CBS Sports is unrolling new gambling features for the upcoming NFL season, the first major product developments in its long-term partnership with sports book William Hill.
The changes include a free-to-play parlay game with William Hill odds and a calculator for gamblers to experiment with wagers that can be exported directly to William Hill’s app. Most importantly, people who play CBS Sports’s popular fantasy games will see odds integrated into their dashboards, with options tailored to the athletes on their teams.
The deal is one of a handful of recent partnerships between the country’s largest sports media companies and its biggest gambling operators. Each one is unique, based on the reach and risk profiles of the companies involved. Executives from both CBS Sports and William Hill say their deal will focus heavily on integrating their products, particularly in fantasy given the overlap between that and gambling.
“Fantasy players already have a stake in the outcome of games. They’re attune to doing research. They know the players and teams extremely well, and they tend to follow the games more closely,” said Ken Fuchs, president of digital at William Hill US. “It’s a very similar behavior pattern for sports bettors.”
Both sides declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, which was announced in February. The agreement is primarily cash for licensing and advertising, with some performance incentives, according to a source familiar with the structure. CBS is taking no equity, nor will it receive affiliate fees for customers referred directly to William Hill, the person said.
That makes this partnership different from some of the other recent media-operator deals. Fox Sports, for example, took a small equity stake in the Stars Group, and they co-launched Fox Bet. Last month, NBC Sports took a small equity stake in PointsBet and said it would be taking affiliate fees as part of the agreement.
“The deal is set up so that both William Hill and CBS are going to learn, and as we evolve, we can change and shift directions within a reasonable horizon,” said Jeffrey Gerttula, executive vice president of CBS Sports Digital. “This isn’t a short-term deal. We look at this as a long game.”
As with all of these deals, CBS and William Hill will be focused on funneling people from the media sites to the British bookmaker. William Hill will be the exclusive sports betting partner of CBS Sports’s digital assets, which includes its fantasy products, CBSSports.com and CBS Sports HQ, its streaming network. The whole digital family reaches around 60 million people per month and up to 80 million during football season.
Beyond standard advertising, the two sides are working to weave William Hill into new products and offerings. The free-to-play parlay game, for example, will be a way to keep William Hill’s name front-and-center for people in states that don’t yet offer legal sports betting. On the fantasy side, users will be pitched player props and odds that correlate directly to the players on their team.
“If we know that you’re stacked with Tampa Bay Buccaneers in your fantasy league, that gives us an opportunity to show you that you can also place a bet on the Buccaneers,” Gerttula said.
Headquartered in London, William Hill set up a presence in Nevada in 2012 and has become the state’s largest sports book operator. It currently operates in nearly a dozen U.S. states and has about 10% of the legal online market, trailing only DraftKings and FanDuel, according to numbers from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming.