Publishers put their own bets as sports gambling becomes more popular,
The sports betting industry is already getting crowded when it comes to editorial coverage. Over the years, several sports publishers have developed vertical content dedicated to sports betting, including Bleacher Report, ESPN and Sports Illustrated, and in 2017, the Chernin Group founded a new sports media company, The Action Network, dedicated to covering sports betting.
But the action is no longer merely concealed, and publishers are entering the sports betting industry themselves, spurred by the Supreme Court overturning a sports betting ban outside of Nevada in May 2018 and the legalisation of that industry by New Jersey a month later.
Fox Sports and TheScore have both rolled out their own sports betting UFABET apps over the past week. In the meantime, a standalone platform, Barstool Bets, has been launched by Barstool Sports, which provides free-to-play competitions with cash prizes instead of real wagering, and Vox Media has launched a sports betting publication named DraftKings Nation with DraftKings.
For publishers like theScore, joining the sports betting industry is a logical extension of their sports betting coverage, which was a logical extension of their conventional sports coverage itself, and similar to fantasy sports. According to Levy, who cited third-party research for the numbers, about half of the four to five million individuals who use the Score ‘s flagship, non-betting app each month, bet on sports. TheScore ‘s spokesperson refused to share the research with Digiday, including the name and methodology of the firm the performed the report.
Individuals would read articles or watch videos about the assets of these publishers in the past that would warn the bets they make elsewhere. But publishers will close the gap with sports betting being more generally legal, and convert this into a source of revenue for themselves. “If we do it right and give people the ability to bet inside the Score, our whole premise is that they won’t go anywhere,” said John Levy, the Score ‘s CEO.
In addition, as more people in the U.S. gain legal access to sports gambling, the audience of people interested in articles and videos is likely to expand to help them determine how to position their bets, and that content might help transform non-bettors into bettors in turn. That motivates not only media companies to enter the sports betting industry, but also to enter the media industry with sports betting platforms such as DraftKings. In an emailed statement, DraftKings chief business officer Ezra Kucharz said, “The more active and experienced fans are within our industry, the more likely they are to participate, thrive and return to our goods.”There are reasons for sports publishers and sports betting sites to assume that the combination of content and gambling will benefit the growth and retention of the audience. According to a survey by the Seton Hall Sports Poll released in November 2018, seventy percent of people in the U.S. said they are more likely to watch a game if they bet on it.These businesses in the U.S. are seizing an opportunity that their counterparts in the U.K. seem to have passed away. There is a more developed market for sports betting. Sam Yardley, svp of consulting at WPP-owned sports marketing agency Two Circles, said, “In the U.K., there was never really a drive from the broadcasters to get into sports betting because it is too highly regulated.” That left market share to the betting operators, but the betting operators struggled with customer retention without much distinction between those firms, he said.”Gambling is clearly a huge money-maker in itself, but gambling alongside content is where the course of travel goes and where the immense potential lies,” Yardley said.
Placing numerous bets
Sports publishers are seizing the chance in numerous ways. Although Fox Sports and theScore decided to launch their own betting applications for individuals, Vox Media chose to create a sports betting publication with a business that has its own DraftKings sports betting app. Due to the extra work needed to enter a sector outside of its core competency, Vox Media did not look to develop its own sports betting app, said Vox Media COO Trei Brundrett. “We agree that doing what we are both good at is the best way to capture market share and represent customers very well,” he said. Vox Media is in the process of bringing together a DraftKings Nation editorial team, and that team will include long-time SB Nation editor David Fucillo, who will serve as the editor of NFL material for DraftKings Nation.
By sharing income with DraftKings from the advertising that the two businesses sell on the web, Vox Media would make money from DraftKings Country. Given that DraftKings already sells ads on its own products, including branded games, the inclusion of DraftKing in ad sales might help businesses overcome a possible barrier to winning over non-endemic marketers who may be uncomfortable associated with gambling, which has yet to be legalised by most states. Yardley said, “The brands that will get involved in direct transactions around sports gambling will be fairly few and far between.”Although Yardley believed that companies already in the sports betting industry will be the most likely direct advertisers, he admitted that when buying advertisements programmatically on the open exchange, other types of advertisers would be able to advertise against sports betting-related content because those advertisers are more concerned with the audience they want to target than the sense in which they want to targetAt the moment, TheScore is not concerned with using its foray into sports betting to expand its advertising business. John Levy, CEO of theScore, said TheScore Bet does not carry commercials, and the publisher is still deciding how it can leverage its foray into sports betting to expand its advertising business. “We believe [sports betting revenue] would dwarf the revenues we might otherwise produce from our advertisement revenues from the core app,” he said.
Levy’s high expectations are not unfounded, considering the gambling money that is already pouring into New Jersey alone. According to the State Division of Gaming Compliance, individuals have wagered $1.8 billion in online sports betting in New Jersey from the beginning of 2019 through the end of July. And individuals bet more money on sports in New Jersey alone in May 2019 than in Nevada when off-line sports betting is included.By taking a portion of the money that people invest by placing their bets, companies such as theScore earn income from their betting apps. This figure, called “net gaming revenue,” varies depending on the type of bet and, according to Levy, can vary from less than 5 percent to upwards of 12 percent. He said wagers involving several bets, such as parlays, and in-game games have greater margins.
Deep Dive: How publishers need to change to the new norm
As Brundrett inferred, however, competing for the gambling revenue costs time and cash. Fox Sports invested $236 million in The Stars Community, a gaming company that developed the Fox Bet app that was released on September 1. TheScore ‘s spokesman declined to say how much money the publisher has spent on creating its sports betting app, which it has developed with Bet.works, a sports betting technology provider.
There is the work needed to enter the online sports betting business, in addition to the financial costs. In order to offer online sports betting, businesses in the U.S. must partner with an offline gaming operator; Score works with Monmouth Park Racetrack in New Jersey and Penn National Gaming to gain access to 11 other states that have legalised sports betting. Businesses have to apply for gaming licences for each state they want to operate in after a deal is struck with an offline gaming operator, which was a months-long process for the Score. And all that is only to enter the market for sports betting, where publishers face entrenched players like DraftKings and FanDuel, as well as casinos and other sportsbooks.
To promote the Score Bet, TheScore runs TV , radio and out-of-home advertising in New Jersey but does not intend to “flood the market” with a marketing campaign to promote the app, said Levy. He refused to say how much cash the publisher is spending on promoting the game.
Instead, publishers such as theScore bet on their media properties to attract bettors to their apps, giving them an edge. TheScore, for instance, has linked the betting app to its main app. Within the main app, individuals can control wagers made on the Score Bet with an option to allow live bet monitoring, and some articles and videos in the main app have links to the Score Bet. “Levy said,” The experience we’re driving towards is truly a single experience.