NHL streaming rights remain key part of IMG's betting portfolio
By Martin Ross
IMG will continue to distribute live NHL streaming rights to betting operators until 2021 after a long-term contract was signed off by the Endeavor-owned international sports and entertainment agency.
The tie-up with the ice hockey league has been in place since 2013 and the “multi-territory” renewal allows IMG’s gaming business to hold on to one of the key properties in its multi-sport streaming portfolio.
IMG stressed that, “with an excess of 100 technology integrations to the world’s leading sportsbook brands, the partnership will continue to deliver significant international exposure and on-going awareness of the NHL in both core and non-core markets.”
IMG appears primed to place increased focus on (and heighten awareness of) a gaming division created in 2012, and which provides live streaming and data to over 250 betting operators and business-to-consumer brands.
In addition to distributing the NHL betting rights in various markets, IMG began selling international broadcast rights to the league in 2015, but both deals have been kept separate. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly rare for betting rights to be bundled in with IMG’s international broadcast rights agreements.
Speaking to Sportcal at this week’s Sportel trade fair in Monaco, Freddie Longe, senior vice-president and managing director at IMG Gaming, said: “Being part of IMG Media has its benefits and in some cases we inherit certain content.
“Badminton World Federation is a great example where IMG Media was the incumbent, we represented all of their media rights. We started the journey with the BWF in monetising their content into the betting space, Infront stepped in to the representation agreement and IMG Gaming retained the betting element as the BWF recognised the job we had done for them.”
Asked if IMG’s gaming division can learn from the NHL's international broadcast rights sales process or if the respective sales teams share insights, Longe suggested that differences in viewing behaviour made the processes largely independent of each other.
He noted: “There is a little bit of synergy but the betting consumer is very different to the sports consumer. The consumption behaviour is very different.
“Given TV broadcast is IMG Media’s core competency, we are more sensitive than others on potential cannibalisation of broadcast revenues. We imply all the standard restrictions to help widen that gap and strip of commentary to help do so. But our analytics platform supports our view that it isn’t cannibalistic.”
The average viewing time for a sports event on an online betting website is four to five minutes, according to Longe, which, he said, “supports the theory that consumers are jumping into a sportsbook, placing an in-play bet, watching it play out and then jumping off to another area.”
A total of 5 billion minutes of exclusive coverage across 10 “mainstream” sports are streamed every year by IMG, covering over 20,000 events.
Commenting on the NHL contract extension, David Proper, the NHL’s executive vice-president of media and international strategy, said today: “IMG is a proven leader in the distribution of real-time video streaming with a keen understanding of sports fans. Our partnership with IMG has brought long-term value and delivered significant benefit in extending the NHL’s reach in Europe.”
IMG’s apparent push on the betting side of its business comes as the future ownership and strategy of rival Perform Content, one of the market leaders, appears unsure.
Perform recently split its business into two - the consumer-facing DAZN and Perform Content – and is considering different options for the latter division that houses the operations of sports data companies Opta and RunningBall, plus streaming service Watch&Bet.
Perform Content recently signed off on a key renewal as it extended its exclusive betting video streaming deal with LaLiga. The new contract with the Spanish league runs until the end of the 2022-23 season.
• The NHL's New Jersey Devils have become the first professional sports team in the US state to sign a sponsorship agreement with a sports betting company after a deal with William Hill, the UK-based bookmaker, was announced.
The long-term deal includes the opening of the William Hill Sports Lounge, an area where fans can bet on games inside the Devils’ Prudential Center.
Sports betting was legalised in New Jersey in June.
William Hill US is to receive various on-site exposure, including an in-camera dasherboard, in-arena signage and an LED 'ribbon board' of the William Hill Line Change to signify the Devils’ first line change in each period.
Last month, the bookmaker became a sponsor of the Vegas Golden Knights in what represented the first betting sponsorship deal in the NHL.