An alternate local telecast of Washington Redskins preseason games will feature a live interactive prediction contest with cash prizes, the latest sign of the NFL's methodical shift toward a more accepting position on sports betting.
Starting with Thursday's preseason opener at Cleveland, NBC Sports Washington Plus will show the "Predict the Game" broadcast. The game footage will be lined by graphics featuring stats correlated to the prediction contest, with propositions popping up at the bottom of the screen at varying points in the game. The contestants who have the most correct responses in each quarter will win $1,000.
The Redskins are the first NFL franchise to create an alternate broadcast centered on a prediction contest. Washington also was the first NFL team to partner with a daily fantasy sports operator and the first to put its team marks on a scratch-off lottery ticket.
"We're proud to be the first NFL club to do this and it follows a line of innovations that we've had along this space," Redskins senior vice president Scott Shepherd told ESPN on Tuesday.
Participants in "Predict the Game" could be asked as many as 80 questions about outcomes taking place during the game. For example, "Will rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins throw a touchdown pass in the second quarter?" A chime will sound on the broadcast, alerting contestants that a new question has hit the board.
Damon Phillips, senior vice president and general manager for NBC Sports Washington, said they have been discussing at what points during the game to pose the questions.
"Between series? After a commercial break?" Phillips said. "We're going to experiment to figure out what the right rhythm is, and we're going to find out a lot in the first game."
During the NBA season, NBC Sports Washington Plus offered a similar broadcast built around a prediction contest on select Washington Wizards game. Those broadcasts included traditional betting propositions, including money-line odds and over/under totals.
After discussions with the NFL office, the Redskins' alternate broadcasts will not feature point spreads, odds or over/under totals.
Phillips said the betting-centric alternate broadcasts on Wizards games this past season were a success.
"We were able to create a new way to engage with fans that we didn't have last year," Phillips told ESPN. "There was more time spent on our digital properties as the result of those broadcasts."
In May 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal statute that had restricted regulated sports betting to primarily Nevada. Since the ruling, legal sportsbooks have started operating in nine states outside of Nevada: Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia. Several additional states are gearing up to enter the bookmaking business in the coming months.
While the NBA and NHL have fully embraced the evolving sports betting landscape in the United States, the NFL remains the most cautious of the professional sports leagues. Shepherd said the alternate broadcast doesn't represent a first step into sports betting for the league.
"But it's certainly something from a club perspective and an innovation perspective, we want to be on the forefront of emerging trends and new opportunities that are out there," Shepherd said. "We want to engage with our fans and really begin that conversation and begin that overall experience as legal sports betting is coming online. The NFL, from a legal sports betting perspective, is taking a more cautious and methodical approach versus the other leagues that have fully opted in."
The "Predict the Game" broadcast is considered a pilot. There are no current plans to continue it during the regular season, but it hasn't been ruled out, either, a spokesman for NBC Sports Washington told ESPN.