By Zoe Samios
The British wagering giant behind the Ladbrokes and Neds gambling brands has launched a group of online television channels in Australia in a bid to boost engagement with punters.
London Stock Exchange listed Entain, which unsuccessfully bid for Tabcorp’s bookmaking and media assets last year, has created four online horse and greyhound racing channels as part of a media arm that is also producing written content and documentaries. A team of about 30 people are working for the division, which is led by Andy Hoad and is recruiting commentators and writers for pre-race programs, social media and online content.
Entain chief executive Dean Shannon said the content model is a first for the global wagering giant. “Our ambition is to have wall-to-wall Australian and international racing broadcasts for customers and build a lot of bespoke content around that” Shannon said. “It’s a unique thing that we were doing in Australia.” Shannon declined to put a dollar figure on the size of the investment, but said it was “a serious amount of money”.
The media arm is broken into three areas: the live channels, digital media and broadcast (which includes a deal with racing.com), and long form video. Entain is working on two programs, a documentary on the history of the growth of Australian basketball and an entertainment series with three-time Melbourne Cup winner Glen Boss.
Entain’s television channels launched last week and are currently running races through the Ladbrokes and Neds apps. The company using its other digital content - commentary about trainers, horses and jockeys - to fill hours, but has plans to expand its offering into launch pre-race programs and live commentary. Production company NEP is working with Entain, and the group has broadcast deals in place with racing organisations across Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and New Zealand.
Hoad, who joined the company last April, said the plan is to build Entain into a “fully fledged media business”. The group has hired Adam Hamilton as head of talent and racing in addition to Boss. “The future of the business is really bound to content. It is becoming more than just a wagering business,” he said.
Ladbrokes is not the first wagering company to run its own media arm. Tabcorp runs a large media division which houses Sky Thoroughbred Central (the premium channel for Sydney and Brisbane racing) and Racing Victoria runs racing.com, an Australian free-to-air standard-definition digital television channel.
“A lot of streaming services are taking up a lot of people’s time and places where people might have ordinarily watched the races like Sky Channel, are probably declining in audience,” Shannon said. “We as wagering operators need to keep innovating in this space, and we need to keep the races in front of the customers to make sure it’s relevant. We are competing for that disposable income.”
The creation of a media arm comes more than a year after Entain lobbed a $3.5 billion bid for Tabcorp’s bookmaking and media division, which has since been split from the rest of the business.
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