Betting on Reality TV

Reality TV Betting

As if the punter did not have enough raw material to bet on within the burgeoning sphere of sport, he now finds himself bombarded with opportunities of a different kind.

The novelty market, once restricted to Miss World and the Eurovision Song contest, is expanding rapidly as the nation graduates from trying to get six balls up in the National Lottery to more puzzling tests like who will prove the best of a collection of very minor celebrities at poaching eggs under the watchful eye of an abusive chef (Hell's Kitchen) or how many days an attention-seeking illusionist can spend suspended in a perspex box above the River Thames (David Blaine).

Bookmakers are now as likely to issue prices on the Cheltenham Gold Cup as they are on which member of a popular boy band will be the next to release a solo single.

It all started with the 'Who Shot JR?' market. Younger readers may be unaware that Dallas, a US drama series about a dynasty of mega-rich, mega-promiscuous Texan oil barons, was the most popular thing on TV in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The public's obsession with the programme, in which it was obligatory for all female cast members under the age of 50 to wear dresses with absurd shoulder pads and sleep with a different man every two episodes, reached a frenzied climax in 1980 when the central character, JR Ewing, was shot and critically wounded (he miraculously recovered, of course).

The question of who fired the gun gripped Britain and with supremely canny opportunism, William Hill's offered prices on who pulled the trigger.

Interest was huge, and the company gained enormous publicity during the eight months it took the viewing public to discover that JR's sister-in-law Kristen Shepard was the gun-woman.

Since then odds-compilers have constantly tested their powers of ingenuity in an attempt to conjure up new markets that generate business and, equally importantly, headlines in the national press.

Hills apart, one of the most successful companies in this aspect is Sporting Index, the spread-betting firm who have always had an eye for a catchy market.

They frequently dish up catchily-titled specials when a major event is on, often based on the performance of one particular team or player.

One that sticks in the memory was their Hot Totti market, based on the performance of Italian playmaker Francesco Totti during his side's 2000 European Championship semifinal against Holland.

Among the smuttier elements, heavily influenced by sexual innuendo (25 points for scoring, 10 for getting pulled off, etc) was a component that awarded points every time fellow Italy striker Filippo Inzaghi was caught offside, as frequently happened with this notoriously over-eager goal-getter. It was brilliantly entitled 'Your Mate's a Bit Forward'.