SBC Digital North America: turning sports betting content into returns

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Sports betting content, as viewed through the eyes of the media, was given a high-profile platform at last week’s SBC Digital North America conference during a dedicated panel discussion titled “Betting on homegrown content – how do operators win with new content?”.

The session, sponsored by Covers and featured during the Products & Innovation track sponsored by spirable, gathered expert voices including PickUp CEO Dan Healy; VSiN VP, Digital Content, Ben Fawkes; Spotlight VP, Sales, Justin Geiger; and Jason Logan, Senior Industry Analyst & Managing Editor at Covers. Moderating was Quinton Singleton, Gaming Consultant and Executive, Predicate.

The challenge facing the speakers was to address how operators, having rightly over-invested in player acquisition, must now start to turn that investment into returns. 

Kicking off proceedings, Logan emphasized the importance of sports and the betting sector as sources for media content, saying: “You talk about the symbiotic relationship between leagues and sports betting and obviously if there’s no sports to bet on there’s no competition fueling that search for sports betting content. 

“And we did get a glimpse of that last year when sports shut down and traffic numbers dropped off and sports books were shuttering. However, the sports that did come back and start to operate, things like KBO and horse racing and the ping pong eruption in sports betting was massive. MMA slowly rolled back and that kind of picked up the slack. 

“At Covers we swung a lot of our efforts to cover these other sports and we dove into KBO and we went harder into MMA and horse racing than we did before.”    

According to Geiger, the convergence of editorial content and betting content has been a natural process. “The appetite for sports betting has grown exponentially here in the United States. To break it down a bit, I’d look at it first from the operators’ perspective and then the media companies’ perspective.

“From an operator perspective, you’ve got to think about the market you’re addressing. Spotlight Sports has come over from the UK, we’ve cut our teeth in a mature market. But here in the US you have operators that are now in this beautiful race for market share and customer acquisition, so they’re looking at editorialized betting content to help engage that audience, get them drawn in and also to create some brand awareness for the operators as well. 

When you look at something like the mature market in the UK, we have found that operators are more interested in specialized types of content – the content that’s going to address specific betting outcomes. 

“The idea is, how can I engage my customer, and how can I engage that audience and keep their eyeballs on our platform longer.”    

Geiger believes that from a traditional media perspective, convergence is a more complex decision. “Betting content has been leaking into editorial content for at least two decades,” he said. “It was very subtle at first and it’s grown over time. And this is because there’s also a lot of crossover content, specifically trend analysis and that’s of interest to a sports fan as well as to a sports bettor. 

“The challenge for media companies has been how do you satisfy the evolving needs of that sports betting segment, while also taking care of the sports betting fan who has zero interest in how much the line has moved over the previous week.  

“You’ve got to be able to understand your audience down to each individual segment for the sake of not alienating any segment, but also addressing those segments that are emerging in your market.”  

Healy turned the focus of discussion onto what he described as the difference between informational content and transactional content. “Transactional content is right in your face – it’s the spreads, it’s the odds,” he explained. “It’s all of those things that are straight up saying, here’s my take and you should wager on this. And then informational – there’s an injury or a trade and what does that mean for a future.”  

Healy added that the fans have always wanted to take that next step – to use whatever the media is pushing towards them, the take or headline fact, and turn it into ‘well this is my opinion on it’. 

By way of example, he pitched a scenario where media companies could be talking to somebody who follows college basketball like it’s the “greatest thing on earth and somebody who doesn’t follow college basketball but just gets into March Madness”. 

He explained: “When they’re having that conversation with the audience, they’re basically talking to those two same people at the beginning of March Madness where your education needs to be broad enough that it sparks some sort of opinion or a conversation, but valuable enough that it can push somebody in the direction to make a pick or ultimately convert to sports betting proper.”