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Study shows sports betting drives viewership

Kathryn Kao

August 6, 2018

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A positive relationship between television viewership and a billion-dollar gambling market may mean that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and its member institutions stand to benefit from sports betting.

According to a study by Steven Salaga, an assistant professor in the College of Education’s department of kinesiology, and Scott Tainsky, an associate professor in the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University, viewers stay tuned to games longer when either team has a chance to cover the point spread.

In the sports betting market, point spread is a forecast of the number of points by which a stronger team is expected to defeat a weaker one.

“The issue is separating out whether or not people are watching because it's a good game or because they're interested in the gambling market," Salaga told ESPN Chalk. "Once we figured out how we could separate it out, we just thought we had to do this and see if we found anything. The results were pretty strong."

There is strong evidence, said Salaga, that people decide whether or not to watch games based on what happens in relationship to the point spread, even if the game is not expected to be close.

Additionally, ratings were higher in games where the scoring margin moved closer to the closing line point spread, despite the fact that the outcome of the contest was already largely determined.

“You’re talking about a pretty big shift in television ratings just based on basically a one-score change in reference to the spread,” Salaga told Online Gambling. People are staying through the game to see if the spread goes over, he added.

Read the full articles on ESPN Chalk and Online Gambling.

Related links: Department of Kinesiology