Geoff Reiss, GM of Yahoo Sports, talks to SBC Americas about the company’s unique approach to the rapidly expanding US sports betting market and its ability to tap into an ecosystem that serves nearly 900 million users every month.
Let’s begin with Yahoo Sports’ entry into the sports wagering sector. What’s the backstory to how it became an active participant in the market?
We had always been innovating on the gaming front for years with Yahoo Fantasy. We were one of the first to market with our fantasy product. We knew we had the fans and engagement and recognizing the growing rise of sports betting and pending adoption of online gambling in states across the country years ago, we capitalized on the opportunity to diversify our revenue streams – integrating best-in-class features as a trusted content provider with those of a gaming company while also continuing to provide a holistic gaming experience to our fans.
We were one of the first media companies to engage in a cutting edge partnership with BetMGM. Since launch, we’ve been able to successfully recast our approach – balancing compelling content with sports betting opportunities to deliver a single destination where fans of all levels can enjoy our sports coverage and get the inside information and the tools they need to wager on BetMGM.
Yahoo Sports’ 360 gaming strategy sounds like an ‘all-encompassing’ proposition. Can you tell us more about the strategy and how it fits within the growing US sports betting segment?
Yahoo Sports provides a comprehensive 360 offering, immersing users via research, insights, technology, engaging experiences and an organic connection to sports betting opportunities. This includes sports betting content within Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and the Yahoo Sportsbook hub that satisfy our casual users as well as our most passionate fans including opportunities to wager on the BetMGM platform as well as paid and free DFS contests for those looking for different ways to get in on the action.
The data, tools, analysis and content have resonated and we’ve seen great growth in users in legal betting states that are signing up and betting on BetMGM. Our fantasy integrations with player props have resonated as well, as we have consistently received positive feedback from our fantasy users regarding their interest in player props.
We also recently launched single-game, DFS multi-entry contests for all major events with significant prizes and will continue to offer numerous contests including traditional DFS to Matchup Challenges, Best Ball and more.
You’ve stated that Yahoo Sports serves as one of BetMGM’s top betting affiliate partners. How has this partnership flourished so successfully – what makes it tick?
We were one of the first digitally native media companies to sign a deal of this type and remain one of the top betting affiliate partners of BetMGM. Since launching our relationship with BetMGM in November 2019 and becoming an official Digital Media Sports Partner of MGM Resorts, we’ve grown our partnership to cover nine states including New Jersey, Indiana, West Virginia, Colorado, Tennessee, Virginia, Michigan, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
Today, we offer connections to sports betting opportunities and create a seamless experience for our users to place wagers with the BetMGM platforms on all the major professional sports leagues, college sports and more and have integrated BetMGM odds into the Yahoo Sports and Yahoo Fantasy apps and desktop experiences. This approach continues to be successful with more than 80% of converted bettors coming from our Yahoo Sports and Yahoo Fantasy products.
The driving force is our unique opportunity to tap into our ecosystem that serves nearly 900 million users monthly and program multiple endpoints to reach all fans via
strategically embedding new customer promos in our betting content, providing information to help inform potential new bettors of everything they need to know to start betting responsibly and featuring betting content on our homepage, in Yahoo Mail, on Yahoo Finance and In the Know.
Much has been said and written about building the user journey being an integral component of a successful sports betting brand. What’s your take on that and what do you think bettors are looking for to take them on that journey?
The user journey is a critical aspect of our efforts and we’re focusing on personalization and leveraging the scale of our Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Fantasy, and broader Yahoo audiences to create the exact ‘right’ opportunity and value for users based on their preferences since users are looking for experiences that are created just for them.
Users are social and also seeking ways to connect so we’ve introduced technology such as our unique Draft Together offering. Draft Together enables multiple fans to uniquely experience and interact with each other through video chat as they draft their fantasy teams and create a personalized community of friends and family.
By integrating sports betting content and showcasing betting opportunities available at BetMGM, we are enabling fans to enjoy the social aspects and excitement of sporting events through immersive experiences around the sports they love while also enabling them to enjoy them more because they are connecting with others at the same time.
Can you tell us more about Yahoo Fantasy Plus? What has been the take-up among sports bettors so far?
We’ve seen great response so far to Yahoo Fantasy Plus, a new premium subscription product that offers tools to bring the fantasy experience to the next level and improve the user experience. Yahoo Fantasy Plus offers valuable features, including a Research Assistant, Start Optimal Players tool, Trade Insights and Advanced Stats. To date, Yahoo Fantasy Plus subscribers have shown significantly increased engagement with the game they play versus other fantasy players. Retention has also been a highlight as 90 percent of trialists have stayed on as subscribers.
And finally, what’s in the pipeline for Yahoo Sports in the coming weeks and months? Are there any developments and innovations that we should be looking out for?
We believe we are well-positioned to continue driving adoption as user interests evolve with the increased momentum around sports betting. This includes optimizing the mix of BetMGM bet types that we present to Yahoo users to drive calls to action. We’re evolving our DFS offerings and contests to help drive further adoption with casual players.
Yahoo Fantasy Plus will continue to roll out across all Fantasy Sports we support as new seasons kick off. We’ll also be introducing new features for Draft Together and league support in the coming months.
Geoff Reiss is the GM of Yahoo Sports. His career in media has spanned digital, print, television and live events and he’s helped shape some of the most innovative and successful media businesses in sports. He leads Yahoo Sports and works with Verizon, Verizon Media’s corporate parent developing the next generation of digital sports experiences for fans across all platforms in all territories.