Streaming Video Betting Big on Legalized Sports Gambling

Live sports and gambling have a long co-dependent relationship, which is expanding beyond casinos to over-the-top video. The new field of dreams for incremental billions in revenue began in 2018 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal anti-sports-gambling law. Wagering on pro and college sports became legal in September 2019 with both mobile and in-person betting permitted.

Online video platform FuboTV’s pending gaming unit just launched marketing partnerships with the NFL’s New York Jets and NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers — a first for an OTT platform.

“Everybody does the NFL draft. Everyone’s got a mock draft. Well, seemingly every content area has their betting expert. So, I think the key is gamification of it,” Aaron Nagler, co-founder of Cheesehead TV, told a Streaming Media panel this summer. “It’s just extending what your visit to Vegas might be to an online experience wrapped inside whatever specific content you’re creating.”

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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.

“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 2020 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 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 (including ad-supported streaming site Tubi) to ignite the Fox Bet brand,” Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch said on an investor call earlier this year. The executive said sports gambling factors into ongoing distribution of NFL games.

“The NFL is very aware of the importance of sports wagering,” Murdoch said.

FanDuel in 2019 inked a deal with FuboTV, 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 FuboTV’s sports offering for consumers while integrating betting data on the platform.

“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 and 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 FuboTV 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, and Vigtory, an interactive sports gaming company, for its Fubo Gambling unit launching in the fourth quarter.

“The valuations around sports betting operators are so huge, why not take a punt on being one?” Andy Clerkson, a partner at Red Knot Communications, a gambling PR firm, told LegalSportsReport.com. “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 FuboTV can open the “spigot of sports gambling” without raising eyebrows the way Google or Disney might with regulators.

“FuboTV 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 online Bleacher Report (B/R) platform.

Disney, which has sought to downplay tacit support for gambling, is changing its tune. ESPN recently launched “The Daily Wager” and “ESPN Bet.” In September, CEO Bob Chapek said the company would get more aggressive with sports wagering, including licensing the ESPN brand name to a third-party sports book for the right price.

“Let’s just say our fans are really interested in sports betting,” Chapek said at the virtual Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference event. “Let’s say our partners in the leagues are interested in sports betting, so we’re interested in sports betting. Strategically, sports betting gives us the ability to appeal to a much younger sports fan who has a very strong affinity for those sports. So it’s definitely a place we want to be.”

HBO Max Picks Up Exclusive Streaming Rights to ‘Prodigal Son’

HBO Max has acquired the exclusive U.S. subscription-video-on-demand streaming rights to the drama “Prodigal Son” in a deal with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.

The first season of the show is available to stream now on HBO Max. Season two is currently airing on Fox.

The series follows Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne), who has a gift. He knows how killers think and how their minds work. Why? His father (Michael Sheen) is “The Surgeon,” a notorious serial killer who has taken the lives of more than 20 people. “Prodigal Son” follows criminal psychologist Bright as he uses his twisted genius to get inside the minds of murderers to help the NYPD solve cases. He works alongside NYPD Detective Gil Arroyo (Lou Diamond Phillips), a seasoned lawman who has become Bright’s surrogate father; Detective Dani Powell (Aurora Perrineau), a headstrong no-nonsense cop who is quickly impressed with Bright’s work; Dr. Edrisa Tanaka (Keiko Agena), a slightly off-center medical examiner; and Detective J.T. Tarmel (Frank Harts), a born-and-bred New Yorker who questions whether Bright is a psychopath himself. But Bright’s best resource for solving crimes is his dear old dad, the homicidal-yet-oddly-loving Martin Whitly, whose expertise he must reluctantly call upon. As Bright helps track down the city’s most dangerous criminals, he also battles his own demons — and it doesn’t help that his mother, former leading socialite Jessica Whitly (Bellamy Young), can’t seem to accept her fallen status and has an opinion on every aspect of Bright’s life. But he has the support of his sister Ainsley (Halston Sage), a news reporter with a soft spot for her brother and all his eccentricities.

