US wagering and its blossoming relationship with broadcast entities has recorded ‘no covid downtime’ during a disrupted 2020 as, week-by-week, US incumbents forge new media partnerships.
Joint statements tell of ‘ground-breaking agreements’, which will underpin operators’ multi-state ambitions and growth strategies. Yet, with the legal US sports wagering sector still in its infancy and casino value chains disrupted by unprecedented circumstances – should US wagering hold-off on any broadcast gold-rush?
Kevin Smith, Director of Marketing and Communications for SBC North America, posed that tough opening question to the ‘Content Rich: Betting and Broadcasting’ panel at the Betting on Sports America – Digital Conference this week.
“We are seeing deals of real magnitude, which is somewhat unreal in this economic climate,” responded ESPN reporter Doug Kezirian, commenting on this week’s Bally’s and Sinclair Media ‘regional hook-up’.
“This is another deal that moves that needle and has raised eyebrows. But we have seen this happen with ESPN and its media partnership with Caesars and William Hill.”
Kezirian remarked that the “deals make macro-sense regardless of the current conditions that casinos and US broadcasters find themselves in, in which all broadcasters have made tough adjustments”.
He added: “The climate is tight right now and it’s hard to generate revenues. But this is a new frontier for broadcasters, and they should be allowed to figure things out as they go along.”
Beyond deal-making, Kezirian predicted that broadcasters will face critical questions balancing their networks and commercial strategies to accommodate betting advertisers. “It will be tough, but I’m sure that we can all co-exist,” he said.
Having analyzed all US wagering deals and partnerships, Evan Davis – Managing Director of SeventySix Capital Sports Advisory – offered an intriguing outlook in which casino and media partners will have to work through a transformative period, reshaping their brand identities, data, schedules and technologies to maximize lucrative contracts.
“Think about how forward-looking these deals have been,” said Davis. “Just months ago Bally’s was recognized as the old school, bricks and mortar casino operator, and now it has to rethink its entire customer proposition just to make a deal work… that is a fascinating proposition.”
Moving discussions forward, Smith questioned the panel on an imminent culture clash that broadcasters would face leveraging their media assets and coverage to maximize partnership opportunities.
Evans noted interesting observations on this topic. He asked: “They are trying to integrate sports betting in a way which asks what do sports fans want? But implicit is the recognition that not all sports fans are created equal…that has been the reality for betting.
“Broadcasters will have to figure out how to market to betting individuals who are watching the game, but at the same time understand that they can’t cater betting to everyone tuning in.”
As bookmakers keep fighting to secure the highest penetration amongst US sports audiences, Fawkes underlined that broadcast partnerships have held their value, with programming being the difference-maker.
He justified the view, saying: “Last night, the Eagles versus Seahawks game was over, the Seahawks were winning the game, the only reason to tune-in was to find out the final score and whether the money-line held!”
“We are going to see more and more dedicated shows for in-game betting, and that is something that we are looking to build-on, knowing that we can partner with bookmakers every day of the week.
“For broadcasters, a key question is whether they place betting as a primary screen experience or maintain it as a second screen experience.”
BOSA-Digital, taking place today, offers an eight-track conference with a lineup of 130 expert speakers, comprising operators’ senior executives, regulators, affiliates, suppliers, teams, leagues, and advisors.
The event features an interactive product display area where operators will be able to learn about the next generation of products and solutions from international suppliers, talk to suppliers’ expert teams, and experience the products directly through demos.
There will be further opportunities for delegates to connect and build their network in the burgeoning US betting industry in the virtual networking lounge, the meeting rooms in the virtual networking bar, and at the program of themed networking roundtables.