With Few TV Sports, Media Companies Invest More In Online Gambling

Let’s face it. U.S. consumers are starved for good entertainment, scripted TV and nonscripted TV, as well as sports TV competition.

For the latter, some consumers are going online. But what happens when the online stuff is dependent on sports TV content like online wagering.

With the lack of sports programming, online gambling platforms have suffered. In its place comes old-school gaming: poker, slots, blackjack, craps and roulette.

Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have seen surges in online poker gambling in April -- $43.1 million in Pennsylvania, and  $79.9 million in New Jersey. This is up from February’s $19.5 million and $52.0 million haul, respectively.

But that’s a drop in the bucket. For example, before COVID-19, Pennsylvania’s total sports betting take (online and in casinos) was $348.4 million in January 2020, now dropping to $46 million in April.



Only sports such as Korean baseball on ESPN, NASCAR on Fox Sports, some UFC fights, and to a lesser extent virtual video game competitions, have been the fodder for sports wagering.

Still, even without sports on TV, major media companies continue to add investments and operations in online gaming.

Fox Corp. has done this with Fox Bet, only available in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Colorado. Plus, TV networks, such as ESPN, continue to ad sports gambling programming.

This betting content on TV is minor -- revenue-wise -- to what drives big TV viewership and advertising dollars. Major live sports, especially the big four traditional TV sports franchises, NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and NHL, bring the big money.

Then add in ad revenues from college football, college basketball, NASCAR, PGA golf, among others, and every two years from the Summer and Winter Olympics.

Sports TV right fees for traditional TV networks continue to climb. Pumping up these prices are digital-first growing media players, like Amazon. The biggest of this yearly sports packages, the NFL, will be starting up negotiations sometime this year.

Is this sustainable?

As more entertainment content moves to streaming services, linear TV networks will need to focus on more live, real time (or near real time) content, such as sports and news.

Not everyone will be winners.

Specific sports-focused TV networks -- perhaps not making those winning bids -- will need to find ways to come up with alternative sports programming, like ESPN’s successful series, “The Last Dance.”

That’s the real gamble.

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