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Academy Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones will joining the cast in the March 2 episode of season two airing on Fox.

Fox Nation SVOD Service Available to Cox Contour Customers

Fox Nation, the on-demand, subscription streaming service complement to the Fox News Channel, is now available to Cox Contour TV customers and to Internet-only customers with the Contour Stream Player.

Cox customers will now have access to Fox Nation through Cox on Demand on Contour, and across devices via the Contour app and portal, as well as the Contour Stream Player, Cox’s service for Internet-only customers. Contour customers can add Fox Nation to their service for $5.99 per month. Additionally, Contour and Contour Stream Player customers with a voice remote can say “Fox Nation” directly into the remote to launch the service.

“Since first launching our platform in 2018, the demand for Fox Nation has only grown and we look forward to further expanding and introducing Cox’s customers to this service,” said John Finley, EVP of development for Fox Nation.

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Fox Nation’s content includes historical documentaries, long and short-form programming, extended versions of Fox News Channel’s most popular shows, investigative series from Fox News personalities and specials. Original programming includes series such as “PARK’D,” helmed by travel and lifestyle host Abby Hornacek, who takes viewers behind-the-scenes of the country’s landmarks; “The Pursuit!,” hosted by country music star John Rich featuring interviews with fellow musical guests; “Lara Logan Has No Agenda,” hosted by the former “60 Minutes” anchor and war correspondent; and longtime legal analyst and former prosecutor Nancy Grace’s daily crime stories program.

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Fox Nation is available on iOS and Android devices as well as Apple TV, Web, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Xbox One and Comcast Xfinity platforms.

Tubi Adds Another Fox Primetime Series

Fox-owned AVOD service Tubi is adding free streaming access to network TV show “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back.” All episodes of the first two seasons are now available, while current season-three episodes will be available on Tubi a week following their broadcast on Fox.

The series is part of San Francisco-based Tubi’s 300-hour offering of Gordon Ramsay content, which includes “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Kitchen Nightmares” and “The F Word.”

Earlier this week Tubi added Fox’s music competition show “The Masked Singer.”

“Making this show available on Tubi, alongside Gordon’s other series, will only grow his footprint while also further promoting his programs on Fox,” Rob Wade, president of alternative entertainment and specials at Fox Entertainment, said in a statement.

“24 Hours to Hell and Back” follows Ramsay as he drives across the country to help struggling restaurants in his state-of-the-art mobile kitchen and command center, Hell on Wheels. From California’s coastline to the heart of New Jersey and everywhere in between, Gordon is joined by celebrities and local experts, as he tries to bring each of these failing restaurants back from the brink of disaster — all in just 24 hours.

Fox says the cooking show is No. 1 for the 2019-20 season among adults 18-49 and total viewers. The series averages 4.6 million multi-platform viewers, up +113% from its live + same-day delivery.

Animated ‘Spies in Disguise’ to Be Unveiled on Digital and Disc — Including 4K — March 10

The animated comedy Spies in Disguise will come out on digital, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD March 10 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

In the film, super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is none of the above. But this unlikely duo must team up for the ultimate mission to save the world when a “biodynamic concealment” experiment transforms Lance into a pigeon.

The film earned $163.5 million at the global box office.

Blu-ray bonus features include multiple making-of featurettes and two music videos as well as “Super Secret Spy Mode,” an immersive, in-movie experience that takes you deeper into the story with Easter eggs, facts and behind-the-scenes insights into the making of the film.

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Oscar Nominated ‘Jojo Rabbit’ Coming to Digital Feb. 4, Disc — Including 4K — Feb. 18

Writer-director Taika Waititi’s six-time Oscar nominated Jojo Rabbit will debut on digital Feb. 4 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 18 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The World War II satire follows a lonely German boy (Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo) whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic.

