William Hill and CBS Agree on Sports Betting Collaboration

William Hill and CBS Agree on Sports Betting Collaboration

This is not just another media/gambling sector collaboration.

William Hill on Monday became CBS Sports' "Official Sports Book and Wagering Data Provider across all CBS Sports platforms," integrating the gambling industry into the portfolio of one of the United States’ traditionally most buttoned-down and non-controversial media brands.

ViacomCBS, the parent company of the network that beamed Walter Cronkite and “The Andy Griffith Show” into millions of American homes, will present William Hill "data, odds and markets across CBS television programming," and through CBS Digital, which is the second-largest sports property domestically with more than 80 million users, according to a news release co-issued by both companies.

CBS Sports Digital offerings include the subscription SportsLine picks-and-predictions platform; CBSSports.com; CBS Sports HQ streaming; CBS Sports Fantasy; CBS Sports apps and 247Sports. CBS digital platforms have included gambling content for months in sports stories.

“We’re thrilled to launch this momentous partnership, which will allow us to deepen our investment and further extend our leadership in delivering multi-platform sports wagering content, while providing William Hill with unprecedented reach for their market-leading betting platform as they continue to grow their industry-leading U.S. business,” Jeffrey Gerttula, Executive Vice President and General Manager, CBS Sports Digital said in the release. “The power of our distribution, combined with the strength of our brands and the expertise of William Hill, has us well positioned to tap into the explosive growth of the legal sports betting industry in the U.S. Together, we will deliver even more value to this rapidly growing segment of sports fans.”

The deal marks the latest counterattack by William Hill as acquiring media partners is just part of a recent trend of gaming corporations forging strategic alliances.

Whether the strategy, particularly by European companies seeking market share in the nascent American market, will ever provide a positive return on investment is a subject of great debate in the industry. But it’s the trend of the year.

Media, Gambling Companies Seek Mutual Benefit

William Hill has a national footprint both online and in brick-and-mortar locations from coast to coast. It is among the more than a dozen online sportsbooks in New Jersey and will join the growing list of Pennsylvania online sportsbooks this year through its partnership with the land-based Hollywood Casino there.

“CBS Sports, similar to William Hill, has a longstanding history of connecting fans directly to the biggest events and most iconic moments in sports,” Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US, said in the news release. “We are excited about this partnership, with assets including mass-reach digital content products, one of the largest fantasy sports databases and platforms in the world, and leading sports television programming, which will allow us to expand the William Hill brand across America quickly and efficiently.”

The deal follows a wave of recent media ventures into the burgeoning American sports industry. There are 14 states now accepting legal sports bets; 23 jurisdictions either take bets now or hope to do so in 2020.

Toronto-based sports content app theScore was the first to announce intentions to become a sports betting platform-provider late in 2018 and came online in New Jersey in fall 2019. The company, which integrated gambling information into its content with user consent, has market access in multiple states through a deal announced in July with Penn National Gaming.

FOX Sports, which broadcasts the NFC portion of the NFL schedule, launched into the business with its FOXBet app in New Jersey in time for the season. Flutter Entertainment can gain its domestic media platform through FOX if its $12 billion takeover of The Stars Group passes regulatory muster. The Stars Group has an existing partnership with FOX. The Flutter deal with TSG would create the largest gaming enterprise in the world.

Other Companies Pursuing Gaming Deals

Other broadcasters, notably ABC/ESPN, have increased the proclivity and volume of their gambling-related programming, but parent company The Walt Disney Corp., has to this point eschewed a full plunge at the risk of affecting its family-friendly brand.

Yahoo partnered in October with BetMGM to launch a so-called Yahoo Sportsbook.

And in a marriage of a non-traditional media brand and a gaming entity, Penn National Gaming purchased a minority share in the Barstool Sports digital brand, hoping to leverage its rabid online following into traffic for its casinos. Penn National plans to unveil a Barstool-themed sportsbook app by August.

CBS executives had expressed the same sort of reticence as their Disney counterparts, with CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus saying this summer that the network would consider allowing booth talent to discuss betting material during their slate of AFC games. There were no such mentions on CBS air this season. But the William Hill deal could alter how much gambling content reaches CBS Sports’ reported 61 million households next season. Or sooner in other sports properties.

That said, the obviously fully invested FOX Sports displayed far less sports betting content in the first weekend of XFL broadcasts, as compared to ESPN.

Among CBS Sports’ other high-profile broadcast properties are the NCAA – which has maintained a Heisman-stiff-arm distance from the gaming industry – and golf, including The Masters, which was been an advocate and beneficiary of sports betting. CBS hopes to begin rolling out William Hill content by March, which would coincide with its expansive coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. A full display, which the companies said in a release will "reimagine fan engagement through a unique integration of sports betting, media, product and technology" is planned by football season.

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