The National Football League has significantly expanded its long-running data relationship with Sportradar, and made its first major move into the world of legalized sports gambling by allowing the Swiss company to distribute real-time game data to betting operators.
The new multi-year deal gives Sportradar exclusive rights, both in the US and internationally, to distribute both official play-by-play data and advanced next-generation stats data to legalized sports betting operators. Sportradar will also gain rights to distribute live audio-visual game feeds to sportsbooks in select international markets.
The agreement represents a marked growth from a prior deal, first struck in 2015, that saw Sportradar pay a reported $5m (€4m) per year and surrender an undisclosed equity stake to win the NFL league business. Those prior deal components will continue, and Sportradar will remain the NFL’s exclusive distributor of official play-by-play stats and player tracking data to media outlets. The player tracking data includes some data generated from sensors placed inside each player’s shoulder pads.
Since then, the other major US leagues have all taken a much more aggressive stance with legalized gambling, particularly with regard to striking betting data and sponsorship deals with various entities. The NFL specifically excluded distribution to gambling-related entities in that initial deal. But as the gaming industry has mushroomed since the 2018 US Supreme Court ruling allowing states to legalized sports betting, the NFL ultimately was forced to begin looking at the issue again.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal was described by Sportradar executives as one of the largest and most important in the company’s history. By comparison, Sportradar along with fellow sports data company Second Spectrum have a six-year, $250m deal with the NBA signed in 2016 that also includes some sports betting components.
Steve Byrd, Sportradar chief commercial officer, said the NFL deal follows more than a year of discussion from the earliest days following the Supreme Court ruling.
“The NFL really wanted to take the time and see how it was going to develop,” Byrd said. “There was a thinking about being ready for this upcoming season, but you have to remember there really wasn’t a US sports wagering market yet last year during the NFL season. But now that we have more states on line [with legalized wagering], combined with the NFL making a move in this area internationally, it’s a very significant step we’re taking together. It’s all still developing. Year 1 of this is going to look a look a lot different from Year 2.”
The operation of the NFL agreement will function different than what Sportradar does with betting operators for other major US leagues. The NFL will not be directly participating in Sportradar’s data sales efforts to individual sportsbooks. Conversely, Sportradar on sells MLB and NBA data only to authorized gaming operators.
Sportradar is now deeply tied with each of the four major US pro leagues, and in February completed an agreement with Major League Baseball that also includes data distribution to betting operators. The NFL, however, is by far the most popular pro league in the US, its TV ratings dwarf other properties in the country, and illegal wagering around the league has been popular for years.
Sportradar investors beyond the NFL include Monumental Sports & Entertainment chairman and chief executive Ted Leonsis, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, with the trio participating in 2015 in a $44m funding round for the company.