Skip to contents

Legalized Sports Betting, Sports Media Companies, and Podcasting

This is sorta old news by now, but it’s worth some ink: last Monday, Cadence13 announced a partnership with a digital media company called The Action Network to launch a sports gambling podcast network. Its first show, called The Favorites, will kick off a three-times-a-week schedule starting September 5.

Some of you might know this already — bless you, if you do — but we’re in a really interesting time for sports betting in America. In May, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prohibited sports gambling, allowing states to individually move ahead on legalizing sports betting within their respective borders. (Here’s a handy package from ESPN tracking the progress of relevant bills across all fifty states.)

As some have already pointed out, the legalization of sports betting in the country presents a distinctly huge opportunity for sports media companies. Recode’s Peter Kafka had a great article in May illustrating how it doesn’t take much to think through the measure at which media companies can capitalize on the sharp increase in demand for sports gambling services unleashed by the Supreme Court decision. “In-game betting — where you wager on the game while it’s being played — dominates the legal market for soccer gambling in the U.K.,” he wrote. “So it’s easy to imagine a mobile prompt from Turner’s Bleacher Report that doesn’t just tell you that the Celtics-Sixers game has gotten interesting in the fourth quarter, but asks if you want to place a bet.”

But you don’t even have to interpret the opportunity so literally, or directly. To begin with, media operators can now build out whole new companies, or develop robust new sections within existing publications, that explicitly targets the behaviors of hyper-engaged, deeply-invested sports bettors. That’s presumably the story behind The Action Network, a subscription-based sports analysis and media company that the betting and fantasy sports crowd. It was formed last October by the Chernin Group — a big media operator that has invested in startups like Anchor, Headspace, and The Athletic, and owns the majority of Barstool Sports — in apparent anticipation of the possibility of the Supreme Court’s decision.

You can also view the legalization of sports betting as recontextualizing the weight and stakes that accompanies articles, videos, or podcast segments analyzing games, teams, trades, or transactions. Where a breaking tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski or an analysis post from Zach Lowe once only had immediate and material value to basketball operators (and only wonkish/emotional value for most fans), the scope of material value now theoretically widens to include larger chunks of normal people as well. I say “wider scope” largely as an acknowledgment that sports betting has, you know, always been around and active. It’s just that the scale of participating everyday people — including inexperienced bettors — has now dramatically increased. Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton has a great post, also from May, outlining the underlying theory on this: “An awful lot of sports reporting is about to move from entertainment information — stuff you read because you enjoy it — to production information — stuff you read because you think it’ll help you make money.”

Which is all to say: the stakes of sports media is about to get even higher as a whole, and as such, the value of sports media companies are likely going to shift, or at least be reframed somewhat, as a result.

The podcast universe is a pretty wonk- and insider-friendly place. It’s a programming class that really privileges audiences who like to go super deep into something: think Dan Carlin, Dissect, all those politics podcasts. It isn’t hard to imagine that the medium’s natural fit with the wonk-insider overlaps will create fertile conditions for sports betting media plays. Then again… I thought I’d see greater volumes of prominent finance podcasts by now.

Anyway, this Thursday marks the beginning of the NFL season, the first in an America with legalized sports betting.

On a related note: With this partnership, Cadence13 wrapped up a fairly busy August. In the course of that month, the New York-based podcast company announced partnerships with The Action Network, Blumhouse TV, and Kobe Bryant’s Granity Studios.