Deeper Dive—NBC Sports Washington bets on interactive broadcasts

NBC Sports Washington's interactive experience debuts tonight. (NBC Sports Washington)

NBC Sports Washington is debuting an interactive Washington Wizards alternate live-game experience tonight to better connect with viewers and sports bettors.

The broadcast, which is airing on NBC Sports Washington Plus, features a free-to-play predictive gaming contest with a $500 prize, along with real-time sports-betting data and statistics. Approximately 30 questions will appear throughout the game, allowing viewers to predict various game and player performance outcomes. The interactive game, data and statistics will all appear on a graphics overlay next to the live game broadcast.

“Combining the excitement of live Wizards games with engaging predictive gaming and data feeds will deliver a very entertaining experience for viewers, from first-time gaming players to savvy sports bettors,” said Damon Phillips, NBC Sports Washington senior vice president and general manager, in a statement. “The level of interest from fans, partners and sponsors in this area continues to increase, so we are pleased to offer this compelling product this season.” 

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Mark Friedman, director of creative services and advanced technology for NBC Sports Washington, said that around this time last year, his network began posting questions and giving away jerseys and tickets to get fans more involved. The feature ended up getting a positive response from viewers.

“They loved the idea that they could play along and it gave them more reason to watch,” Friedman said.

So in the offseason, NBC Sports Washington ramped up the efforts while making sure not to disrupt the game experience, which is part of the reason the interactive broadcast is aired on an alternate channel from the traditional broadcast.

The graphic is run on top of ChryronHego’s Prime platform. Friedman along with some other people in the sports group assembled it along with data feeds from various sources. The network is working with Telescope to power the gaming portion of the feed.

While NBC Sports Washington’s interactive experience was created in the interest of giving fans a more engaging product, recent legal decisions around sports gambling add further value to the feature. Last year, the Supreme Court overturned a 1992 law that prohibited states from offering sports gambling. After that decision, some states moved to legalize the activity.

In NBC Sports Washington’s corner of the country, states like New Jersey have legalized sports betting, while other states including Maryland are considering it. But Friedman said that well before the decision was made to open up more sports betting, NBC Sports Washington was interested in adding more interactive features to game broadcasts.

The Jan. 11 game featuring the Wizards taking on the Milwaukee Bucks is one of eight interactive broadcasts that NBC Sports Washington has planned for this NBA season. Friedman couldn’t say if the feature would end up being used for other sports and channels with the NBC Sports group but said his network always shares its learnings with its sister networks. In terms of monetization of the feature beyond advertising, Friedman said his network is just focused on its audience right now.

“The focus is to create a product that fans like,” Friedman said. He said that approach eventually creates opportunities.