Verizon Media has formed a global tech partnership with Entain, the gambling operator formerly known as GVC Holdings, to innovate the next generation of sport betting products, including a combination of gambling and virtual reality.
The two companies say they’ll work together to build a VR platform that integrates live sports with layers of data and gambling. The goal is to create an immersive experience where sports fans can view games, check stats, place wagers and socialize, all within the same platform.
The gambling will take place through Entain’s brands, which include bwin, Ladbrokes, Coral, PartyPoker and BetMGM, a joint venture with MGM Resorts. Terms of the partnership were not disclosed.
“To win in the future we need to understand where consumers will be in five, ten years’ time and work with other global businesses also investing in that,” Entain CEO Shay Segev said in a statement. “We envisage consumers meeting at a game with friends, who could in fact be elsewhere, using virtual reality headsets to watch, interact and share the experience together and, potentially, compete between themselves at halftime or feel like they’re on the pitch with the players.”
The deal builds on a pre-existing relationship between the two companies. BetMGM, which is Entain’s U.S. sports betting operation, is already integrated across Verizon-owned Yahoo Sports products. In some U.S. states, people can place wagers through BetMGM without leaving the Yahoo Sports app.
Virtual reality and its cousin, augmented reality, have been considered the next wave of media for years, though there’s yet to be a real sports breakthrough. The NBA broadcast its first game in VR back in 2015, just before Goldman Sachs projected that VR revenue could outpace TV revenue by 2025. Sports teams have publicly discussed a future where they could sell an infinite number of courtside seats in people’s living rooms, but across the board, adaptation has been slow.
Still, there’s optimism, boosted by the advent of widespread 5G, a new cellular network that could make VR and AR more feasible through phones and tablets. Verizon, one of the nation’s largest cell carriers, is deeply invested in future 5G applications. Its media arm, which houses brands like Yahoo, AOL and TechCrunch, is responsible for predicting what new types of content will be unlocked by tech advancements.
Entain officially changed its name from GVC last week. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and closed Wednesday with a market cap of $8.6 billion (6.4 million pounds).