Could Bally’s Become The Leader In Live Events Access Through A Betting App?

Posted By Derek Helling on November 23, 2020 - Last Updated on January 28, 2021

For the most part, the livestreaming of sporting events in sportsbook apps in the US has been minimal and composed of more obscure events. The latest Bally’s sports betting deals could change that, however.

Bally’s now has some of the technology and a pathway to streaming rights. If it can build out the system and clear the contractual hurdles, it could be unrivaled in this aspect of the sportsbook biz.

The Bally’s sports betting developments that brought us here

Just days after the acquisition of the Bally’s brand by the former Twin River (now Bally’s) closed, the newly renamed company wasted no time in announcing its intentions to the sports betting world. Bally’s made a couple of moves last week:

  • Acquired the online gambling platform Bet.Works. (Enter Bally’s Bet sportsbook.)
  • Purchased the naming rights to Sinclair Broadcasting’s 21 regional sports networks.

Thus, Bally’s now owns a tech product capable of delivering the entire range of online gaming products. Its brand is associated with live broadcasts of thousands of live sporting events.

Those events aren’t tier-II European soccer or snooker from mid-Asia, either. The 21 Sinclair RSNs have rights to MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL contests in their markets.

Bettors should note that buying the naming rights to the RSNs does not give Bally’s the broadcast rights to these events. Think of it as someone paying you to advertise their business on your car. It’s still your car, they just get eyes on their brand everywhere you drive.

That’s just one of the components to maximizing the value of these deals for Bally. It will likely prove to be the most difficult component as well. The broadcast rights to these events are expensive and well guarded.

The path to Bally’s becoming a sports content suite

In comparison to working out the rights, building the platform to allow for livestreaming should be relatively easy. Anyone with the knowledge and skills to code the app/website can do that given enough time.

Far more difficult to work out is giving users of a hypothetical Bally’s sportsbook app access to livestreams of an event. Not only do the rights differ from one property to the other but also from one market to another.

In this context, market means geographical regions. Each Sinclair RSN covers a specific geographic area and has rights to some of the professional sports teams’ events in that area.

For an idea of what Bally’s is up against, consider the circumstances surrounding the livestreaming of MLB vs. NFL games. The NFL negotiates those rights for all of its franchises, whereas MLB lets each team do that on its own.

The NFL parcels those streaming rights out depending on the date and time of the game in question. For example, AT&T gets the Sunday afternoon games, while NBC has the Sunday night game each week.

For MLB games, it’s much more simple. The deals with the once-Fox and now Sinclair RSNs that many MLB teams have include streaming rights. However, those are tied to carriers’, like Comcast or Xfinity, contracts.

Live sports carry the load for those carriers, as research shows that without that content, most cable and satellite subscribers would cut the cord without hesitation. Thus, the path is narrow for Bally’s.

Feeding everyone on the live sports streaming food chain

The line from the sports team putting on the entertainment to the end consumer isn’t complicated.

  • Leagues/teams sell the rights to content creation studios like Sinclair RSNs.
  • The RSNs sell access to their content to carriers like Dish and DirecTv.
  • Carriers charge their customers more for access to the content.

For customers of most carriers, that includes some livestreaming. That can take place within an app that bears the carriers’ branding or branding of the studio, like FoodNetworkGo.

To access any of that content, customers have to register accounts that prove they are paying for the service and then log in with those credentials. There are a few exceptions to this standard, like MLB’s own MLB.TV service that allows fans to watch out-of-market games that aren’t broadcast nationally.

For the most part, if you want to stream the events that Sinclair owns the rights to live and especially within those geographic zones, you’ve got to pay up. It’s unlikely Bally’s will be able to augment accessibility without also augmenting the action everyone involved gets.

In theory, it’s possible. Like the studio-branded apps, Bally’s could require app users to log in with their cable/satellite provider accounts. In that way, it would just be another way to access Sinclair’s content while making sure the carriers are getting paid.

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The limitations of the most likely path to in-app streaming

That’s obviously going to limit the potential for this feature of Bally’s sports betting product. For example, only subscribers to carriers who have active contracts with Sinclair would get to take advantage of the streaming.

Even within that context, bettors would likely only have access to specific content based on their geographic location. MLB wouldn’t want to lose any subscribers to its out-of-market streaming product to Bally’s.

Additionally, it’s probable that nationally broadcasts games would not be included. With all that taken into account, the question becomes whether the amenity brings enough value to be worth the price.

While Bally’s in-app streaming would still be head and shoulders above any of its competition, it comes down to what it would cost Bally’s to offer it. In order to really monetize the content, Bally’s would have to convert app users who come for the streaming into depositors and bettors at a high rate. There’s no guarantee that would happen.

Someday, bettors may be able to open Bally’s sportsbook app and watch a particular NBA game right on their phones without leaving the app. But the path to that reality is narrow, and in the end, it may not pay off.

Photo by Wayne Parry / Associated Press
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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