The Major League Rugby schedule is a frequent source of discontent for fans. Successful implementation of gambling would (indirectly) resolve the issue.
Much has been made about about the MLR scheduling games in competing time slots. With an average of 5.78 games per round, each game could be receive its own window, in theory. The league could stage three two-hour time slots on both Saturday and Sunday in which no games would go head-to-head for eyeballs.
However, the ultimate goal is maximum profit, not maximum viewership.
Most of Major League Rugby’s revenue is generated in-stadium. Couch-based consumers don’t pay the bills. Consider the fact that we all watch game on The Rugby Network for $0.00/month. That pulls in (checks calculator) no money for the league. Advertising provides a revenue stream, but that’s unlikely to even cover the cost of broadcast production, much less generate profits.
That’s why Major League Rugby is betting on gambling.
When MLR announced its partnership will TAPPP on April 5th, the goal was obvious. The league (like almost every other sports league around the world) is leaning heavily into betting to generate revenue. For MLR and The Rugby Network, the proposed solution is on-screen betting that works within the same viewing window as the game itself. (As of the announcement, televisions and phones were not compatible with the betting system.)
I’ve yet to hear anyone review the actual betting, and I’ve not seen the feature pop up on my screen. It’s still coming.
Gambling will inevitably change the league. If successful, it would shift a large portion of revenue generation from the stadium to the coaches. that would also shift the focus of the league towards home viewing.
The current scheduling is passed on getting butts in seats at stadiums, preferably buying hotdogs and jerseys that are supposedly for different players but all have the same number on the back. Revenue from broadcasting (whether through gambling, advertising, subscriptions, or a combination of the three) will push that schedule to change. Someone looking to bet their hard earned money is much more likely to do so if they’re actually watching the match. Two matches on at the same time will not generate as much betting revenue as two matches played at different times.
Eventually, it would push the league toward standardized broadcast windows like the NFL has. Imagine a league with the following broadcast windows:
- 5:00 pm
- 7:30 pm
- 12:00 pm
- 2:30 pm
- 5:00 pm
- 7:30 pm
As the league continues to expand, the league could expand further into Saturday. Mondays and Fridays would be possible with strategic scheduling. Thursday could work if byes were used strategically. When the money starts flowing from the television side, the emphasis on scheduling will shift towards couches.
As everything seems to be with the MLR, time is needed. Full blown broadcast windows could take a while, but it could only take a couple years to see games overlapping less. The change is coming.
You can bet on it.