WarnerMedia is joining the growing parade of media companies eager to court consumer interest in sports betting.
During coverage of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals, TNT will present an alternate live-streamed feed of the games that includes commentary on betting analysis and odds. The feed, known as “TNT Bets” and made available to cable and satellite subscribers via the Watch TNT app, will be hosted by Bleacher Report’s Cabbie Richards, Kelly Stewart and Tim Doyle, and gaming company FanDuel will provide real-time statistics and information.
“We haven’t done anything like this to date,” says Will Funk, executive vice president of sports partnerships and branded content at WarnerMedia’s Turner Sports, in an interview.
Many of WarnerMedia’s rivals are making similar moves as more states give the nod to legalized sports gambling. Earlier, this week, Walt Disney’s ESPN unveiled pacts with Caesars Entertainment, Inc. and DraftKings Inc. that put links in ESPN content connecting fans to sportsbooks affiliated with the two companies, and launched a new YouTube channel devoted to wagering. Fox Corp.’s betting unit, Fox Bet, on Tuesday struck an agreement with the Philadelphia Eagles that puts an interactive sports lounge on site at Lincoln Financial Field. NBC Sports has also begun testing so-called “alternate feeds” of sports broadcasts that include information on odds and more.
The companies are gambling that linking their sports broadcasts to wagering will foster a deeper connection with viewers, who are increasingly moving away from traditional linear broadcasts to on-demand streaming. And they see the potential to tap new revenue streams. Morgan Stanley last year projected that the U.S. sports-betting market might generate nearly $7 billion in revenue by 2025, compared with $833 million in 2019.
Prognosticators originally envisioned the activity would simply attract the people making illegal wagers, says Matt King, FanDuel’s CEO, in an interview. But others seem to be joining in, he suggests. “You are seeing new people come into the sport. Many younger fans want to engage with the game,”says King, particularly those who were already engaged with fantasy sports.
The NBA games may just be the tip-off for WarnerMedia. “We are going to take the learnings from this and apply it to the future,” says Funk. The company quietly tested alternate feeds via NBA TV earlier in the year and intends to make more of them available. “This is not just a one-game kind of thing,” adds Funk. “We are working with FanDuel on a number of things across the portfolio, testing things and figuring what really moves the needle on what helps us from a viewer engagement standpoint and what helps FanDuel on the customer acquisition side.”
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