Data: Sports Betting Apps Get Small Bump During March Madness

Data: Sports Betting Apps Get Small
Cheyne Gateley/VIP

Games during the 2021 NCAA basketball tournament (March Madness) weren’t nearly as effective at creating mega-betting event moments for top gambling apps as the crucial postseason NFL games were. 

That’s what’s suggested by data provided exclusively to Variety Intelligence Platform by Sensor Tower, which found that during the entirety of March Madness, weekly combined U.S. downloads of the top 5 U.S. sports betting apps peaked at 217,000 during the week of March 15. That figure was up 81% from the prior week. 

The NCAA tournament started March 18 and ended April 5.  

Meanwhile, downloads of the top 5 U.S. sports betting apps (FOX Bet Super 6, FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Bet on Sports) surged to 593,000 during the week of Feb. 1 (the week of Super Bowl LV), according to a newly revised estimate by Sensor Tower (read our original write-up on Super Bowl sports betting).  

That 593,000 figure was up 166% from the prior week and managed to beat the 569,000 downloads top U.S. sports betting apps garnered in the week of the NFL’s AFC and NFC Championship games. 

It’s true that Sensor Tower’s numbers above don’t reflect the activity of gamblers turning to their computers during March Madness to place bets. Additionally, it’s likely at least some gamblers who bet on both the Super Bowl and March Madness games simply downloaded their betting app of choice during the week of Super Bowl. 

But it doesn’t seem unreasonable to believe the NFL’s biggest postseason games were more effective at driving a sports gambling app surge than the biggest postseason NCAA basketball games were when considering the TV reach of each sports entity.  

About 92 million viewers tuned into CBS for Super Bowl LV, while the AFC and NFC Championship games both drew in over 40 million viewers on Fox and CBS, respectively. 

Meanwhile, nearly 17 million viewers watched the April 5 Baylor-Gonzaga men’s NCAA Championship game on CBS. That topped the nearly 15 million viewers who watched the April 3 Gonzaga-UCLA men’s semifinal on CBS. 

Moreover, NCAA basketball games taking place March 8-14 averaged 1.2M viewers, according to VIP analysis.  

In other words, important NCAA basketball games garnered fewer eyeballs than important NFL games, so it would stand to reason that the former competitions would beget fewer sports betting app downloads.  

That’s less surprising when taking into account that the American Gaming Association (AGA) found the number of Americans (47 million) saying they’d bet on this year’s March Madness tournament was about flat with the number saying they would in 2019.  

Fortunately for top sportsbooks, there are many other marquee opportunities on the horizon to sign up new users.  

The 2021 MLB season just started on April 1. Meanwhile, the NBA Playoffs don’t start until May 22 and the NHL’s regular season was just extended to May 16.  

Championship games for each of these pro leagues will help drive surges in betting activity, though it seems safe to assume no forthcoming surge will match what occurred during the week of Super Bowl LV, which will surely remain as the most watched TV program of 2021.  

What lies ahead for the U.S. sports betting landscape is a main focus of one of Variety Intelligence Platform’s latest white papers, “Sports Betting.” The white paper marks VIP’s third in-depth sports betting-focused examination that analyzes the impact of legalizing sports gambling and how media companies are capitalizing. 

Read the full special report