When TV viewers turn on ABC and ESPN for inaugural coverage of the XFL this weekend, they’ll see something completely taboo for NFL game telecasts: the betting point spread and over/under points for the game.
The network’s new “score bug” display for XFL broadcasts will feature those two popular football bets, along with the traditional elements of the score, game clock, down, distance, and timeouts remaining.
Also unlike the NFL, ABC/ESPN will allow its XFL announcers to discuss the game’s point spread and over/under total where appropriate, Lee Fitting, ESPN’s senior vice president of production, said.
“The over/under and point spread will be incorporated in our on-screen dashboard for XFL games. When it’s appropriate, our announcers will also have conversations around the spread and over-under,” said Fitting.
ABC/ESPN’s announce teams, for example, might mention the point spread and over/under at the beginning of games. Or if a team scores a late touchdown that impacts the betting line.
“We want to serve the viewer with this information when it feels right,” Fitting said.
Vince McMahon’s reborn XFL officially kicks off with ABC’s broadcast of the Seattle Dragons vs. DC Defenders on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. ESPN will show the St. Louis Battlehawks vs. Dallas Renegades game on Sunday, Feb. 9 at 5 p.m.
Fox Sports, meanwhile, will broadcast the Los Angeles Wildcats at Houston Roughnecks on Saturday at 5 p.m., followed by the Tampa Bay Vipers at New York Guardians Sunday at 2 p.m.
“We are bringing a spirit of innovation to our game and fan experience, and our television partners share this approach,” Jeffrey Pollack, president and COO of the XFL said in a statement. “We want what our fans want, and many of our fans enjoy legal betting on football. Integrating the point spreads and betting lines into our broadcasts will create a more robust viewing experience that deepens our fan engagement and connectivity .”
Despite the popularity of sports betting, the NFL forbids announcers at ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, and NFL Network from discussing point spreads, over/unders, prop bets and other wagers during game coverage. (Though top announcers like NBC’s Al Michaels manage to sneak in gambling references with a wink and a nod).
That may be changing. New studio shows such as ESPN’s “Daily Wager” and FS1’s “Lock It In” are devoted to all things sports betting. NBC Sports Philadelphia, meanwhile, offered a betting-centric “alternate” telecast of an NBA playoff game between the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets on April 20.
Open discussion of betting lines during national game coverage “has to happen” sooner rather than later, said Dustin Gouker, lead sports betting analyst for PlayNJ.com.
Legalized sports betting “will be too pervasive at some point,” Gouker said. “The NFL might be a little more reluctant. But I think you’ll see basketball and baseball be aggressive. They seem to be more progressive on this.”
While the original XFL flamed out after just a single season in 2001, the league introduced several broadcast innovations that still continue on in sports, such as Skycam technology and additional camera access in locker rooms and huddles.
Betting Spreads to More States
New Jersey recently became the sixth U.S. state to authorize wagers on the XFL 2.0. Sports bettors in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa, and Rhode Island will also be able to bet on the new league.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the ban on sports gambling in 2018, 20 U.S. states have passed sports-betting legislation.
Approximately 26 million Americans, or one-in-ten adults, were expected to bet on Super Bowl 54 between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA). 75% of bettors say they’re more likely to watch a game they have a bet on, according to AGA research.