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NBC Sunday Night Football Broadcast Could Feature ‘Isolated’ Sports Betting References

NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcasts, one of the highest-rated programs in the US, could have references here and there to sports betting this year, as the activity is increasingly legalized across the country.

Al Michaels and partner Cris Collinsworth may make more betting references on Sunday Night Football this year. (Image: Washington Post)

Play-by-play man Al Michaels, long known for subtle references to sports wagering, may be able to make overt commentary on the endeavor now that it has emerged from the shadows following last year’s Supreme Court ruling on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA).

Fred Gaudelli, the executive producer of SNF, said there will be “somewhat isolated” references to sports betting during the broadcasts this year.

While sports betting hasn’t fully gone mainstream in the US (less than a third of states have approved it), data indicate bettors are more engaged TV viewers than non-gamblers, a fact networks are likely aware of.

A study produced earlier this year by Variety in conjunction with data research firm Proedge confirms punters with action on a particular game, regardless of the sport, are more likely to watch the event on television than those without a financial stake in the outcome.

NBC has good reason to try to goose interest in its football games,” according to Variety. “’Sunday Night Football’ has for eight seasons been the linchpin of its primetime lineup. It snared an average of 19.6 million people in the 2018-2019 TV season, up 7% from the prior cycle.”

Then there are ad sales, which are meaningful for multiple reasons, including the fact that NBC is controlled by publicly traded Comcast Corp. Prices for spots on SNF can range from close to $600,000 to over $1 million, notes Variety. If more bettors are tuning into NBC football broadcasts, Comcast could potentially up ad prices.

Opening Up

It may be awhile before the NFL and the networks broadcasting its games sign off on programming dedicated to betting. But there is evidence suggesting television companies are softening their stances on sports gambling.

As Casino.org reported earlier this month, CBS is mulling the idea of having lines and odds on a scrolling ticker at the bottom of the screen during its pro football broadcasts this year. That’s a significant reversal for the network, which just six months ago told its on-air personalities to avoid gambling remarks during its airing of the Super Bowl.

NBC’s Sunday Night Football gets the NFL regular season rolling on Thursday, Sept. 5, as the Green Bay Packers visit the Chicago Bears. Overall, NBC has 17 Sunday Night Football contests, including that Thursday game, this year. But just one will be held in a state where sports betting is currently permitted: the Nov. 24 contest when the Seattle Seahawks visit the Philadelphia Eagles.

Not Alone

Over the years, while sports betting was banned outside of Nevada, Michaels mastered the art of coy references to spreads and totals, so much so that only experienced gamblers would have accurately absorbed some of his comments. But he wasn’t the only on-air personality doing that.

During the course of a career that spanned multiple decades, networks and sports, Brent Musburger often peppered in betting comments, something he says he started doing in the mid-1980s in the middle of an Oklahoma Sooners football game.

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