The film has been nominated for Best Picture Academy Award Nomination, a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, a Critics’ Choice Award nomination for Best Picture, and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Star Davis, whose first-ever acting role was Jojo, won a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Young Actor, as well as a nomination for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy. Additionally, Johansson has received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for her performance as Rosie. Waititi has received Academy Award Nominations for Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture (with Carthew Neal), as well as nominations from the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America, the Producers Guild of America, and BAFTA (Adapted Screenplay). Earlier this year, the film was honored at the AFI Awards, making it onto AFI’s list of the Top 10 Movies of the Year for 2019. And the film also won TIFF’s highly acclaimed Grolsch People’s Choice Award, while Waititi garnered the Ebert Director Award at the festival’s tribute gala awards event.

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Bonus features include deleted scenes, outtakes, “Inside Jojo Rabbit,” audio commentary from Waititi and theatrical trailers.

Online TV Confronts Rising Carriage Fees

When launched in 2015, online TV services such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now were championed as pay-TV saviors in the face of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

Now Vue is history, DirecTV Now has been rebranded AT&T TV and Sling remains stagnant with about 2.6 million subscribers. All the while, the carriage fees paid by distributors to content holders continue to rise, leading to programming blackouts for subscribers.

A carriage dispute is a disagreement over the right to “carry”, that is, retransmit, a broadcaster’s signal. Carriage disputes first occurred between broadcasters and cable companies and now include satellite and other multichannel video programming distributors such as online TV.

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Sports-themed fuboTV just announced it was dropping Disney-owned FX, FXX, FXM and National Geographic due to increased costs to carry the channels.

Disney reportedly is demanding $16 monthly in retransmission fees per subscriber to carry the combined channels, including ESPN — an amount deemed too expensive by fuboTV.

A fuboTV staffer recently went on Reddit to address the issue: “As many of you know, neither fuboTV nor any other distributor is able to license just ESPN from Disney; instead, distributors are required to license the ‘Disney bundle.’ There is no way around this. As such, we [opted] to make the difficult decision of building a channel lineup that is both differentiated and affordable to consumers.”

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The staffer contends the Disney bundle price would require fuboTV to revisit bundle pricing, i.e. raise prices.

“Additionally, it’d come with high penetration (user) requirements, which would limit our ability to offer a differentiated offer for different consumer cohorts,” the staffer wrote.

In a media statement, fuboTV said it has added dozens of entertainment networks to its base package, including channels from AMC Networks, WarnerMedia, Viacom and Discovery.

“fuboTV remains a leading platform for the best movies and TV shows across every genre — from comedy and drama to nature and reality — both live and on demand,” read the statement.

Last month, Sling TV raised its monthly subscription fees by $5 to $30 each for Sling Orange and Sling Blue to offset program distribution costs. A combined bundle fee costs $45 monthly.

“Sling doesn’t own the networks you watch — we have to pay programmers for their channels so that we can provide them to you, and the price of programming has been going up,” Warren Schlichting, president of the online service, wrote in a blog post. “Unfortunately, we have to share those rising prices with you, so we can continue to provide you with the same great experience you’ve come to expect from Sling.”

 

Merchandising: Mixed Reviews for Best Buy’s ‘Infinity Saga’ Set

Best Buy Nov. 15 released its exclusive The Infinity Saga collection of the first 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe films, from Iron Man to Avengers: Endgame. The pricey set included the films in both Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, plus digital codes for each, in collectible display packaging and an exclusive bonus disc with never-before-seen deleted scenes from several of the Marvel films.

Limited to about 4,000 units available at $549.99 each, the collector’s set quickly sold out, with copies showing up on secondary markets such as eBay commanding asking prices well above $1,000. Some online reviews of the set, however, indicated poor quality control both in the assembly of the set and the shipping of it, with reports of damaged boxes and missing movies. The discs themselves come in paper sleeves, with some reviewers reporting glue from the packaging seeping onto the discs.

It should also be noted that the set does not include the 3D versions of any movies that had been released on disc in 3D, and extra bonus discs from the earlier movies also were not included.

