Sports media will rush to embrace gambling in 2020.
With sports book operators hungering for new customers in a growing number of U.S. states, sports leagues looking for ways to bolster the value of their television broadcast rights and casinos looking for ways to build new relationships, sports publishers find themselves in position to significantly bolster their ad revenues over the next several years.
“It’s reshaping the entire sports marketing industry, and you’re seeing a lot of publishers factoring it into their content plans,” said Rick Martira, the CMO of the sports book PointsBet. “You’ll be hard-pressed to find major sports outlets that don’t want to incorporate it.”
Today, sports betting is legal in just 11 states, with seven more preparing to follow. Research published recently by the consultancy Gambling Compliance projects that 40 U.S. states will have legalized sports betting by 2024. That rush of legalization, encompassing an estimated $150 billion industry, is expected to attract the attention of almost every kind of mainstream sports publisher.
Sports betting appeals to publishers because they can monetize it in so many different ways. For example, sports betting offers a big affiliate commerce opportunity. The ads do have to be geo-targeted to areas where sports gambling is legal, which limits scale, but the affiliate commissions that sports books pay out to publishers who help deliver new customers can be as high as $125 per person, according to Gaming Affiliates Guide.
“For us, the biggest opportunity and to really add a lot of oxygen is going to be converting our readers to sports book operators,” said Patrick Keane, CEO of the Action Network, which focuses on gambling-related sports coverage.
Over the past year, both Vox Media (with DraftKings) and Bleacher Report (with Caesars Palace) signed long-term deals to create wide varieties of content designed to build interest in sports betting. On the other end of the spectrum, a growing number of publishers are looking to create content that helps familiar or sophisticated sports bettors wager wisely.
Other media companies looking for a slice of sports betting pie will find sports books eager to collaborate on campaigns to promote their wager offers. In some cases, all the publisher has to provide is distribution, thanks to some sport books’ significant investments in their own content creation operations. For example, FanDuel, which controls the cable television station TVG thanks to its merger with PaddyPower BetFair, has a 100-person studio out in Los Angeles that produces 24 hours of live sports programming every day, most of it focused on horse racing. This past year, that group co-produced NBC’s television coverage of The Breeders Cup.
Yet Fan Duel has bigger content ambitions. To date, it has coproduced digital shows about betting with publishers including Barstool Sports and forged exclusive deals with influential sports betting enthusiasts including former NFL punter Pat McAfee. It also produces a show of its own, “More Ways to Win,” an analysis and punditry show about sports gambling that airs live more than twice a week.