Streaming Media’s Growing Interest in Legalized Gambling

Live sports and gambling have a long co-dependent relationship, which has been expanding beyond casinos to over-the-top video — especially during a pandemic. But the wheels in motion began years before the coronavirus kept gamblers away from Las Vegas and Atlantic City, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 striking down a federal anti-sports gambling law.

Fox Sports became the first major media company in the U.S. to acquire a stake in sports gambling after paying $236 million for a 5% ownership of The Stars Group.

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“Digital sports wagering represents a growing market opportunity that allows us to diversify our revenue streams, connect directly with consumers and expand the reach of the Fox Sports brand,” said Eric Shanks, CEO of Fox Sports.

Fox Bet Super 6 just added nearly 3 million players during the just-ended NFL season, bringing its user base to more than 4.3 million players. It claims to be the biggest free-to-play online game of its kind in the country. The platform also seeks to entice non-sports fans with wagers on the recent Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs, the stock market and a weekly quiz.

Speaking on the Feb. 9 fiscal call, Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch said Fox Bet aims to be more than an online gambling site. The platform is rolling out in states that have legalized wagering, including most recently Michigan on Jan. 26. Fox also owns a 18.5% stake in FanDuel, the daily fantasy and online sports book.

“A key differentiator for Fox Bet has been across promotional power of all of Fox’s assets to ignite the Fox Bet brand,” Murdoch said. The executive said sports gambling factors into ongoing distribution negotiations for NFL games.

“The NFL is very aware of the importance of sports wagering, I’m sure to us, I’m sure to sort of others as well,” Murdoch said.

FanDuel in 2019 inked a deal with fubo TV, making it the exclusive sports book, online casino, horse racing and DFS (distributed file system) partner of the TV streaming service. The agreement was FanDuel Group’s first partnership with an online TV service aimed at expanding fubo TV’s sports offering for consumers while integrating betting data on the platform.

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“We are always looking for ways to add value for consumers and enhance their premium experience with fuboTV,” said Min Kim, VP of business development at Fubo. “Gaming and sports are natural complements.”

Adam Kaplan, VP of content business & operations at FanDuel, said the company’s data analytics will change how people watch live sports on TV and the Internet.

“We can enhance the live-viewing experience by allowing cord-cutting sports fans to view the content that matters to them the most from their TV, phone, tablet or computer,” Kaplan said.

But FanDuel’s relationship with fubo TV could change as the latter branches out into its own sports gambling. The 6-year-old service last year acquired Balto Sports, a backend developer of fantasy sports gaming software. Last month, fubo TV expanded to live sports by acquiring Vigtory, an interactive sports gaming company.

The valuations around sports betting operators are so huge, why not take a punt on being one?” said Andy Clerkson, an advisor for Fox Bet and partner at Red Knot Communications, a gambling PR firm. “You could be a super-affiliate worth hundreds of millions. Or you could try and be an operator worth billions.”

The Motley Fool’s Rick Munarriz contends fubo TV can open the “spigot of sports gambling” without raising eyebrows the way  Google or Disney might with regulators.

“Fubo TV can go places where others can’t,” Munarriz wrote.

Disney-owned ESPN has partnerships with Caesars Entertainment, offering sport-betting-related content on ESPN and ESPN+, the brand’s SVOD platform.

“The sports betting landscape has changed, and fans are coming to us for this kind of information more than ever before,” said Mike Morrison, VP of business development at ESPN. “We are poised to expand our coverage in a big way.”

WarnerMedia Entertainment inked a deal with Caesars Entertainment to build a branded Vegas studio for its Bleacher Report (B/R) platform.

Regardless of its legality, Disney remains defensive to deflect the family-based media giant’s tacit support for gambling.

“We’ve already done some [gambling-related] things that we would integrate it into our programming, but not to the extent that we would be facilitating gambling as an entity,” former CEO Bob Iger said in 2019. “In other words, we’ll provide programming that will, I guess, be designed to enlighten people who are betting on sports. But that’s as far as we would go. We just don’t intend to go into the gambling business.”

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