BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – NOVEMBER 17: Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson # 8 reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews # 89 (not shown) against the Houston Texans in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 17, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith / Getty Images)
The pandemic pushed the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association playoffs into September, straddling Week 1 of the National Football League season for the very first time. The US Open men’s tennis final and a list of Major League Baseball games will make Sunday one of the greatest sports betting days of all time, according to Patrick Keane, chief executive of The Action Network, the sports betting research company.
“It’s going to be explosive,” said Keane, who said his company converted more of its users to sportsbook entries Thursday than any other day “by orders of magnitude” in preparation for the weekend.
NFL Week 1 typically straddles the end of the MLB regular season and the US Open finals, but it never happened concurrently with the professional basketball and hockey playoffs. It will be a godsend for sports betting, but could have a depressing effect on TV ratings if American eyeballs are spread between events, said Vince Wladika, sports media communications consultant.
“I wonder if this will fragment the audience,” Wladika said. “Or will it actually get more people to their TVs and they’ll switch between all of these sports, like a rising tide lifts all ships?”
Thursday’s 2020 NFL kickoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans drew 19.3 million viewers, a 12% drop from last year. Still, the game was by far the most-watched sporting event since the pandemic began in March. The US Open men’s and women’s finals are likely to draw lower marks than usual in the absence of stars Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams.
Whether or not people are watching TV, bets need to be tough. FanDuel is expecting one of the biggest betting weekends of the year, according to a company spokesperson. Total play of “Thursday Night Football” has increased by about 300% year over year, the company said, in part because FanDuel is now legal and operational in several states for the first time, including Colorado and Illinois.
DraftKings, which shared dominance of the New Jersey betting market with FanDuel, saw “record engagement in our daily sports betting and novelty merchandise” Thursday for NFL Kansas City Chiefs-Houston Texans opener . CEO Jason Robins said “coverage of the sporting equinox” and “pent-up demand among fans” should create a perfect storm for weekend betting.
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