Bally’s Hopes to Increase Fan Engagement in Combat Sports through New Partnership

Bally’s Corp. wants to make combat sports as popular as the NFL and NBA. Boxing, mixed martial arts (MMA) and other sports in the segment have a strong following, but the gaming operator wants to raise the bar. In order to achieve its goal, the company announced yesterday a new partnership with a seasoned boxing veteran that will lead to innovation and gamification in combat sports.

Bally’s & KO Entertainment in the Same Corner

KO Entertainment is a company that was founded this year by boxing great Oscar de la Hoya, who is also behind the Golden Boy boxing media and entertainment brand. Bally’s and KO have now teamed up to increase fan engagement in all forms of combat sports, implementing a number of new strategies to “reimagine” the space. Among the initiatives was the broadcast of a pilot of “Oscar de la Hoya’s KO Entertainment Presents Bally’s Fight Night,” which is designed to completely alter how fights are presented. That pilot just aired last night.

The broadcast included five professional MMA fights and four professional boxing matches that will be displayed in a “video game type presentation,” according to a press release. Sensors, presumably embedded in the fighters’ garments and gloves, will provide data that is delivered to a tracking dashboard to compile information on the force of the blows, the combinations of punches thrown and landed and more. The data is displayed on screen in a manner similar to what is found in boxing video games.

This initial pilot broadcast was an opportunity to see how well the technology performs and how it’s received. Bally’s plans to also integrate its daily fantasy sports platform, Monkey Knife Fight (MKF), into the broadcasts, but doesn’t explain the role it will assume other than to say that MKF contests will be included. Bally’s Board of Director Chairman Soo Kim explains that this is just the beginning of the development of “new and transformative ways for audiences to engage with our live broadcasts.”

A New Era of Sports Coverage

Bally’s isn’t the first to become interested in increasing fan engagement in sports. A number of leading broadcasters, including Fox, CBS, ESPN and others have been exploring new ways to attract viewers since sports gambling started to be legalized across the US three years ago. The pilot was aired on Stadium, a digital and OTA TV network owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is also closely tied to Bally’s. The two have a naming rights agreement in place that Bally’s wants to exploit to include more sports gambling content.

It’s too early to know how successful the pilot episode was, but, with the attention MMA and boxing have received lately, it’s likely to have been a bigger hit than a Floyd Mayweather uppercut. The holder of 11 world boxing titles, de la Hoya said of the new relationship with Bally’s, “By partnering with Bally’s and working to develop this innovative product, we believe that we can deliver real-time, data-based insights into the punch-by-punch action, creating a level of transparency and objectivity that has never existed before. We will also provide an experience that is more easily understandable for the average viewer, and at the same time more rewarding and safer for fighters.”