Is NBC Really Going To Launch A Sportsbook?

(Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

By mid-2013, you may have noticed a self-serve frozen yogurt shop arrive in your neighborhood. Or maybe you became a regular like myself, who constructed brownie-based monstrosities dialing up the scale past $14 for a cup. Various build-your-own froyo chains expanded and overexpanded and many stores have since closed.

Legal sportsbooks (although limited to only certain jurisdictions so far) are the new self-serve frozen yogurt shops, and the dawn of the rush to get in the business has arrived. Most existing media entities have already begun working out plans.

Now in a sign of something, NBC recently registered several domain names connected to sports betting, as first flagged by Andrew Alleman of Domain Name Wire. Allen reported that NBC registered NBCSportbook.com and NBCSportsSportsbook.com, as well as non-.com versions of NBCSportsBet, NBCSportsBets, NBCSportsbook and NBCSportsBetting (the .com versions were scooped up by an opportunistic, unidentified registrant just two days after PASPA fell).

NBC is not launching a sportsbook anytime in the near future. But in the mid-future, let’s say two to three years, it’s a very real possibility that one of these or some variant of NBC and sportsbook becomes an active sports wagering platform, leveraging the reach and might of the United States’ biggest cable and television provider, Comcast, which owns NBC’s parent company NBC Universal.

Just last week, NBC Sports took one step in the direction with the announcement of a new free-to-play Sports Predictor games app, “which will allow fans to play along while they watch their favorite NBC Sports action,” said Rob Simmelkjaer, SVP of NBC Sports Ventures.

In other words, whetting the appetite, focusing and building their databases for a possible future launch into sports betting.  Comcast’s business development executives are surely a busy bunch right now, hearing a lot of pitches connected to the nascent U.S. industry.

So when might I actually see an NBC Sportsbook?

As mentioned previously, probably not for two to three years, around the time we might see federal legislation similar or different to outgoing Sen. Orrin Hatch’s and Chuck Schumer’s, which in effect gives the Congressional rubber-stamp on sports betting, providing comfort to Comcast shareholders. Or perhaps expansion into a total of 20 or more states by the end of 2020, including big dogs like New York and Illinois, provides comfort enough.

There will need to be more regulatory certainty before we see an NBC-branded sports betting offering. Perhaps goes without saying, but in any state where the Peacock may wish to operate, it will need a license. Licenses are not just getting handed out. But among its major network peers, besides FOX, which already has a sports betting show “Lock It Up” on FS1, put NBC ahead of CBS and also ABC/ESPN, which will be held back by Disney.

Of course, NBC is already a little bit closer to sports wagering right now than you might be aware. NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth in 2014 became the majority owner of football analytics site ProFootballFocus (PFF), whose proprietary statistics are used on air during NBC Sunday Night Football telecasts. Meanwhile, PFF’s feature partners include the Antigua-based MyBookie.ag, which is probably high on the list of offshore sportsbook websites compiled by New Jersey’s top gaming regulator David Rebuck, who’s looking to block them from taking wagers from from U.S.-based bettors.

It may only be a matter of time until Rebuck and NBC/Comcast are champions for the same kind of enforcement.

In any case, for the U.S. bettor, more competition the better.

About the Author

  • Brett Smiley (bsmiley)

  • Brett Smiley is Head of Sports Betting Content for RotoGrinders and co-founder of SportsHandle.com, a website covering the sports betting industry. He's an avid sports bettor, focusing on the NFL, MLB and college basketball. In a past life, Smiley practiced commercial litigation in New York City and previously wrote for FOX Sports and SI.com.