MLB feeds, stats to be on international sites

Major League Baseball audio-visual game feeds as well as official real-time statistics will be distributed to international sportsbooks beginning this season through a wide-ranging partnership with data intelligence provider Sportradar that was announced Wednesday.

Official real-time statistics will be collected at every ballpark by MLB and distributed by Sportradar to both media companies and regulated sportsbooks, including in the U.S.

Sportradar also receives the rights to distribute live audio-visual game feeds to sportsbooks in legal jurisdictions outside the U.S. Games will be streamed on bookmakers' websites, with overlay graphics down the left side and across the bottom of the screen displaying the different betting markets on the event that are available and giving bettors the ability to place wagers on the same screen. Sportradar has similar international rights to NBA game feeds, among other sports.

"It's a big part of our business," Steve Byrd, head of strategic partnerships for Sportradar, told ESPN. "We stream 40,000 matches live to bookmakers."

For now, sports betting operators in the U.S. will not have access to MLB audio-visual game feeds, but it is being discussed by some sports leagues.

"I think you may see some international sports here streaming, as well as sports that are not as widely distributed with their broadcast rights in the U.S.," Byrd added.

Sportradar will not be a part of the data collection process at MLB ballparks but will use the real-time data to tailor an official betting feed to distribute to U.S. sportsbooks on a non-exclusive basis.

"A high-quality, reliable, and fast official data feed is the building block to creating engaging gaming products for MLB fans," Kenny Gersh, MLB executive vice president of gaming and new business ventures, said in the release announcing the partnership. "Sportradar, a proven industry leader in data distribution, is perfectly positioned to help MLB deliver an exceptional Official MLB betting feed. We are excited about the opportunities that this partnership will unlock as the sports betting landscape continues to unfold in the U.S."

While MLB is embracing some parts of the expanding regulated sports betting market in the U.S., it remains concerned about threats to the game integrity. In addition to the commercial partnership, the league will incorporate Sportradar's betting integrity services into its existing protection measures. Sportradar, according to the release, will monitor and analyze every MLB game, looking for unusual betting patterns.

MLB recently sent requests to gaming regulators in Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Nevada, asking that those states' sportsbooks be prohibited from taking bets on spring training games. Nevada refused to comply, while Mississippi, Pennsylvania and New Jersey officials told ESPN that they were reviewing baseball's request.

"Spring Training games are exhibition contests in which the primary focus of Clubs and players is to prepare for the coming season rather than to win games or perform at maximum effort on every single play," Major League Baseball said in a statement Monday regarding their request "These games are not conducive to betting and carry heightened integrity risks, and states should not permit bookmakers to offer bets on them. Limited and historically in-person betting on Spring Training in one state did not pose nearly the same integrity risks that widespread betting on Spring Training in multiple states will pose."