Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in a state where sports betting isn’t yet legal,) you’ve no doubt seen the countless sports betting ads come through your viewing experience. MGM, Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel, and myriad other sportsbooks are capitalizing on changing state legislation and pumping serious bucks into advertising with players in mind.
One streaming service is capitalizing on the emerging sports betting market: fuboTV. The sports-focused live TV streaming service markets itself as a destination for sports fans which will culminate in a sportsbook of its very own. But what might the future hold for sports betting and streaming?
The Streamable sat down with Jon Price of Sports Information Traders who offered his insight into the future of sports betting and how streaming services factor into the equation.
The Popularity of Sports Betting
Price says sports betting is so popular because of human nature. “To be successful at wagering, you’ve got to be somebody who wins often,” Price said, “but to be hooked on wagering, all you need to do is feel it work a couple of times.” Price gives a similar example with golf. “People who struggle with golf will go out on the golf course, they’ll hit shots left and right and, next thing you know, they hit a few nine irons close to the pin - then they love golf. In wagering, that buzz of coming close to a win, and then winning, is something you cannot bottle up.”
Sports gambling has always been an “open secret” of sorts, in a past world of lines and picks made “for entertainment purposes only” and Brent Musberger talking about “the guys in the desert” as a euphemism for Las Vegas, times have changed.
“We’ve got 25 states with legalized gambling, “Price said. “Gambling is no longer a taboo subject. When you turn on the NFL Network itself, which is the foundation of the National Football League, you see lines and money lines and totals on there. ESPN is doing live broadcasts from Caesars and, when you go to their website, and you’re looking at the games, Caesars is a sponsor. It’s become as mainstream as anything else.” In fact, ESPN built a studio on the Las Vegas strip to solidify its position in the gambling world.
Price is thrilled (like many sports fans) with the idea of being able to wager on games you’re watching, especially being able to do so in person at in-house sportsbooks.
“I love the idea of having that ability to wager on live sports while watching it,” Price said. “We’re going to start to see wagering in arenas when more people are going to show up. We already have wagering in some arenas where fans are showing up to a game and they can go put a bet in right at the mezzanine and then go sit down in their seats and watch the game and streaming services want to tap into that same brainwave. Here’s the game you’re watching. Here’s an opportunity to make some money on it while you’re watching. And I think it’s gonna be great.”
Prior to the start of the NFL season, the New York Jets agreed to a licensing deal with Fubo Sportsbook that would brand the team’s in-house sports gambling lounge with Fubo’s orange and black, and other teams have followed suit, albeit with different sponsors.
The fuboTV Factor
“FuboTV Sportsbook is going to take things to another level,” Price said. “I know they’re advertising it as a safe place to wager. And that’s the number one fear for people for wagering on their own. ‘Where am I going to wager and what happens if I lose? What happens if I win?’ I think it’s something that is going to create a path for other streaming services to eventually follow suit. And there will be some good old-fashioned competition probably within the next couple of years.”
Who Might Be the Next fuboTV?
Price believes Hulu will be the next streaming service to embrace in-app betting. “They’re already involved with the NFL, they already have NFL players doing their commercials, they already have live sporting events on Hulu,” Price said
Hulu certainly makes sense, given the brand synergy with ESPN and its streaming platform, ESPN+. Hulu also synergizes well with Hulu Live TV, its live TV streaming service, which can present an interesting opportunity for a potential sports betting platform. Hulu Live TV could, theoretically, do the same thing fuboTV does with sports content by adding interactive games and sports betting to its broadcasts. Caesars Sportsbook is already ESPN’s gambling partner, providing lines to ESPN talent — could they eventually partner up on integrated sports betting too?
But Price warns that it would be unwise to count out streaming’s biggest dog — Netflix. “What I’ve noticed on Netflix lately is they are pushing sports more to the forefront,” Price said. We’re seeing more sports now than we have in terms of their content, like ‘Untold’ and ‘The Last Dance.’ I think if they see a massive increase in sports viewing, the very smart people at Netflix will say, ‘we’ve got so many views here, maybe we need to push it a little bit more with sports.’“ Netflix has previously said it would not carry live sports unless it could control the rights to an entire league.
Price says that Netflix would really have to see a rise in sports viewership so as to not push away their target audience, and, as such, doesn’t think it’s in the cards right now — but never say never. “At some point, Netflix will get involved, but I don’t feel that they need to,” Price said. “They’re doing quite well with what’s working for them.”
The HBO Max Dark Horse
Could HBO Max play a role in the sports betting ecosystem? Its ties to Turner Sports, which famously owns broadcast rights to the NBA, “The Match,” a series of high-profile golf matches, as well as their recent acquisition of the NHL rights, make it an interesting proposition.
“It’s very possible that HBO Max could one day use its Turner connection to do something in regards to sports,” Price said. “HBO had boxing for a long time, and they also have ‘Hard Knocks.’ Inevitably, sports are going to continue, and wagering is going to continue, and it’s going to become more and more popular. And sooner or later, any streaming service that has the ability to extend themselves is going to do it.”
While HBO Max originally said no to sports, the upcoming Warner Bros. Discovery merger has the company thinking differently. According to the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand, WarnerMedia Discovery could very well be in the running for the expiring NFL Sunday Ticket rights.