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Dec. 3 Best Buy had a piece of another massive collector’s set, that being Fox’s The Simpsons: The Complete Seasons 1-20 Limited Edition. The 79-DVD set (no Blu-ray, even though some of the seasons were released in the HD format) was reportedly limited to a run of just 1,000 units, with copies available through Best Buy, Amazon and Walmart. Each retailer’s website had the boxed set listed for a $499.99 sale price the day prior to its official street date.

The 19th season, which aired in 2007 and 2008, also arrived on DVD for the first time Dec. 3, completing the run of the first 20 seasons. The show is currently in its 31st. Fox in 2015 announced it wasn’t releasing any more “Simpsons” DVDs, at a point when it had released discs of just seasons one through 17 and season 20. Season 18 was released on DVD in 2017 following fan demand for more discs.

Based on the producers’ statements in 2015, and rumors swirling that Disney may end the series (which it purchased as part of its acquisition of the 20th Century Fox studio and catalog) after 32 or 33 seasons, the next DVD or Blu-ray release of the series could possibly be a complete-series set a few years from now, if such a disc release is even contemplated at all. The first 30 seasons of the series are available for streaming on the new Disney+ service.

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The biggest disc release of Dec. 3, however, was HBO’s “Game of Thrones” eighth-season and complete-series releases.

For exclusives on the eighth season set, however, HBO committed one of the biggest pet peeves among collectors — splitting exclusive featurettes among different retailers — as opposed to offering a variety of packaging options or pack-on collectibles, with any bonus content consolidated with one retailer so fans who just care about having all the available content aren’t tempted to buy the same release twice just for a few extra minutes of bonus material that isn’t offered anywhere else.

Best Buy “Game of Thrones” season eight exclusive sigil box art

For Game of Thrones: The Complete Eighth Season, Target offered the Blu-ray at $39.99 with an add-on “How the Storm Was Born” featurette, taking a look at the making of the penultimate episode and the razing of King’s Landing.

The featurette was included on a separate disc packed onto the standard season eight case.

Walmart’s exclusive bonus disc with the Blu-ray offered the featurette “From Renderings to Reality: The Visual Effects of Season 8.” The chain had it at $37.96 with the same packaging as Target, a separate thin Blu-ray case packed with the regular season eight Blu-ray, but availability was spotty from store-to-store, with some locations not even bothering to put any of the week’s new titles on shelves even into the evening of Dec. 3.

Interestingly, the VFX featurettes for the first seven seasons are included on the bonus disc with the Game of Thrones: The Complete Series Blu-ray. So fans who buy the complete series and want that final VFX featurette will have to buy a second copy of season eight separately.

Best Buy offered the season-eight Blu-ray with exclusive three-eyed-raven sigil box art for $44.99.

 

‘Lucy in the Sky’ Flying to Digital Dec. 17

The astronaut drama Lucy in the Sky will land on digital Dec. 17 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The film stars Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm in a story inspired by true events ripped from the headlines. After star astronaut Lucy Cola (Portman) earns a coveted spot on a NASA mission, she’s moved by the transcendence of being in space. But when she returns to Earth, her everyday life feels too small. Soon, she engages in a reckless love triangle that threatens her career and her sanity.

Special features on the digital release includes four deleted scenes and four making-of featurettes.

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James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ Available on Disney+ at Launch Nov. 12

Director James Cameron’s 2009 box office hit Avatar will be available on Disney+ when the streaming service launches in the United States, Canada and The Netherlands on Nov. 12, followed by Australia and New Zealand on Nov. 19.

Disney+ will be the exclusive subscription streaming home to the film, which will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of its theatrical release on Dec. 18, according to a Disney release.

Disney+ is available now for pre-order in the United States for $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year.

Avatar was the first motion picture of its kind to utilize a new generation of special effects to deliver a fully immersive cinematic experience. The Oscar and Golden Globe-winning epic is the second-highest-grossing film of all time.

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Written by Cameron and produced by Cameron and Jon Landau, Avatar, originally released by Fox, takes place on Pandora, where a man embarks on an epic adventure, ultimately fighting to save both the people he learns to love and the place he now calls home. The film stars Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi and Laz Alonso.

Cameron recorded a greeting about the Disney+ debut: