Only a year and a quarter after the Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on sports betting, a number of U.S. based media companies are focusing on how they can cash in on Americans’ penchant for online casino wagering on sports. Several networks have already developed strategic partnership with industry experts as they integrate sports betting content into their platforms.
A New Sports Betting World
If Rip Van Winkle were to have fallen asleep 20 years ago, he would have left a world in which sports betting mostly involved simple money lines for upcoming matchups. Upon awakening in 2019, he would have a tough time getting used to sports betting of today. U.S. media companies are investing in the new complexities as they turn what was once a simple activity of wagers on events according to the odds into a multi-million dollar play on the industry’s Futures market.
The media companies are creating shows that include sports betting data, editorial content and intricate analysis to develop content that they hope will net large returns. These new ventures aren’t without their risks and challenges, both from an ethical perspective and the perspective of business strategy.
The media companies must strike a balance. They want brands to leverage opportunities but are careful not to alienate sports fans who aren’t interested in the betting aspect of spectator sports. The media companies are also wary of the possibility that they might compromise journalistic integrity and they are actively working to prevent that.
Not all TV networks are convinced that operating a sports betting app will be advantageous to their bottom line. ESPN, which is the network that is specifically dedicated to sports coverage, has not yet developed an app. They are, however, partnering with Caesars Entertainment to create TV programming for sports betting fans. Caesars will become the official ESPN sports betting data provider and with on-site location for sports betting content across various ESPN platforms.
ESPN’s studio will be used for the station’s “SportsCenter” flagship program as well as other gambling and general sports shows. ESPN is signaling that it plans to continue to function as the premier destination for U.S. sports content and that the company considers gambling and sports betting content important to its success.
ESPN president James Pitaro told the Wall Street Journal that ESPN sees its mission to provide sports fans with news and information. He said “We serve the sports fan and that includes the sports fan that is interested in sports betting information. Getting more educated in that area. And what Bob (Ley - ESPN commentator) has said consistently, what I’ve said consistently, is the focus there is going to be on news and information…. we’ve been in this space for quite some time now. We have podcasts, we have a show on ESPN+. Scott van Pelt has “Bad Beats” as part of his midnight SportsCenter. We had a product called 'Insider'. We just had this content, kind of throughout all of our experiences, online and on air."
Pitaro is adamant that, if ESPN ever offers sports betting, it will do so in conjunction with the leagues. “For now, we have decided to keep it separate. If we were to ever enter into that space, meaning including that information as part of a live event, we would only do that in partnership with the leagues. We would never just throw that content up. But again, we haven’t even had those discussions yet. All our focus now is on a show like The Daily Wager.”
Pitaro continued, “…. you fast-forward to today and yes, I think it’s fair to say that this has become more of a priority, but more of a priority looking through the lens of news and information.”
To date, the media company making the biggest push into domestic sports betting is Fox. Fox has created an online betting app, “Fox Bet” that will allow viewers watching their content to make their bets right on the Fox app. Fox is also buying 5% of Stars Group Inc, a Canadian gaming and online gambling company. Purchase price was $236 million.
To get the app up and running, Fox is partnering with Stars Group, a Canadian-based gaming company. Fox Bet is slated to offer sports wagering opportunities across a variety of sporting events as well as free-to-play contests. The Fox Bet app is available only in states where sports betting is already legal. As more and more states legalize sports betting, the Fox app will become available in more locales.
Fox Sports is also planning to integrate television programming and other content aimed at sports bettors on a regular basis. One such example is “Lock It In,” a gambling show that features data-driven analysis about the gambling industries and the sports betting market.
TheScore is another mobile sports show that has announced that it plans to launch a sports betting app of its own. It will introduce the app in New Jersey first and then in other states.
Companies who are investing in betting apps have their work cut out for them as they strive to convince sports bettors to use a website or an app to bet. According to an Action Network/Global Web Index survey, 79% of sports fans would consider betting online but that doesn’t mean that it’s their preference. 51% of sports bettors indicated their preference for a betting shop or a land-based casino from which to place their wager.
Bleacher Report and Turner Sports are partnering on the operation of a branded Bleacher Report studio that will be located inside the Caesars Palace Sports Book in Las Vegas.Caesars will provide data to the millennial-focused sports media giant and Bleacher Report will develop content about gambling and the sports betting industry. Caesars will also serve as a sponsorship and gaming partner to the company.
Bleacher Report is a fast-growing sports content platform. The company is prepared to make gambling and sports betting content an important part of its future. The Bleacher Report’s rapid rise is attributed to risks that the company has taken to develop forward-thinking, social media-driven content. Its willingness to disrupt the existing sports media market has made it the darling of millennial sports fans. Most observers believe that the Bleacher Report will stay in the forefront of the delivery of sports betting content in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.