Discussions are in early stages according to The Wall Street Journal, but The Athletic and Axios are discussing a merger. The news websites cover to very different worlds and combining their assets and offerings could create a package that is more attractive for investors.
Alex Mather, chief executive of the Athletic, initiated the conversation, according to The Journal’s Benjamin Mullin. He approached Axios CEO Jim VandeHei last week to propose the merger. Mullin also notes that this is not the first time the two have had business talks. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Mather and VandeHei “held general conversations about business opportunities” with “the talks escalated significantly in recent days”.
Axios’s political coverage and The Athletic’s sports content are said to be being packaged in a blank check firm that then would go public. Funds raised through an IPO would allow both brands to expand their content offerings.
“The longterm plan is to bring additional digital publishers into the fold, especially those with content consumers are willing to pay for and can earn a premium from advertisers,” Mullin writes, citing sources familiar with the plans and discussions.
Mullin did not learn financial terms of a potential merger. He did note that negotiations could “fall apart”.
U.S. Sports Betting Doubled To Over $52B In 2021
“The massive increase is also a result of billions spent by gambling operators on marketing campaigns. “
Legalized sports betting continues to boom in the U.S. Due to launches in 11 new states, the market doubled in 2021, having over $52.7 billion wagered during the course of the year according to Morning Consult.
The massive increase is also a result of billions spent by gambling operators on marketing campaigns.
Here are the facts:
- Adult bettors placing at least one bet a week went up 7% since January 2021 from 5% to 12%, 14% of bettors said their average bet is over $100, and oddsmakers only came away with around $4 billion of the amount wagered that year.
- The majority of the U.S. has legalized sports betting. As of now, 30 states and Washington D.C. have jumped on the legalization train and young people are the driving force.
- 19% of adults between the ages of 21-34 have bet on sports at least once a week in legal and offshore sportsbooks. However, there is still a strong market for the slightly older demographic. 23% of U.S. adults aged 35-44 place a sports bet weekly, with another 8% wagering monthly.
“Given the proliferation of online sports betting and operators’ focus on digital marketing, it should come as no surprise that younger Americans are the most inclined to place wagers on games,” writes Morning Consult’s Alex Silverman.
Sports Betting App Wagr Raises $12 Million From Series A Funding Round
Two of the investors include the New England Patriots and Philadelphia 76ers ownership groups.
Sports betting app Wagr announced its public launch after completing a $12 million Series A funding round that will allow the company to further develop its product and, more importantly, expand to other states. During its private beta release, the app was available in Tennessee.
As reported by Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy, two of the investors in the Series A funding round include The Kraft Group, established by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils.
Created by Harvard Business School students Mario Malave and Eliana Eskinazi in 2019, Wagr is intended to stand out from other sports betting apps and appeal to more casual users by incorporating a social component.
The app matches a bettor with someone else in the same state who’s willing to wager the opposite side. Leaderboards and community posts will also be a part of the user experience.
Wagr charges a 5 percent transaction fee on each bet, which is how it generates revenue.
Other investors involved in the Series A funding round for Wagr are venture capital companies BITKRAFT Ventures, Greycroft, Pear VC, and Seven Seven Six. (Seven Seven Six, run by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, first invested $4 million in the betting app in June 2021.)
According to McCarthy, Wagr hopes to obtain betting licenses in five more states by the end of 2022 and aims to launch an app for Android users in the next couple of months.
Ariel Helwani: ‘Working At ESPN Wasn’t What I Thought It Would Be’
“One of the good things about going to a place like ESPN is that people view you in a different way.”
Sometimes, when we get that dream job in the media industry or meet someone that we looked up to for years as kids, the experience is not always what we had envisioned it to be. That was the case for Ariel Helwani while he was at ESPN, but he was able to make the most of his situation.
Helwani was a guest on the most recent episode of The Adam Schein Podcast. He mentioned always wanting to work at ESPN when he was a kid. But as he started actually working there, something wasn’t right:
“My dream, as is the dream for a lot of people, was to work at ESPN,” Helwani told Schein. “I grew up idolizing ESPN as a brand and looking up to all those guys like Stuart Scott, Rich Eisen, Chris Berman. This was my life.
“I’m very thankful and grateful for the experience. But it wasn’t, if I’m being honest, what I thought it was going to be. There was some disappointment in that initially, but I was able to turn that disappointment into excitement and opportunities.”
While there was some disillusionment, having ESPN on his resume did help Helwani as he got into future endeavors because now he felt he could do different things for different people.
“Leaving ESPN has been incredible because thankfully, one of the good things about going to a place like ESPN is that people view you in a different way,” he said. “I’m still the same guy, but you’re now the former ESPN guy. You get a lot of opportunities and people want to work with you.
“What was great about my situation was I realized I didn’t want to be exclusive. I wanted to cut up my services into a puzzle and I would do this for these people and that for these people and everyone was okay playing in the sandbox. I have freedom. I have my voice back. I was feeling censored. I was feeling stifled. I don’t have to worry about that stuff anymore. I haven’t been this happy in quite some time.”
One of the things that helps Helwani in trying to grow his brand is that he takes in a lot of sports media. He tries to apply that to what he does because he realizes his responsibility to the audience.
“I’m not a big ‘J’ journalist, but I feel like we have an incredible responsibility to the audience,” Helwani explained.
“They come to us for the facts, news, and entertainment as well, and I don’t want to BS them. I think what helps me is I consume a lot of media. I’m obsessed with sports media. I listen to you while I’m driving my kids to and from school, I listen to WFAN here or 98.7 FM or SIRIUS, I listen to everything. I know what I want as a viewer or listener and I want to be the best version of that in my little world as well.”
In fact, one of the people who helped Helwani early in his career was Schein. He told a story that Schein never heard before. When he was at Syracuse, Helwani contacted Schein for advice and the now SIRIUSXM host took it a step further.
“2003, they tell me to go to the Student Center and there is a computer there,” said Helwani. “You can type in whichever industry you want to work in within broadcasting, media. Network, whichever person you want to connect with, all within the NewHouse family.
“It actually worked. I got an internship at HBO Sports as a result of that. However, I typed in your name and your contact info came up. I emailed you and you called me as you were filling up your car with gas. I get a cold call from you and you were like, ‘Hey, man I got your email.’ I was a junior, a total nobody. You were the only one and I emailed everyone. You gave me advice about careers and life outside.”
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