As sports betting continues its journey to legalization in states across the country, sports media companies are looking to develop their niche in the space.
For the most part, many of those brands have felt the best bet is to stick close to the core values that built audiences before the striking down of PASPA in 2018.
That’s specifically Bleacher Report is betting on with its content strategy for B/R Betting.
While Bleacher Report has dabbled in betting content through its partnership with Caesars, which it signed in February, the company is beginning to ramp that up further with the launch of the B/R Betting Game Show on December 12 following Thursday Night Football at the B/R Studio at the Caesars Palace Sportsbook.
“As we entered this deal [with Caesars], our lane in the space is differentiation,” said Joe Yanarella, Bleacher Report senior vice president and general manager of sports betting. “That’s always been the way with Bleacher Report, to be different than the core sports media landscape. We’re much more focused on figuring out how to capture the joy of sports through humor, fun, engagement, and connectivity.”
Yanarella said Bleacher Report’s approach to betting is to make sure the content hits the young demographic already engaged with the company through other channels. With that in mind, the strategy is to provide less news and information and focus more on introducing casual sports fans to betting, as opposed to talking to hardcore bettors.
While the core Bleacher Report audience isn’t necessarily avid, experienced bettors, Bleacher Report Chief Content Officer Sam Toles said 80% of the company’s app users are active bettors or interested in the subject matter. Bettors are five times more engaged with the brand’s app.
As B/R Betting has gotten off the ground and the Bleacher Report content team has increased its focus on the platform, it’s seen significant growth. According to Bleacher Report, B/R Betting video views grew four times from September to November, with 8.4 million video views on Instagram alone. Since September 1, its Instagram followers increased by more than 50% and now sits at more than 180,000.
“Betting can be intimidating,” Yanarella said. “The way the legislation is working, it’s a trajectory play. We’ll lay the breadcrumbs so they come with us. Make them not feel dumb, make them feel connected. The game show is an extension.”
The B/R Betting Game Show, hosted by a rotating selection of hosts like former NFL receiver Chad Johnson, will look to further build out that audience. The show has been tested live the past several weeks at Caesars, but will officially launch this week. The show “utilizes a little bit of Price is Right with mini-games,” said Yanarella.
Bleacher Report will also film segments with athletes and have fans guess how well those players know their own career or if athletes can perform a task, like if Johnson can make a 60-yard field goal.
The games will be recorded in front of the live sportsbook patrons over an hour or two every Thursday.
Initially, the show won’t air in its entirety, but Bleacher Report will take the “best, social-friendly segments,” according to Yanarella, and run them across its social channels.
At the heart of much of the content is the studio’s presence within Caesars Palace. For Caesars, much of the value lies in being at the center of all of Bleacher Report’s betting content whether it’s lines presented in the B/R app by Caesars or the constant presence in the betting videos, Toles said.
Caesars is benefitting from Bleacher Report’s content and reach, said Kate Whiteley, Caesars vice president of talent and production. She said the studio provides a differentiator for the sportsbook as sports betting continues to gain more mainstream traction.
“It’s just a great opportunity,” Whiteley said. “We’re bullish on Bleacher and the way they communicate with the younger consumer. They do everything right to make it interesting for the my-younger-brothers of the world.”
“We’re excited about that and the ability to leverage the things they do well innately to drive attention to the things we do well,” she said.
Along with the general association with the media brand, Whiteley said it’s also part of a larger play that Caesars has made in becoming more organically involved with content. Caesars also has a soundstage connected to Bally’s, which has hosted shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and Whiteley said there’s more non-sports related content coming down the pipeline.
But in terms of sports content, Whiteley is excited about the potential the B/R studio has to be active as much as possible.
“For us to create something that lives and grows out of here organically, that’s what we’re hoping for,” she said. “Hopefully this is another step of us solidifying our legacy.”
There is the potential of bumping the B/R Betting Game Show as a full-format show to a linear channel owned by Turner, Bleacher Report’s parent company.
“When we were trying to crack the creativity code, we wanted to fit something that fits within our distribution network and that necessitated shorter form, quick-hit content,” Toles said.”Right now, they’re individual games and pods, but you can imagine those connected together in a traditional half-hour show. That’s something we’re interested to explore.”
As for the stage within the Caesars Sportsbook, it’s activated in a variety of manners including a weekly fantasy football show on Sunday mornings and a weekly NFL betting show, as well as having Johnson out to play video games against competitors.
Yanarella said the channels will also lean into Vegas and host shows around events in the city.
“We have this amazing space, we want to bring it to life as much as possible,” Toles said. “We want to capture the excitement and enthusiasm of Las Vegas.”