Gaming | US: Live from Caesars Palace: Sports betting will get TV spotlight

Turner Broadcasting, the cable-TV giant behind CNN, TBS and TNT, plans to put a broadcast studio right inside the sportsbook at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, an attempt to capitalize on the burgeoning growth of sports betting.

The deal with Caesars Entertainment Corp. is the first of its kind between a major sports broadcaster and casino operator – and a likely sign of things to come. As more states across the country legalize sports wagering, more fans will be betting on games. That’s creating an opportunity for media companies to create shows or video aimed at those gamblers.

In addition to housing the studio, Caesars will be the presenting sponsor of all gambling programming across Turner Sports, a division of AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia. The studio will carry the Bleacher Report brand – Turner’s digital offering aimed at younger fans – but there also could be segments that air during the company’s sports coverage, including the National Basketball Association, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and Major League Baseball.

“Sports gambling is one of the most unique opportunities that’s happened in quite a long time in this industry,” Turner President David Levy said in an interview. “We’re all scratching around, looking for engagement with our fans and our consumers, and we know that gaming and legalized sports gambling is going to increase engagement with sports.”

Turner saw this firsthand back in November, when it broadcast “The Match,” a head-to-head golf showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The in-game wagers between the two rivals – with proceeds donated to charity – were a big driver of interest in the event, Levy said.

“We’re bringing that to the forefront,” Levy said, “and it’s going to change the way that televised sports are produced.”

Not every broadcaster will jump on gambling, however. CBS made a point to avoid all gambling talk during its Super Bowl coverage last week. And Walt Disney Co., which has long avoided doing business with betting operators on moral grounds, has no plans to change its position, according to Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger. He told investors Tuesday that ESPN will likely provide more information relevant to bettors. “But getting into the business of gambling, I rather doubt it,” he said.

Based in Las Vegas, Caesars has moved quickly to capitalize on sports-betting opportunities outside of Nevada, including partnerships with some of the sports world’s leading brands. It recently became the National Football League’s first-ever casino partner – a deal that doesn’t include sports betting advertising – and has team deals with hockey’s New Jersey Devils and basketball’s Philadelphia 76ers.

This Turner partnership is an opportunity for Caesars to attract younger customers to its rewards program, which has more than 55 million members. Every month, Bleacher Report reaches more than a third of the country’s sports fans aged 18 to 34, according to Levy. Turner calls it the top digital destination for millennial and Gen Z sports consumers.

The deal also presents an opportunity for Caesars to promote its offerings to more casual sports fans. Levy said the company will have some room to showcase its own bets or odds within the content itself.

The partnership does not include affiliate fees – meaning Turner won’t receive payment for each bettor it refers to the Caesars sports book. That, however, could be a reality in the near future when Turner gets a better handle on the regulation and legal restrictions.

“There are things that we’re going to move into as things change,” Levy said. “Obviously, with Caesars being our partner here, this is a way for us to start working together and feel more comfortable with each other.” Eben Novy-Williams, Scott Soshnick, Bloomberg

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