NFL, Genius Sports Strike Data Deal That Includes Equity Stake

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The National Football League will award Genius Sports the exclusive rights to distribute gambling data to sports books around the world, a decision that will dramatically shift the British firm’s U.S. business.

The NFL chose to work with Genius Sports after a months-long bidding process that included current partner Sportradar, in which the NFL also owns an equity stake. Genius Sports will become the lone gatekeeper of the NFL’s official data, allowing it to monetize the popularity of the country’s richest, most popular sports league.

Though the terms of the deal weren’t provided, partnering with the NFL won’t come cheap. Bidding for the NHL’s 10-year data contract, for reference, was said to have passed $25 million per year. This deal will last at least four years and includes an equity stake in the company, according to someone familiar with the terms, which would give the NFL ownership in the two most prominent sports data firms. (That stake is likely less than 5% so as not to trigger regulatory hurdles).

“This is just one piece of a multi-faceted strategy around sports betting,” Kevin LaForce, the NFL’s senior vice president for media strategy and business development, said in an interview. “It showed up in our media conversations and it’s going to show up in our sponsorship conversations. It’s increasingly a growing and comprehensive plan. This is a key component of it.”

Official data feeds are one of the most direct ways leagues can profit off the expansion of U.S. sports betting. The NFL and Genius will try to make the league’s feed so complete—in speed, reliability and proprietary info—that sportsbooks and media outlet are compelled to pay up for it, as opposed to streams pulled from other means, such as live video.

The deal gives Genius Sports an added foothold in the U.S., where Sportradar has been the dominant data provider. London-based Genius also has non-exclusive data deals with the NBA and MLB, in addition to a relationship with the NCAA.

It also comes as Genius Sports prepares to become a public company. The firm has agreed to go public via acquisition from dMY Technology Acquisition II, a SPAC deal that values the firm at $1.5 billion. There’s a shareholder vote on April 16.

“We have two powerhouses here,” said David Levy, the former Turner president who was named chairman of Genius Sports last week. “Genius is one of the biggest leaders in data and technology, the NFL is the leader in sports and data.”

Two weeks ago the NFL locked up a new round of media deals worth more than $100 billion. Just as football is the dominant force in U.S. broadcasting, it is also the dominant force in U.S. sports betting—no league sees more wagers than the NFL, and no sport stands to gain more from the industry. The American Gaming Association said in 2018 that the NFL’s annual revenue could increase by $2.3 billion annually with a robust legal U.S. market.

That said, the NFL has moved slower than its peers to fully embrace gambling. The league has a casino partnership with Caesars, but is yet to sign an official league-wide sports betting deal in the U.S. The league’s massive U.S. media deals earlier this month put FoxBet on the fast track to be an official partner if/when the league was ready to open that up. The NFL’s teams were only recently given permission to sign sportsbook partnerships for the first time. (The NFL does have sportsbook partners overseas—BetCris in Latin America and Tabcorp in Australia.)

Under the NFL deal, Genius Sports will retain exclusive rights to distribute the league’s official data to legal sportsbooks in the U.S. and abroad (other companies can create and sell NFL data feeds through other means, such as live video). Genius Sports will also package that data, such as the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, for sports media companies; distribute live game feeds internationally; and monitor betting patterns to detect suspicious activity.

Additionally, the two will develop what they’re calling a “jointly-governed technology center,” a hub that will continue to work on innovations in NFL betting.

It’s been a busy few weeks for Genius, whose other partners include the PGA tour, German Bundesliga, and English Premier League. In addition to naming Levy as chairman, it added Raine vice president Rob Pietroforte as its director of mergers and acquisitions.

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