With more cable cutting options than ever before, sports fans have a veritable plethora of live services to choose from. And as those services come up with new ways to win over viewers and keep them informed, some seem to be merging around a big new feature: betting.
Streaming services across the industry have started adding gambling features alongside their sports feeds, providing a way to increase engagement while opening a new revenue stream. Disney, DAZN, FuboTV, Sling and others have either launched additional betting features or have expressed an interest in entering space in the US – and why shouldn’t they? Any smart sports agency would recognize that betting has been synonymous with competition for as long as anyone can remember. And there is plenty of money to be made.
“Sports fans have unofficially bet with their friends and family while watching the game for decades,” said Mike Berkley, chief product officer of FuboTV — which recently launched its own betting app. The edge. “It’s kind of like a core fan base, casual betting with friends and family, and it’s something we thought would make our product even more compelling than it is now.”
Look no further than streaming mastermind Disney – a quintessential family-friendly content provider – as proof that betting could be the next streaming battleground for any company that owns a live sports service. During the company’s most recent earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek told shareholders the company was “on track to increase its presence in online sports betting” for its ESPN audience, further stating that betting is something Disney is “very interested in.” is and pursues aggressively” .”
“We believe that sports betting is a very important opportunity for the company,” said Chapek. “And if we follow the consumer, we must necessarily seriously consider starting gambling in an ever-larger way. And ESPN is a perfect platform for that.”
(Disney was reported by puck in October to investigate a possible ESPN spin-off, although a source who spoke to CNBC refuted the claim, saying the company was focused on building value for ESPN Plus, including by researching sports betting.)
Sports betting has grown from state to state in recent years. In May 2018, the Supreme Court rejected a federal law banning sports gambling, paving the way for individual states to allow it. (New Jersey, for example, legalized sports betting almost immediately.) Today, some 34 percent of sports fans bet on games in the U.S. weekly, according to data firm Ampere Analysis, spending an average of $51 per week. Sports enthusiasts also spend about 3.2 hours a week on fantasy gaming, data from the company shows. That presents a pretty big opportunity for live sports services in the hopes of keeping their users engaged, differentiating their products and expanding their business.
“The projection is that” [legalization of betting] will continue to grow aggressively in the coming years,” Berkley says. “There’s definitely a trend for this to become not only legal, but more mainstream.”
Disney isn’t the only company exploring the gambling street. Dish teamed up with DraftKings earlier this year to incorporate DraftKings’ Sportsbook and fantasy competitions into its Dish TV Hopper platform as an app integration. (Dish-owned live TV service Sling also supports an integrated DraftKings experience for betting, as well as dedicated betting information channels.) FuboTV launched its own proprietary sportsbook feature for betting in Iowa last month, and it’s currently clearing the regulations. barriers to operating in other states. NBC Sports and Peacock partner with PointsBet for their betting integrations.
Sports streaming service DAZN, meanwhile, plans to be “directly on the gambling market where we can,” said chairman Kevin Mayer. DAZN spokesperson Graham James says: The edge that in regards to its US betting strategy, DAZN “has no specific plans to share at this time, but believes that the addition of recreational betting to the DAZN platform in all our markets will create a safe, fun and immersive experience for fans to to enjoy next to the top sport they love.”
“The fact that ESPN, DAZN, all these people are talking about it so publicly makes me think it’s too much of an opportunity to pass them up,” said Ampere chief analyst Minal Modha. The edge.
While sports betting is traditionally considered taboo in some circles, these companies bet that public opinion has changed in recent years. Chapek himself acknowledged that the move had once been risky for a squeaky clean brand image like Disney. But now, he says, would bet actually… strengthen his sport, especially among the younger crowd.
“Gambling doesn’t have the cachet it did now, say 10 or 20 years ago,” Chapek said last month. “It actually strengthens the ESPN brand, if you have a gambling component, and it doesn’t impact the Disney brand.”
Betting can be done in different ways. Dish supports betting via a DraftKings integration on its Hopper devices, allowing users to scan a QR code to jump to the DraftKings platform. Sling, meanwhile, uses a text-based redirection system that can be launched from a menu icon within its experience. Fubo’s betting feature works with its own proprietary Sportsbook app integration that syncs with what’s happening on your TV screen (although it’s still a dual-screen experience, with the event on your TV and betting via the app).
At the moment, Chapek says Disney plans to partner with third parties on its gambling offerings. That makes sense for any company looking to avoid investing hundreds of millions of dollars in order to achieve a level of scale comparable to DraftKings as a gambling operator, said Jeff Ifrah, founding member of Ifrah PLLC. The edge. Instead, these streamers can choose to partner with third parties to monetize through affiliate games revenue.
“The question for a company like Disney or other streaming companies will be, is that really the best way for us to make money?” says Ifrah. “There are a lot of practical questions about the best way to monetize this opportunity. It may not be to be an operator.”
There are plenty of sportsbook apps available right now: DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM are just three of many. But sports betting through these platforms is not available in all 50 states. For example, DraftKings’ mobile and online gambling system is currently supported in 16 states. Importantly, Ifrah points out that any company that wants to remove the regulatory hurdles to operate its own gambling platform must do so on a state-by-state basis.
For a company like FuboTV, this means scaling the product will be a slow process – and an expensive one. Currently, the sportsbook app is only available in Iowa, but Berkley tells me that FuboTV has market access in four other states, meaning it has obtained licenses to operate in those states, but has yet to complete the regulatory approval process.
But in a sea of services that all offer more or less the same thing (less if you’re looking for regional coverage, which is an entirely different mess), Modha says betting can be a point of differentiation that can help a sport streamer to keep afloat.
“I think so many of the streaming services are going to be thinking, ‘How do we achieve that?’ [unique selling point]? How do we make sure that as more and more streaming services are available and the market becomes more fragmented and people have to spend more and more money, we make sure that we are not one of the throwaway services?’ And that’s why something like the gamification of betting comes into play,” says Modha.
If and when sports betting becomes more common among streaming services, it will provide streaming companies with yet another distinguishing feature that could potentially allow their sports services to succeed. It’s a gamble a lot like Netflix’s gaming push — the more touchpoints, the better. But as with any streaming draw, the success of these gambling implementations will largely depend on whether they can stand out from a crowd of similar or existing offerings, especially against goliaths like Disney.
“There are so many different services in the US. So in the initial phase this will all be shiny and new, and it will attract audiences,” Modha says. “But that’s going to be an evolution — the product will have to constantly evolve to make sure those audiences stay engaged and keep you ahead of the curve of where everyone else is.”