It is always a pleasure and honor to work with experienced leaders and without any doubt, this is also the case when interviewing Joanna Lambert, Head of Consumer at Verizon Media.
So, I hope that you enjoy our Q&A with Jo, which you can read below.
Gaming Americas (GA):
Yahoo has been a global household name on the internet. Not many companies of that stature have entered the gaming vertical. Could you share a quick briefing into Yahoo Sport’s entry into gaming?
That is correct. Today, sports betting serves as a key cornerstone of our holistic strategy at Yahoo Sports to serve as a single destination for sports fans. Years ago, we saw the growing rise of sports betting and pending adoption of online gambling in states across the country and leveraged it as an opportunity to diversify our revenue streams – combining the best-in-class features we already had as a trusted content provider with those of a gaming company.
With our strong roots as a media company and through our cutting edge BetMGM partnership, we’ve been able to successfully recast our approach, adopting a hybrid model that balances compelling content with sports betting opportunities to provide a one-stop-shop where fans of all levels can have it all, from AR (augmented reality) to “see” more of the game and get the inside information to ultimate fantasy control and the tools they need to wager on BetMGM.
It has been over three years since PSPA Act was repealed, opening the way for legalized sports betting in the US states. How do you rate the growth of the sports betting sector in the country both in terms of the increase in the customer base and in terms of the number of states that chose to legalize sports betting? What are the plans to start operating in other states where sports betting is legal?
In November 2019 we launched a ground-breaking multiyear strategic relationship making Yahoo Sports an official Digital Media Sports Partner of MGM Resorts. Via the BetMGM partnership, we offer sports betting opportunities on BetMGM covering the NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL, college sports, and more and have integrated them into the Yahoo Sports and Yahoo Fantasy apps and desktop experiences. Today we are live in nine states that have legalized sports betting, including New Jersey, Indiana, West Virginia, Colorado, Tennessee, Virginia, Michigan, Iowa, and Pennsylvania.
Since the ruling, the popularity of sports betting has been growing steadily for hardcore sports fans, fantasy sports enthusiasts, and even casual fans. In fact, the number of consumers taking advantage of opportunities to wager on BetMGM continues to grow for us as over 80% of our converted bettors have come from Sports and Fantasy Products.
Additionally, interest in betting has increased from 43% to 58% across our consumers while opposition to it has declined from 21 to 17% over the past 2 years.
Tell us more about Yahoo Sports’ partnership with BetMGM, which is also a pioneering partnership of sorts for an organization dealing with news and editorial content, and how that fits into your overall strategy?
We were one of the first digitally-native media companies to ink a deal of this type and to this day, remain one of the top betting affiliate partners of BetMGM. Up to that point, our success was due to our commitment to delivering great news and immersive editorial and a 20+ year track record of offering fantasy sports. Today, Yahoo Sports is combining the best-in-class features of a media company, content provider, and gaming company to provide a comprehensive 360 offering, surrounding users with research, insights, technology, immersive experiences, and a seamless connection to sports betting opportunities. As part of our strategy, we are working to create experiences within Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and sports betting that serve both our casual users as well as our most passionate fans including providing users with opportunities to wager on the BetMGM platform via Yahoo Sportsbook as well as paid and free DFS contests for those looking for different ways to get in on the action.
As you mentioned, Yahoo Sports has been offering fantasy sports platform over the last two decades. Is there any change in customer response to the platform after sports betting options became available? What has been the reaction of your long-time fantasy players to this closer linking of DFS with sports betting?
Our fantasy players love it. The data, tools, analysis, and content we are providing our users have resonated and those users in legal betting states are signing up and betting on BetMGM. And our fantasy integrations with player props have resonated as well, as we have consistently heard from our fantasy users regarding their interest in player props.
We also recently introduced single-game, DFS multi-entry contests for all major events with significant prize pools, beginning with the NBA Playoffs as well as continue to offer paid and free DFS contests for those looking for different ways to get in on the action.
If anything, our success with fantasy sports has grown since sports betting has been an option. In fact, 80+ percent of total Yahoo Sportsbook users registered with BetMGM are also active in the Yahoo Sports and Yahoo Fantasy Sports apps.
Today, we reach millions of fans per month and in 2020 those fans consumed over 80 million pieces of betting content across our properties – so we believe we are well-positioned to continue driving adoption as user interests evolve, especially with the increased momentum around sports betting.
Could you elaborate on the cutting edge of content that Yahoo Sports offers to end customers compared with that of the other affiliate or betting websites?
Jo Lambert: At Yahoo, we have the unique opportunity to tap into our ecosystem that serves nearly 900 million users monthly. We’ve been strategically embedding new customer promos in our betting content to help seed the BetMGM accounts of our core sports followers in anticipation of major sporting events. We amplify that marketing strategy with content to help inform potential new bettors of everything they need to know to start betting responsibly while helping our existing betting audience form their own strategy in anticipation of marquee events.
At Yahoo, we truly have the unique position as BetMGM’s partner to be able to program multiple endpoints to reach all fans — one of the fantastic opportunities presented by major sporting events ranging from the NBA Playoffs to the Super Bowl. To add on to our strategy for core sports fans, you’ll see betting content on our homepage, in Yahoo Mail, on Yahoo Finance and In the Know, and more.
Tell us more about Draft Together, a recent feature in the fantasy league platform.
Draft Together on Yahoo Fantasy Sports showcases our innovative spirit to deliver next-gen experiences that create connection and community. By leveraging Yahoo’s ecosystem, technology, and streaming capabilities, we have the unique ability to create the powerful and immersive entertainment experiences of the future today. Draft Together is a first-of-its-kind feature in the massively popular fantasy sports industry, enabling multiple fans to uniquely experience and interact with each other through video chat as they draft their fantasy baseball team on yahoo.com/fantasybaseball and create a personalized community of friends and family.
The experience is now available for live drafts and to private leagues with 12 teams or less. At launch, Draft Together will offer support for 12 rotating video frames to be displayed alongside the Yahoo Fantasy draft interface for the 2021 fantasy baseball season. For the first time, users can virtually smack talk, taunt their opponents, bond over all the action and more through video chat while drafting fantasy leagues in real time.
Draft Together continues to evolve the consumer experience of Yahoo’s first-to-market co-viewing product – Watch Together, that debuted in September 2020 and connects audiences to live news, sports and entertainment by providing them with the ability to video chat, interact and immerse themselves in top cultural events. The NFL was the first launch partner for Watch Together. Draft Together will be available to private baseball leagues at launch, with additional features and league support available in the coming months.
You have recently launched Yahoo Fantasy Plus. What’s new in it and how are the customers responding to it?
We’ve seen great responses 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. Users have expressed excitement over several upcoming features including the Trade Hub and Draft Assistant. While we’ve only launched with Baseball to date, we will be rolling out Fantasy Plus across all Fantasy Sports we support as new seasons kick-off. As far as early signs go, Fantasy Plus subscribers have displayed significantly increased engagement with the game they play over other fantasy players. Retention has also been a highlight as 90% of trialists have stayed on as subscribers.
What is your take on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on fantasy sports and sports betting in general?
People are social and want to connect, whether that is with their friends, families, or their favorite sports. With empty stadiums during the peak of the pandemic and the inability to gather together to watch the game or host a fantasy draft has, in my opinion, created a void… a void which fans previously filled with all the excitement and action of live, in-person sports shared with others, whether that was in a bar or at the stadium. Our unique range of offerings, including Draft Together, Watch Together and integrated sports betting enable fans to enjoy the social aspects and excitement of sporting events by delivering immersive experiences around the sports they love while also enabling them to enjoy connecting with others.