LSR Q+A: Gannett CEO On USA Today, ‘Best-Kept Secret’ In Sports Betting

Posted on March 12, 2021
Written By on March 12, 2021

With more than 250 local news sites and the USA Today Sports brand, Gannett has enormous built-in potential for a sports betting audience.

When Gannett and New Media Investment Group merged in November 2019, the company worked to figure out its next steps, including the search for a sports betting partner.

Aside from its national USA Today platform, the company also owns major newspapers in legal sports betting markets like Indiana, Michigan, and Tennessee.

LSR caught up with Gannett CEO and Chairman Michael Reed to see what the company expects out of a sports betting partnership, what the media company brings to the table and how playing in the space can create distance from competitors:

LSR: When did a sports betting operator partnership come into play?

Reed: Shortly after the closing, one of the first things we did was to establish a committee to evaluate our options and formulate a strategic plan as it relates to sports betting. 

We embarked on an exhaustive internal review of all of the assets we could bring to the table to help with an iGaming operator.  Once we felt like we fully understood what we could offer, we started preliminary discussions with operators to begin the process of finding a partner.

LSR: What would an ideal partnership look like from Gannett’s perspective? Is it just an advertisement deal, or would it incorporate betting elements? 

Reed: An ideal partnership for Gannett would allow us to deeply integrate with an iGaming partner. 

Ideally, we would like to align our goals with our partner’s goals to touch all aspects of Gannett’s business, including technology roadmaps, content strategy, promotions/affiliate teams and our events and hospitality teams. In order to really plan and get the most out of the relationship, this will require a longer-term deal, which is our focus.

We are looking for much more than an advertising partnership. We would like to explore co-branding with our sports properties, working together on content and fully engaging our promotions teams. 

Not many people realize, but Gannett has one of the largest events companies in the country. We have run over 450 events annually and believe these events can be an effective tool for an iGaming company to leverage.

LSR: Is there a projected revenue bump from this partnership? 

Reed: At this time, we are in active conversations with several interested parties; therefore we are not ready to disclose any financial expectations.

LSR: With an already robust promotions schedule and gaming platform, how do you think the Gannett readership will respond? 

Reed: We have over 500 sports journalists across the country, covering professional, college and high school sports.  We envision a relationship with a sports betting entity that will allow us to add resources to further strengthen our sports coverage and provide our readers with more coverage than ever before.

LSR: Right now, there’s a flood of partnership deals. What kind of value is Gannett bringing to whatever operator you end up partnering with?

Reed: We think we are the best-kept secret in the iGaming space.  We have an unparalleled ability to reach our readers at both a local and national level. We have a trusted, long-standing presence in many small and mid-sized communities that other players do not have direct access to. 

Whoever we partner with will be aligned with USA TODAY Sports, The Indy Star, The Detroit Free Press, The Tennessean and 250 other trusted media brands. A sports betting operator receives a tremendous amount of intangible value by being closely affiliated with these historic, trusted institutions.  

In addition to the value we deliver, we will work with our partner to bring new users – both in the existing regulated markets and those that are expected to be adding regulation. Each month, we reach 1 in 2 Americans and our websites reach an average of 150 million unique visitors per month. Activating our audience is in our DNA. We are eager to get aligned with a partner to offer our readers unique opportunities that translate to real value.

LSR: How important is sports betting to keep Gannett’s sports readership more engaged as media continues to evolve? 

Reed: Our sports readers are some of our most engaged audience, which is why we believe we have a big opportunity to partner on the sports betting front. We have significantly grown our Sports Media Group over the past few years and see a big opportunity to continue to invest and grow in this space, both in our core content areas as well as through further expansion of areas, like sports betting.

With our large network of dedicated sports journalists, we believe we offer access and the local perspective that many of our national counterparts cannot and we plan to capitalize on that.

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Pat Evans

Pat Evans is a Las Vegas-based reporter covering sports business. Evans previously worked at Front Office Sports and the Grand Rapids Business Journal. He has authored two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer.

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