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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Rovell’s Move to The Action Network Over 20 Years in the Making

Rovell - Darren - Action Network - ESPN

You may love him, you may hate him, but there is no denying what Darren Rovell has been able to do for the sports business industry.

Not one to let trends or hot topics pass him by, Rovell’s move to The Action Network is part living out a passion and part wanting to get in on the action (no pun intended) as to what he believes is an area of the industry that will cause the most positive disruption for the foreseeable future.

“Living in New Jersey, you can’t ignore the impact of the sports betting industry. On the NJ Transit trains alone, I’ve seen three to four different book operators advertising. I’ve even had a chance to download up to eight apps on my phone which has given me a good peak into what this thing will look like at maturity.”

This isn’t the first time in which Rovell will turn his focus to sports betting content. While a sophomore at Northwestern in 1997, he saw piles of the Northwestern Chronicle, the weekly school newspaper, all over campus.

Sensing an opportunity to do something differently, he took over the sports section of the paper and turned it into a section devoted entirely to sports betting.

“No one read it (the Northwestern Chronicle) and my strategy was to change the sports section into only sports betting. Instead of other commentary, I put together a two-page spread of my picks of the week. While I was thinking more of a sports business at the time, I was very well aware of how popular sports gambling was and how it had the ability to draw people in.”

A look at his picks of the week section from his time at Northwestern. (Photo via Darren Rovell)

Like most people, leaving a good job at a company that likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon can be tough.

For Rovell, making the move from ESPN was aided by the fact that the company’s leadership was willing to let him out of his deal, along with the fact that Chad Millman, his former boss at ESPN, had already made the move to the sports betting startup.

“Chad took the risk of going over before the repeal of PASPA and I know I wouldn’t have made the move if PASPA hadn’t been struck down by the Supreme Court. The executives who are there currently gave me faith in the product, plus with the Chernin Group being majority owners in the business and being known for best practices in the space, it was easier to believe in the company, which is key for anyone moving to a startup.”

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Finding himself in an executive position for the first time, and having an equity stake in the company, Rovell will have a larger impact on the overall direction of the content being created.

The end goal? Become the number one editorial company in the business of sports betting and a very large company within the next two – five years.

Although a change of company, there won’t be much of a change from Rovell, who will still cover the sports business industry and put out content that gets people talking.

Some of that content will come from a collaboration with Big Cat, something that Rovell said will happen “sooner rather than later.”

“It will be relatively early. I will finally go on Pardon My Take.”

Going on Pardon My Take will likely be just the beginning, as Rovell pointed to the two potentially competing in a decathlon with all of the benefits going to a charity. 

“I think we will do some sort of decathlon. I think we could do a lot of PPV buys and incorporate some sort of live betting and live odds component to it. It would be insane, but I think we could even fill an entire normal track stadium with people to watch.”

Whatever your take may be on Rovell, he built a niche for himself, owned that niche, and is now benefiting from that, something not many people can do.

(*Edited: In a previous version, the it was said that the PPV event was on. The parties have confirmed with us that the event is still an idea and there is nothing set in stone from the PPV side of things.)

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