Since its launch in 2010, Sofabet has attracted an unparallelled community of insightful and well-informed commenters. The comments section quickly became a rare online oasis of perceptive observation, theorising and good-humoured debate.
Several commenters have gone on to play a bigger role in the site: Dug Williams (@dussus) became a regular contributor on the X Factor and Big Brother, the irrepressible eurovicious adds another dimension to our Eurovision coverage, and we’re delighted to feature the image wizardy of @thepixelfactor, self-described “artists collective made up of only one person, due to intense problems of physical hygiene”.
For decades, punters have had the likes of the Racing Post and The Sporting Life to provide analysis of the form and discussion of possible outcomes for the historical staples of the betting industry, horse racing and football. Betting on event TV – like Eurovision and the X Factor – has traditionally been more of a niche pursuit. There are a couple of reasons for that.
One is a relative lack of data to analyse. Racing has its formbook, football is awash with stats. But while Eurovision has its voting patterns to pore over, for the first few series of the X Factor all we found out was who finished in the bottom two from week to week. That’s still the case for Strictly Come Dancing and The Voice: irritatingly, the BBC refuse to make public the voting percentages.
But ITV started to do so in 2008, when a desire to be more transparent led the producers of shows including the X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent to publish the week-by-week voting stats after the final. Suddenly we had some numbers to get our teeth into, allowing us to try to quantify the impact of such factors as the running order, the sympathy bounce, song choices and judges’ comments.
It was after two series worth of these X Factor statistics that we launched Sofabet. Since then, entertainment betting has steadily become more mainstream. Sites like occasional Sofabet guest blogger Richard’s betsfactor.com, Gavster’s escbet.com and Rob Furber’s entertainmentodds.com have all established their own perspectives and voices.
The second reason is that while every racegoer and many football fans speak the language of betting, that’s not true of most TV viewers. We think that being conversant with the mental tools of odds and probabilities, and speculating about what might happen, can add an extra dimension to your enjoyment of such shows even if you never have any intention of betting a penny.
If you’re a betting newbie, start with our page on understanding betting odds. At the risk of being patronising, it’s worth pointing out that betting isn’t for everyone – never bet more than you’re willing to lose, and see gambleaware.co.uk if you need help.