MLS has entered a multi-year agreement with Second Spectrum to provide the league with on-field tracking data that will improve game broadcasts and fan engagement through sports betting.
Beginning this season, 10 cameras mounted around each MLS stadium will transmit player, referee, and ball movement data that will be distributed to teams and TV media partners.
Highlight packages overlaid with the next-generation data will also be published by MLS on its website.
On the sports betting front, the new partnership opens up a world of possibility for MLS fans to bet on more granular aspects of its on-the-field product beyond projected goal scorers and match results, Chris Schlosser, SVP of Media, said.
“One of the things we think you can build on top of the Spectrum data is a whole new suite of proposition bets that can be placed in real time,” he said. “You know, over/under on number of key passes, player accuracy of a shot, and speed of a shot. Things like that, we’ve never been able to use before.”
MGM Resorts, in particular, is excited about how to push gambling on MLS games forward, he added. MLS and MGM entered an exclusive sports betting agreement in March 2019. Schlosser said that It is still too early to report whether new betting options will be exclusively available on MGM’s platforms, but a new live betting product is expected to roll out this year.
“Real-time bets during MLS game broadcasts are the holy grail in this scenario,” Derek Aframe, Octagon’s EVP of marketing and consulting, said. “The number of crosses a team puts in or number of passes is just the tip of the iceberg in ways to engage fans. MLS has always been progressive about threading the needle to address its consumer audience.”
MLS’s Second Spectrum partnership will benefit national television linear partners at launch, with expansion of new data capturing tools into local U.S., international, and OTT streaming coming in the future. Highlights featuring Second Spectrum data on television will be aired on delayed basis until the spring – when broadcasters can offer it to fans in real-time, MLS said.
ESPN, FOX, and Univision are the league’s national media partners in the U.S. through the end of the 2022 season. MLS recently announced the addition of a slew of international rights partners, increasing the broadcasting of its games to a record 190 countries. The league also has OTT deals with ESPN+ and DAZN in North America.
“At the start, we’re working with our national broadcast partners. We’re giving them the tools they need. And then I think you’ll see the next tranche be the local broadcasters and our international broadcasters. And then we’ll go out from there for others to play with it.”
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Second Spectrum, also the official data tracking partner of the NBA and English Premier League, says that fans long term will be able to choose how much data they want to appear on their television or online streams.
“Every fan will be able to construct the viewing experience that they want,” CEO Rajiv Maheswaran, said. “If you want very little, that should be an option. If you want it lit up, that should be an option.”
MLS is banking on its young and tech savvy fan base to help the league grow through digital channels in the same mold that radio helped baseball and television fueled the NFL and NBA’s popularity in the U.S. Each of these leagues have also rolled out next-gen statistics to provide fans more on-the-field data.
“Digital is the reason why soccer is exploding in this country,” Schlosser said. “The future is all about putting that control in the hands of the consumer, actually creating interactive experiences. We’re just starting to scratch the surface there. But if any fan base is going to be excited and interested in that and want to lean in, it’s ours.”