This is a developing story and will be updated.
Many who follow the sports media and sports betting industries expected that Yahoo would get involved sooner or later.
It turns out to be sooner.
The media and internet giant Yahoo announced a deal with MGM Resorts and its BetMGM sportsbook app early Tuesday morning.
According to a Yahoo report on the partnership, MGM’s sportsbook would “power sports betting for Yahoo Sports and create collaborative content experiences and live events.”
The integration of BetMGM in the Yahoo Sports app for iOS and Android will take place next month, according to the announcement, which terms the deal as “exclusive.”
“The historic partnership with Yahoo Sports and BetMGM will change the future of fandom, providing new ways for sports fans to go beyond engaging with content and interact through commerce,” Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said. According to Yahoo, Verizon is the parent company of Yahoo. “At Verizon Media, we believe in building products that connect consumers to their passions and drive the deepest end-to-end value possible.”
The news comes just ahead of MGM’s announcement of third-quarter earnings on Wednesday.
Terms, length and conditions of the deal were not given.
So, how does the Yahoo and BetMGM partnership work?
Details were fairly scarce in the Yahoo announcement about exactly how this all goes down.
But it appears that Yahoo Sports does not become a consumer-facing sportsbook in the deal. Instead, it will send traffic to BetMGM and get compensated for that traffic, according to a report out Tuesday morning from Sports Business Journal.
Right now, there are limited places to send that traffic for real-money sports betting for MGM. BetMGM is only live in Nevada and New Jersey, and in the former, users must sign up in person. BetMGM does have designs on being live in West Virginia and Indiana, among other states.
Yahoo launched a daily fantasy sports platform back in 2015, a step that seemed to show its appetite for perhaps being an operator in the sports betting space. But this deal seems to mean that while Yahoo will be intimately involved with the expansion of US sports betting, it will not be running its own “Yahoo Sportsbook” directly.
What’s the value of Yahoo to MGM?
Well, there’s a lot of value from a lot of angles for MGM as it attempts to gain a larger foothold in the sports betting landscape.
MGM has repeatedly told investors how sports — and betting on sports — is a major part of its growth plan moving forward.
In the early days of NJ sports betting in the first year-plus since launching, MGM has also ran in the market behind the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings. Finding a way to carve out its market share or perhaps rise to No. 1 organically, without a deal of this magnitude, seemed a difficult path, at best.
With this deal, MGM provides a tangible means to growth:
- Yahoo Sports has tens of millions of monthly active users that can be funneled to BetMGM, either for real-money sports betting or for activation later via email capture and/or free-to-play activations.
- Yahoo is one of the biggest seasonlong fantasy sports platforms around, and those users are likely more primed to bet on sports than the average user in the MGM database. If nothing else, FanDuel and DraftKings have proven the value of (daily) fantasy players to a sportsbook operator; FanDuel is the top sportsbook by amounts wagered in Pennsylvania and NJ.
- BetMGM gets a persistent way to be branded alongside sports content that it did not have previously.
In any event, it seems like a win for MGM, short of knowing how the deal is structured. It gets exclusive access to Yahoo Sports users and locks out other potential sportsbooks from advertising to them.
What’s the value of MGM to Yahoo?
Again, there’s a lot to like if you’re Yahoo:
- Yahoo gets to be involved in sports betting without the heavy lifting of being an operator, which requires a much bigger outlay of cash, and a lot of licensing at the state level.
- The company is already doing sports betting content, and now has a way to monetize that content, which will, of course, lead to even more betting content.
- Yahoo becomes a fulcrum for MGM and the pro leagues it has partnerships with (see below). We might see Yahoo leverage that position in any number of ways, including potential streaming deals.
Still, a pure-play sportsbook seemed like it could have been in the cards for Yahoo if it wanted to leverage its fantasy database to its own ends. However, the company may have decided the MGM deal was the easiest and most cost-effective way of making money from sports betting, while simultaneously helping user numbers and engagement.
What’s the value of a Yahoo Sports or fantasy user to MGM?
That’s the $64,000 question.
Clearly, someone who engages with sports content at Yahoo is an attractive target, as is a fantasy sports user. And we know that DraftKings and FanDuel have effectively leveraged their daily fantasy sports user bases to great results in the early rollout of legal sports betting.
Here is a bit of the missing part of the equation, knowing the above: Yahoo has not effectively leveraged those users into any meaningful revenue or traffic to its in-house DFS offering.
Of course, sports betting is a more compelling offer than DFS, but it still has to be a bit worrisome that Yahoo could not really do much with its traffic. Converting that traffic to a sportsbook app rather than a DFS product should be an easier lift, however.
In any event, MGM is getting easy access to users that it would have to spend a lot more to acquire without this deal.
MGM loves its sports betting partnerships
MGM has signed sports betting deals like they are going out of style. The casino and hospitality giant already has deals with three of the major pro sports leagues in the US: Major League Baseball, NBA and NHL.
More on those deals here, here and here. The NBA deal came soon after the federal prohibition on sports betting fell in 2018.
The commissioners for the latter two leagues espoused the partnership as good for the sports betting industry in the Yahoo report.
MGM has also partnered with online gambling company GVC on a joint venture to power its sports betting aspirations. The initial fruits of that JV were seen in the new and improved sports betting app that rolled out in New Jersey this fall.
Where’s this leave the sports media landscape?
Yahoo was perhaps the biggest domino that could have fallen quickly of the existing sports betting media players.
The biggest play to date has been from Fox Sports and its partnership with The Stars Group to create Fox Bet. (That venture will get rolled into an online gambling giant, as Flutter and Stars are in the midst of a tie-in.)
TheScore, a sports app and content company, has launched its online sportsbook in New Jersey.
But those are the only media companies that are doing sportsbooks. Here is a look at some other media entities:
- ESPN does have a deal to work with Caesars Sportsbook that isn’t anywhere near as expansive as the Yahoo-MGM partnership.
- CBS Sports seems to be content, for now, to churn out digital content at is core site and via Sportsline.
- NBC Sports has a free-to-play sports prediction app, but not much else in the sports betting space.
- Bleacher Report and Turner Sports also have a deal to work with Caesars; again, it doesn’t seem to be to the level of this deal.
- Barstool Sports creates gambling content and also works as an advertiser and promoter of legal sportsbooks.
Penn National Gaming, which owns casinos around the country, has also hinted that it was working on a sports media deal.
What’s the ceiling for BetMGM now?
Clearly, it is higher than it was yesterday.
The path to meaningful sportsbook market share looked fraught with peril — and a lot of spending — for MGM without the Yahoo deal. Now, it should be able to acquire a steady stream of users at a controllable cost.
Just on its own, MGM could have risen to the upper echelon of sportsbook operators in the US. Certainly, the No. 1 spot is at least feasible given a long enough horizon.
Still, we’ll need to see how well Yahoo and MGM leverage the combined assets. For all of Fox Bet’s brand awareness and promotion, it did not instantly rise to relevance in New Jersey in its initial revenue figures after launch.
So, before we declare MGM a genuine contender for the Nos. 1 and 2 spots held by FanDuel and DraftKings, we’ll want to see some positive results emanating from the deal.