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.”