Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ: CZR), in partnership with Genius Sports (NYSE: GENI), recently became the first U.S. sportsbook operator to stream NFL watch-and-bet video in its mobile app. The milestone is newsworthy, because combining live streaming with in-play betting is expected to result in deeper fan engagement and keep bettors on betting platforms longer, which should result in more betting activity.
GENI did not reveal the financial terms of its contract with Caesars.
For Genius, the development serves as validation of the company’s technology and as evidence of deepening ties with the most powerful sports league in the world. “Investors want to see how Genius is more than just a check writer to the NFL,” Charles Scherr (vice president, capital markets & strategic initiatives, Genius Sports) said.
It’s also a large step towards GENI’s future vision of media and sports betting. Brandon Bukstel (investor relations manager, Genius Sports) described the ultimate vision as “this immersive experience of watching, seeing bet slips and real-time data overlays all in the broadcast and brought together within one platform.”
For those interested in a glimpse of the future, the Caesars Sportsbook app will show Sunday’s matchup between the Bucs and Cardinals. It will also stream the game on Sunday, Jan. 1, between the Rams and Chargers and select playoff games.
JWS’ Take: GENI invested hundreds of millions in cash and equity to become the exclusive worldwide distributor of official NFL data to globally regulated sports betting and media markets, the NFL’s exclusive international distributor of live digital video to the regulated sports betting market, and the NFL’s exclusive sports betting and i-gaming advertising partner.
But up until recently, the league prohibited the company from selling live digital video feeds to sportsbooks stateside.
The NFL’s decision to expand the Genius Sports partnership and allow the company to distribute low-latency watch-and-bet streams to select games is a reflection of the flexibility it enjoys under the terms of its new TV agreements. One can also view the development as a vote of confidence in the sports data company and its technology.
“This watch-and-bet functionality further exemplifies the durable value we create for league partners and innovative ways we’re able to better serve their fans and partners,” Scherr said.
The expanded partnership proves that GENI has become a central piece of the digital infrastructure connecting the league, its broadcasters and the sportsbooks. They want to see that the company is in a strategically sound position to renew the agreement come 2026-2027.
Investors also want to see that the company can continue to extract value from its NFL partnership. GENI will be able to charge operators more for the NFL Watch & Bet feeds, and those integrations should lead to increased in-play wagering, which can be a “big growth driver for the business because we’re earning a higher revenue share on those types of bets,” Bukstel said.
Sports bettors abroad have long been able to watch sporting events within their favorite sportsbook app. Bet365 streams thousands of live games every year. But that hasn’t been the case in the U.S. The sports betting market remains in its relative infancy and rights owners have been careful not to infringe on existing media partners’ rights. Those companies are going to pay the league over $110 billion over the next 11 years.
Former Fox Sports president Bob Thompson predicted each of the big four leagues would move to carve out packages for sportsbook operators in the years ahead. The NHL and MLB are two of the big-four leagues that have permitted live streaming within a sportsbook app. Several operators carry out-of-market games in partnership with Sportradar.
That does not mean sportbook apps are likely to become the American fans’ preferred destination to consume live sports. According to the American Gaming Association, just 37% of U.S. sports fans planned to bet on an NFL game this year.
Fans have also historically gravitated towards the largest screen possible when consuming live sports, and GENI’s in-app sportsbook streams are restricted to mobile phones and tablet devices.
While the “bigger is better” trope holds true for older sports fans, Bukstel does not believe it’s the case with younger ones. “The younger generation doesn’t sit on the couch to watch games. They consume [sports] in short-form content or on a streaming platform right from their phone,” he said.
Genius has developed back-end tech infrastructure capable of pushing a low-latency stream to a sportsbook app. Caesars’ watch-and-bet product has been tracking ~20-25 seconds ahead of the live linear broadcast feed and improving weekly. The company essentially cuts out the broadcast delay that exists before delivering its alternate feed to a sportsbook.
That is not yet possible for the cable or streaming companies. Thompson explained there is going to be a lag in a feed going from the game site to a network operations center to a satellite to a cable operator and ultimately to the fan’s TV.
“If the latency issue can be resolved, or significantly mitigated, I would expect the media partners will look to enter this arena as well,” Thompson said. “[It] sets up another battle along the lines of what happened with the advent of streaming and who actually controlled those rights.”
Augmented broadcasts with real-time data overlays were the first steps toward the media and sports betting experience GENI envisions for the future. Its subsidiary Second Spectrum powers Thursday Night Football on Prime Video’s Prime Vision with Next Gen Stats.
Layering sports betting functionality on top of that data-centric alternate feed, as watch-and-bet is doing within sportsbook apps, is next for streamers. “Prime Vision is proving out that we have the technology to be able to create an interesting, new way of seeing a live broadcast,” Bukstel said. “There’s no reason why you couldn’t, as the next evolution of that, integrate a bet slip on top of that.”
Ultimately, GENI sees fans enjoying an integrated, synchronous experience, where their wallets and bets are connected to the viewing platform, and the live stream is personalized according to the wagers they have placed on the game.