Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 26 No. 45
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

BetMGM Becomes Exclusive Sportsbook Provider Of Yahoo Sports

Yahoo Sports users in states that have legalized sports betting will find themselves only a few clicks away from a wager beginning next month thanks to a deal that makes BetMGM the exclusive sportsbook provider of the heavily trafficked site. The multiyear agreement will deliver amplified exposure for MGM as sports betting rolls out across the U.S., putting its brand in front of mainstream sport fans who thus far have made daily fantasy brands FanDuel and DraftKings the overwhelming market share leaders in states that offer mobile wagering. With 60 million monthly users, many of who are engaged fantasy players, Yahoo Sports sees the partnership as a way to connect its content to transactions, as it has with paid fantasy leagues and daily fantasy games. As a BetMGM affiliate, it will collect revenue from the traffic it delivers.

Guru Gowrappan, the CEO of Verizon Media, the division which includes Yahoo, HuffPost and AOL, said, “Sports and what we’re doing with (sports) betting are the top two priorities that we’re investing in as we go into 2020 and beyond. The world has moved from consuming static content to converging, where consumers are saying -- ‘Hey, I’m watching a game and I’ve started playing games with it in terms of fantasy. Now I also want to go next-level and start betting. We’re just taking this one step farther and closing the loop.”

The first version of the sports betting product will launch on the main Yahoo Sports pages and app, rather than on the fantasy pages and app, Gowrappan said, with broader rollout across the site expected later. In states where betting is legal, users who turn to the app for scores or live feeds will see lines, odds and other betting content, with prompts to click through to BetMGM. Users in other states will be pushed to either free-to-play games or other fantasy-style content that MGM plans to develop, with prizes that will include resort and casino rewards. The deal comes only seven weeks after MGM launched a radically redesigned site and mobile app in New Jersey, where despite its position as a leading Nevada sportsbook it has languished far behind legacy daily fantasy brands FanDuel and DraftKings, which benefited from both higher awareness among sports fans and a built-in base of daily fantasy players who were itching to bet on sports.

Developed through a joint venture between MGM Resorts and global online betting operator GVC Holdings, the BetMGM app includes the bells and whistles of its competitors, including in-play wagering, a broad menu of prop bets, odds boosts and other promotions. While MGM has a large customer base through its casino rewards program, its demo generally is not the young male core that has been the early adopter of sports betting in the U.S. “Yahoo helps us fill in that gap in a significant way,” said Scott Butera, President of Interactive Gaming for MGM Resorts. “They’re committed to providing content that people will enjoy that will drive them to participate in the business that we’re aligned in. This really opens the door for us to reach many more people.”

Though neither would discuss specific terms, they confirmed that the deal will be termed an affiliate arrangement for the purposes of state regulators, meaning that Yahoo Sports will be paid for driving traffic to BetMGM. Those agreements typically pay affiliates based on whether users click through, sign up and fund a betting account, with operators forking over as much as $250 per player in the case of casinos. But MGM will not collect fees based on transactions in this case, a source said. That leaves a revenue share as the likely model, though neither would confirm it.

Gowrappan said the goal is an integrated experience that allows users to get from a Yahoo page to an actual bet with minimal clicking, driving not only visits but bets for MGM. “We don’t want a clunky, 200-steps-to-place-a-bet experience,” he said. “It’s a much deeper partnership than just sending a lead and then forgetting. That’s why we’re so focused on making it as frictionless as possible.”

MGM’s deal with Yahoo Sports follows a trend of sportsbooks tying to large media platforms to drive exposure. Fox Bet, a joint venture between Fox Sports and Stars Group, has gotten a big boost thanks to the promotion of its free-to-play contests during NFL Sundays and the World Series, as well as across FS1. Caesars Entertainment has a deal to provide odds and a Las Vegas studio site to ESPN. Management at Sinclair Broadcast Group, the new owner of the former Fox Sports RSNs, also has expressed a strong interest in sports betting.

MGM was attracted to Yahoo Sports because of both its user base and the rights and sponsorship deals that it maintains with all the major pro leagues, Butera said. Yahoo has deals with both the NBA and MLB, which have MGM as their official sports betting sponsor, and a content partnership with NBC Sports, the TV rightsholder for the NHL, also sponsored by MGM. An expansion of Verizon’s NFL agreement gave Yahoo streaming rights to that league beginning last season. “All of that coupled with the content they’ve created delivers a very robust experience that’s going to be the driver for the business,” Butera said. “And then what you’ll be able to do is transact through (BetMGM).”

MGM and Yahoo will work together on promotional and content opportunities, especially around major sporting events. That could range from a Yahoo-streamed studio show at an MGM sportsbook during Super Bowl week to an on-location setup during a Stanley Cup playoff series.