Sports media conglomerate ESPN announced separate agreements Monday with casino giant Caesars Entertainment and sports betting operator DraftKings to expand the network’s reach in both the retail and mobile sports gambling universe.
The network and Caesars agreed on a multi-year deal to link ESPN’s digital platforms with Caesars sportsbooks that are operated by William Hill U.S. Caesars Sportsbooks by William Hill will become the exclusive odds provider and co-exclusive sportsbook link-out provider to ESPN.
The agreement comes a week after ESPN launched its Las Vegas studio at the Caesars-operated Linq resort on the Strip where the network is broadcasting its sports wagering-centric programming.
In the second agreement, DraftKings will become the exclusive daily fantasy sports provider and co-exclusive sportsbook link-out provider to ESPN. Links across ESPN’s digital platforms will connect fans to DraftKings’ products and services.
ESPN Vice President Mike Morrison said the accords bring together the network and “two of the top brands and best products” in the growing sports betting segment.
“Our new agreements with Caesars and DraftKings collectively represent the next significant milestone for ESPN to diversify our exposure and deepen our commitment in the sports betting space,” Morrison said. “With Caesars utilizing odds from William Hill’s sports betting data, we are able to deliver content in new and innovative ways.”
Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Carlo Santarelli, in a note to investors Monday, said the Caesars/William Hill deal with ESPN, connects the casino operator with roughly 95.5 million users of ESPN’s digital channels.
Santarelli, who has been critical of Penn National Gaming sports betting deal with sports media platform Barstool Sports, said ESPN’s following is some 45% larger than Barstool. He said the importance of aligning with media partner “was of critical importance to Caesars, given the importance of monetizing the value of the Caesars brand, its large Total Rewards database, and its other sports-related assets.”
Santarelli noted that institutional investors “will take solace in the fact that not only has Caesars aligned itself with a large-scale sports media partner, it has also partnered with an entity that is unlikely to create liability, regulatory scrutiny, or reputational harm.”
ESPN Senior Vice President Mark Walker said legalized sports betting, which is now available in casinos, racetracks, and on mobile platforms in 18 states and Washington D.C., “is quickly becoming endemic to the overall experience of the sports fan.”
The agreement with DraftKings, he said, “means greater opportunities to innovate and deliver the best and most seamless experience for fans, which will ultimately expand ESPN’s brand and audience and increase engagement.”
ESPN’s deal marked the latest partnerships between sports betting and gaming operators with sports media companies.
Sports betting analyst and consultant Todd Fuhrman noted on Twitter that Fox Sports has a deal with the Flutter Group (which includes Fanduel, Foxbet, Betfair, Stars), CBS is a partner with William Hill, and NBC has a partnership with Pointsbet. He suggested the biggest sports betting operator without a traditional media partner is BetMGM.
Since becoming Caesars Entertainment’s exclusive sports betting partner a month ago, William Hill has opened 12 branded sportsbooks at Caesars’ properties in Nevada, Iowa, and most recently, New Jersey.
Pending regulatory approval, the remaining sportsbooks across the Caesars portfolio will be rebranded. The mobile sports betting app, Caesars Sports Book by William Hill, will soon be available in Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Nevada pending regulatory approvals.
Once completed, William Hill will operate in more than 170 retail locations across 13 states.
Ulrik Bengtsson, Group CEO of William Hill, called ESPN one of the pre-eminent brands in sports.
“Tens of millions of fans will now have a direct link to our sports betting apps and odds,” he said. “Giving ESPN users this access will accelerate our leadership, as we continue to expand in the U.S.”
William Hill became the exclusive sports betting operator for Caesars following the $17.3 billion merger with Eldorado Resorts.
Caesars CEO Tom Reeg said William Hill added “immediate value” to Caesars properties nationally and the agreement with ESPN completed “what is sure to be a momentous partnership in gaming and sports wagering.”
DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said in a statement that ESPN helped revolutionize the 24/7 sports news cycle.
“ESPN’s reach amongst sports fans is unparalleled, and the start of NFL is the perfect time for DraftKings to be launching this integration,” Robins said.
Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.
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