup Series standings, and factoids about drivers and Nashville Superspeedway. From pit road toward the end of the show, after the odds were displayed on screen, Jac Collinsworth asked Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty for their picks. Jarrett offered Kyle Busch as value play at 10/1 odds, while Petty, asked by Collinsworth for a long shot, took a flyer on Tyler Reddick at 35/1.
The right side of the ticker served as promotional real estate for NBC, as teasers for the NBC Sports Predictor app (including a free-to-enter NASCAR pick ‘em game with a $100,000 jackpot) and NBC Sports Edge (which provides fantasy and gaming analysis across a number of sports, including NASCAR) ran concurrent with promos for the U.S. Open, Stanley Cup Playoffs and Olympics.
During the race, as Stage 2 came to a close, lead announcer Rick Allen reminded Fantasy Live players that this was their last chance to activate drivers in their garage. Then, on Lap 194, odds to win the race were displayed on the left side of the screen, underneath the leaderboard.
All of this betting content was branded by PointsBet, which signed on last year as NBC’s official sports betting partner.
As legal gambling expands, so too does the integration of odds and betting analysis within broadcasts. Networks and properties are mindful that not everyone cares for this content and that it is even annoying to some viewers.
‘One of the things we’re cognizant of is not all of our fans want to see betting content as they’re watching a race,” said Joe Solosky, managing director of sports betting at NASCAR. “We don’t want to oversaturate and draw fans away from the sport because we’re putting too much betting content out there, and I think FOX and NBC are doing a good job of towing that line.”
Ed Williams, director of content, sports betting and gaming at NBC Sports Edge (formerly Rotoworld), agrees and expects betting content to be gradually woven into race broadcasts as the season progresses.
“We’ll slowly ramp up, depending on how those integrations go and feedback we get,” said Williams. “We (the NBC Sports Edge team) are in conversations (with the broadcast side) about how we can add to the broadcast.”
Here are some of the additions fans can expect to see the rest of this year and in the seasons to come:
Coming soon: As soon this week from Pocono, NASCAR viewers may see a short betting-themed clip during the pre-race show, a concept NBC plans to borrow from its golf coverage.
“We went to some of the folks on the NASCAR side, and funny enough, they were thinking of coming to us anyways,’ Williams said. “So we’re aiming to put together probably a 60-second clip, nothing too intense, hitting on best bets, some of the dark horses, that kind of thing.”
The segment will be hosted by Steve Letarte and Dan Beaver, who already host a weekly digital video on NBC Sports Edge.
“This will be in addition to that, and they’ll tailor this one to what broadcast is looking for,” added Williams.
Live betting: There’s a belief within NASCAR circles that in-race wagering is key to driving betting interest in the sport. It’s natural, therefore, to expose viewers to live odds and in-race betting options.
“From my point of view, there are opportunities there, and that’s another one of those things where we’re kind of just getting started,” Williams said. “I think that it is ultimately where you can expand to, and as more people get used to betting in general, live betting will become more prevalent. That’s going to start to happen across all the sports.
“As betting becomes a more common part of the broadcast, it seems to make sense that is a direction we will likely be headed.”
Second screens. With leagues and networks concerned about turning off viewers who are not interested in betting, some of this content will likely migrate to alternate platforms. This past April, ESPN2 provided a peek into the second-screen experience, as it aired a betting-themed broadcast of Nets vs. 76ers to accompany the main broadcast on ESPN.
NASCAR bettors may soon have options to tune into second or third screens, too, Solosky said. These options could feature a live-betting slant and are likely to appeal to more seasoned bettors, more so than fans just dipping their toes in the wagering waters.
“If your goal is to try and educate fans on betting, which is one of our goals at NASCAR, you’re not going to start with more complex markets (such as live betting). So I think what NBC and PointsBet did, in terms of just having the odds to win the race, is a good move. If (a viewer) opts into a second screen that’s more focused on betting, then you can integrate more of the complex or in-race markets.”