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American Sports Networks Could Learn A Lot from the PDC World Darts Championship

Jan 03, 2019 6:52 PM EST
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PDC World Darts Championship.

  • American sports networks have a lot to learn before sports gambling is legalized.
  • The PDC World Darts Championship on Sky Sports could have been a good lesson in how to conduct a progressive gambling-forward broadcast.

What do the PDC World Darts Championship and the College Football Playoff have in common? Well, not that much if you don’t count the palpable tension, amazing atmospheres and unbelievable gambling moments.

Even though most people on this side of the Atlantic were paying attention to the end of the college football season over the past few weeks, we here at The Action Network were also falling in love with the darts, which may sound like a mundane betting experience, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

But I’m not here to convince you that betting on the darts will add a ton of excitement to your life. Place one bet on the darts, watch the match and you’ll see why it’s the best pound-for-pound sweat in sports gambling.

What I’m here to do today is to tell you about how the gambling-forward telecast of the 2018-19 PDC World Championship, which was broadcast by Sky Sports in the United Kingdom and generously simulcast on BBCAmerica.com throughout the tournament, gave us a look into what big sporting events should look like when sports betting goes above board from Sea to Shining Sea.

If you watched just one match during the PDC World Championships you’d see how much gambling is naturally woven into the whole event. Not just because William Hill is the main sponsor of the tournament, and as such, has its name plastered everywhere, but because every minute somebody is mentioning the odds and using them to help inform the viewer.

Sky also posted the tournament odds at the jump of every show. That may seem like an obvious thing to do, but it is significant.

Imagine the crew at CBS broke down the updated futures odds during the pregame show of the NCAA Tournament each day. Those odds change after every game, so refreshing them and serving them to the audience gives viewers a big-picture look of the entire tournament. That is valuable information.

Other than that, things weren’t very different from the type of broadcasts we’re used to in the States. Each telecast opened with the traditional pundit panel. There was a host joined by a couple of former darts players and they talked about the matches each day. However, as the team broke down the slate, the odds for each match were posted and referenced throughout.

Instead of saying who they thought would win, they’d talk about the odds (UK markets use fractional odds, but for this article I’ll be talking in American moneylines) and if there’s value one way or the other, for example:

Devon Petersen is +250 to beat Ian Wright, is that underrating “The African Warrior?” Or are the odds on the money?

That simple segue gives the panelists an opportunity to discuss who they think will win the upcoming match, but with so much more context. We have so much damn data on the betting market that can be used to spice up a question like that. Yet, these networks balk at the idea of doing that, instead of opting for lower-hanging fruit, that does nothing to move the conversation forward.

That is unfortunate, because the betting market is incredibly efficient. It tells us the most likely outcome of a game, tournament or season. Using that to drive a broadcast and add some flavor to the show is what we, the gambling public on this side of The Pond, are craving from our shows.

When you watch “College Gameday” or any pregame show here in the States for that matter, the panel make picks based on who they think will win. It doesn’t take much to know that picking Alabama to win when it is -2000 on the moneyline against Vanderbilt is a smart pick. The market is telling you that there’s ~95% chance that ‘Bama wins that game. Why would you go the other way in a straight-up pick ’em?

Unfortunately, that’s the script that most pregame shows here follow. Picking winners is pretty straightforward, but when you throw the odds in it becomes trickier and shows real prowess as a prognosticator to preview a match of any sport.

It’s also important to note that there was no oohing, aahing or guffawing when odds, gambling, etc. were mentioned during the show. Twitter goes nuts every time Al Michaels makes a sly reference to the over/under when he’s behind the mic, there was none of that for the darts. Sure, the fact that it’s legal to bet on sports in the United Kingdom plays a big part in that, but it also showed how gambling can be discussed by adults in a mature fashion, imagine that.

Let’s hope that the big networks on this side of the Atlantic were paying attention to the PDC World Darts Championship. If they were, they witnessed a clinic on how to use gambling to put on an entertaining, well-informed and mature broadcast.

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