Not too long from now, imagine this: you’re watching an immersive multi-player sports video game online, wagering on who will win the contest. During the game action, you’re served a short commercial for a reality series that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of the top players of that video game. The series is available on your mobile device or smart TV on the new (FREE) “Bally’s Box” streaming service. Part of the fun is a chance to win a vacation with the stars of the show in Las Vegas.
Or this: you watch a movie that tells the backstory of characters from an action video game produced by BetMGM. The game, which is one of the most popular on-app services like Google Play, has spawned several spinoffs and a film franchise around the main hero. Your children play it, your wife bets on the game action, and you follow the key actors’ accounts on Instagram, where they offer you a chance to buy items that were used in the shooting of the movies.
Sound unrealistic? Not at all, seeing as casinos and gaming companies are going “Hollywood” by opening their own creative divisions and content production companies.
How important is content? Consider the recent news that Amazon will purchase MGM Studios for more than $8 billion. While that doesn’t mean Amazon is getting BetMGM assets, it does indicate the importance of exclusive content to giant corporations.
Content And Gaming Companies Are Converging
We should expect to see casinos entering the content arena as they make efforts to control their brands and extend the reach of their gaming offerings.
Earlier this year, Penn National Gaming Inc. announced the creation of Penn Game Studios, which will develop ecasino and “eracing” content for their customers. Penn National operates more than 35 racetracks and gaming venues in the United States. Penn Game Studios will not just create hosted studio content (racing previews and so on), but rather they will also seek to produce original games and experiences that they can offer to customers on-site or through mobile apps.
Video Games As Entertainment
The future is already here when it comes to video games as sports. All across the globe, players and fans of video games are spending countless hours on the entertainment.
Actually, the hours aren’t countless, thanks to the Almighty Algorithms.
According to Google, in 2020, users watched 100 billion hours of video game playing content on the YouTube platform. As of December 2020, there were 40 million active gaming channels on YouTube.
Top 5 Live Games Watched On YouTube In 2020
- Garena Free Fire
- Grand Theft Auto V
- PUBG Mobile
If you aren’t watching other people play video games on your phone, computer, or TV, someone you love is. And you almost certainly know someone who is playing these games. Increasingly, high-action video games and “esports” video games are becoming attractive to fans and gamblers.
In 2019, FanDuel became the first U.S. sportsbook to start taking bets on esports. The first esports event that FanDuel accepted bets for was the League of Legends World Championship. The sportsbook now offers dozens of betting opportunities on esports.
Reaching The Elusive Audience
How can gaming companies become legitimate players in the content market? By reaching an audience that is somewhat hard to get to. The largest demographic for gaming and gambling content trends younger, a group that shuns cable TV as they “cut the cord.” They also like to use ad blockers and are not as swayed by traditional advertising.
Gaming companies can get to that elusive audience by making their content free (to a corporate gaming company a $40 million movie or streaming series is marketing money) and pushing it out on social or YouTube or through their own streaming service. They can make it immersive and entertainment driven, as opposed to transactional, like the popcorn movies of Hollywood.
Sports + Betting + Responsibility = New Business Model
There was a time when sports and betting went together like forks and power outlets. The powers-that-be in sports did everything they could to keep gambling away from their products, lest they repeat a terrible scandal like the one that got Shoeless Joe Jackson in hot water.
But today you can flip on an official sports pregame show and see the game odds scrolling across the bottom of your screen. In-studio hosts will tell you the futures bets. If you go to an NFL, NBA, NHL, or MLB game, you are likely to see an opportunity to bet on it right there, or at least at a kiosk or retail location adjacent or near the venue. You can even bet live on in-game action as you watch. Pro sports are so excited about the revenue they can earn from sports gambling that they are muscling gaming companies to ensure that the leagues get their cut.
But how do leagues retain credibility and offer the betting information that fans want? As Christopher Gerlacher reported here in May, it’s not easy walking the fine line of sports reporting and betting. There has to be a clear line, or does there?
Leagues that have official sports betting partners (even the LPGA has a deal) are tiptoeing to make sure they don’t cross the line between competition and gambling. To their credit, they are also making it clear that the best betting is responsible betting. No league wants their fans to be ruined by their enjoyment of their sport.
Gambling companies and casinos are already knee-deep in creating content for game broadcasts. As we reported earlier this year, Bally’s now owns the exclusive rights to broadcast games in many regional markets in the United States, under their own Bally Sports Network brand.
Original Content From Gaming Companies
The exciting new frontier will be original long-form content that germinates and is launched from gaming companies and casinos and their studios. Currently many casinos and gaming companies are producing their own studio shows with betting experts and news from their properties. But as online gaming is legalized more broadly across the US and millions more potential customers present themselves, casinos and gaming operators will scramble to make more content.
One thing we’ve learned is that casinos are masters at marketing and creating an experience that attracts and retains customers. Casinos know how to build loyalty by appealing to the basic instincts and emotions of their customers.
Does that sound familiar? That’s how Hollywood works too. Yes, gaming companies will produce and distribute movies and streaming “TV” series. They will offer that content in new ways via social media and aimed at mobile customers, especially those who are in their casinos or nearby.
How long before we see an executive from FanDuel, Wynn Resorts, or Bally’s accepting an Oscar or an Emmy for some new programming? I would bet it won’t be long.