Fox Bet made one of the year’s biggest sports betting splashes through its partnership with The Stars Group.
The deal not only rebrands BetStars to Fox Bet but also allows the media giant the option to take a significant stake in TSG down the line.
Fox Bet CEO Robin Chhabra brings deep experience with Sky Bet in the UK, as well as international sports betting overall. Legal Sports Report interviewed Chhabra about Fox Bet’s plans for the US market:
How do you feel being an established media company gives you a market advantage when entering the competitive legal sports betting space?
Our friends at the FOX Corporation offer a wide array of multi-platform assets in the sports space. The FOX Sports brand is the leader in live sports viewing and is capable of reaching more than 100 million viewers in a single weekend across their linear, digital and mobile programming.
While the FOX broadcast network is available nationwide in the United States, FS1 is one of the leading cable sports networks and is available in over 80 million U.S. households. The 24-hour cable sports network features more than 800 live sporting events annually.
This all leads to a brand awareness of FOX Sports of nearly 4 in every 5 people across the U.S. Of these sports fans, 27% of Americans would consider using a FOX Sports branded wagering platform, which is 50% higher than the largest daily fantasy sports operators and larger than any casino brand.
From the knowledge of the UK market, we know that there is a strong correlation between brand consideration and market share so having a trusted, authentic, and credible brand puts us top of mind for anybody looking to bet on sports if and when it becomes available in their state.
The eyes will be on FOX Sports, so it then becomes about relevant, organic and fun integration between programming, digital media, our free-to-play offering as well as real money products all with the aim of increasing engagement and enjoyment.
It appears Fox is weaving sports betting into its programming, whereas ESPN appears to be breaking sports betting into separate programming. How would you describe the strategy in that regard?
We have so many plans and ideas for programming, so there’s likely still a lot to discover together. The FOX Sports brand is already (ingrained) as part of the U.S. sporting culture and FOX Sports wants us to be a key part of the great content they already create.
Our plan is to do that in a very organic and tasteful way – one that is responsible and takes great care to respect the interests of sports betting fans and non-fans alike. Our relationship runs deep; while you’ll see our branding in places, we will be very involved in the storytelling.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a bettor or just a sports fan, we want to give viewers all the information they need to get the most out of the games they love, and enhance their betting activity, if they choose to do so.
The integration should feel natural and authentic and add to the overall viewing experience. In return, we’ll receive some great content for FOX Bet, as well as engaging activations and promotions online leveraging our FOX Sports talent, with their characteristic expertise and unique attitude.
What we can offer the talent is information that they already have a huge appetite for and an additional platform to further engage with sports fans. They’ve shown such enthusiasm for this so far; it just feels natural for them and for their daily content. They are already living and breathing this stuff!
There may be some betting-only content but for now our overall strategy is to offer an additional engagement piece to the outstanding FOX Sports programming already in existence.
Do you want there to be a line between Fox Sports and Fox Bet in terms of editorial? Who is the core Fox Bet customer?
I think my previous answer speaks to this. We don’t see our content as being purely aimed at those who bet or are inclined to bet.
Our plan is to enhance the overall viewing experience and add to how just about any fan can engage with the sports they love. Our core FOX Bet customer is someone who just loves sports and wants to get even more skin in the game by placing a few bucks on their favourite team.
While we would obviously like anyone who is inclined to regularly place bets to think of us first before other operators, our target audience are sports fans who want to have some fun, and play along with us by putting a few dollars on an outcome.
Are you concerned about backlash toward your personalities if their picks don’t do well? Or is this just another means of engagement?
Our FOX Sports talent are people who put their thoughts and opinions on the line every day. They can’t sit on the fence so they are very used to coming up against opposing thinking and mixed reactions.
Of course, when you add betting into the mix, you’ll likely get some interesting responses but we’ll be very clear in making sure fans know their opinions are just that – they are not ‘sure things’.
We’ll be creating a lot of fun with these guys and pitting them against each other, while giving fans the chance to go up against them too. It’s another means of engagement for sure.
Do you have any sense of how FOX Bet will be worked into pregame shows, actual game broadcasts? How about integration or advertising on local FOX affiliates?
Every day we will work together on what content and information would add value to the programming of that day. FOX Sports team will discuss their own selections for these events, and give customers ideas and help to develop their betting strategies.
You’ll see some branding around the place, and now and then odds will be presented, as well as some advertising during commercial breaks.
The key thing here though is having the support and interest of the talent, which you’ll already see starting to come through. We’re going to have a firm presence locally and that will include leveraging FOX affiliates on both TV and radio.
In PA you are on a relatively level playing field with other operators. How compelling do you think your offer will be in NJ against some brands that are better established? What’s the path to gaining market share?
By being sports and entertainment first, betting second, we truly believe we can win hearts and minds of sports fans.
We’re deeply committed to making the most of our relationship and combined expertise by going far beyond simple branding, and focusing on enhancing the current experience. That’s something no one is doing in New Jersey, and beyond, right now.
With FOX Sports, we can do that in extended ways and amplify it on a whole other level. We want to bring fans closer to the action and believe our expertise, vision and superior offering will become top of mind for anyone seeking an enhanced, and more thrilling experience.
You have deep experience in the international market. What lessons do you think can be learned in the US market from the development of sports betting in the UK and beyond internationally?
There are some core principles that apply across all markets. A sports first, betting second approach, fast and intuitive apps, compelling and easy-to-understand offers on the markets that matter and innovative products.
However, we need to set each of these principles in a FOX Sports context and an American context. Localization is key.
You spoke in a previous interview about the “attempt to roll out an identical mannequin to Sky Wager within the US.” Can you expound upon what that means and how you might accomplish that with Fox Bet?
As noted above, we adopt the same principles that has made Sky Bet successful but adapt the formula for an American market.
In order to establish the foundations, we have transferred a number of talented staff from Sky Bet in the UK to the US, and we also have Ted Moss, the former Managing Director of Sky Bet, as a hands-on advisor. So, the team has that winning DNA at its core.
In order to reflect the unique FOX Sports sensibility in the way we interact with our customers, we have a team based at FOX Studios, and FOX Bet has also benefited from some amazing transfers from FOX Sports.
However, to succeed, our products and services need to be authentically American. So the majority of the team are passionate American sports fans and they will operate within our proven media-betting relationship framework.
The move to Fox Bet looks largely like a rebrand of BetStars, at least from a user perspective. Were there any other changes under the hood? When might we expect the next iteration of the sportsbook?
This relationship goes well beyond a new look and feel. While we plan on embedding and reflecting the exuberance of FOX Sports in our brand personality and content, behind that our customers can access a wealth of information, expert insight and news to best compliment their betting strategies.
We will also have the daily promotions and offers in line with the sporting schedule of the day and FOX Sports talent’s picks and tips.
On top of this we’ve launched our free-to-play product, FOX Sports Super 6, which is an entertaining and engaging way for customers unfamiliar with betting to get accustomed to making predictions for the chance of winning cash prizes. So, it’s an all-round, immersive experience.