CES: Turner’s Levy Says Sports Bubble Won’t Burst

David Levy, president of Turner, said sports on TV is strong and getting stronger, bolstered by the legalization of gambling.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Levy said while some have predicted that the rising costs of sports rights has created a bubble, “I don’t think it’s going to break.”

Sports represents one of the last genres of appointment television, he noted. TV networks and leagues are coming up with more ways of letting fans buy the games they want to see. The NBA, for example alerts fans via Turner’s Bleacher Report Live app that a game featuring their favorite team is in the fourth quarter and offers a live stream of the end of the game for 99 cents.

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In the future, fans could also be offered the opportunity to be on it, Levy said. “We’re big believers that’s a big part of the future.”

At this point, sports gambling is allowed in only a few states and a handful allow mobile gambling. But legalized betting is expected to spread quickly after last year's court decision striking down a federal anti-gambling law.

“That’s going to change i[n] a very fast-pace way,” he said.

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Levy said there are basically four ways a media company could make money from sports gambling.

The first is to actually take bets. “I don’t think we’re going to be a sports book,” he said.

The second is to create high-quality content about gambling, either for its own network or for casinos like MGM or Caesars Palace.

The third way is to create special quality streams for sports books of games and parts of games that otherwise may not be broadcast.

The final option is by referring viewers to places where they can make bets.

“Those are new revenue opportunities we didn’t have a year ago,” he said.

Levy also talked about The Match, the pay-per-view golf winner-take-all match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson that Turner produced after Thanksgiving last year.

A technical glitch that resulted in Turner and parent company AT&T letting people watch for free and refunding fans who paid for the event.

“We were a little short in thinking about how much capacity we had,” he said. “A lot of people go online and buy stuff on Black Friday,” he said.

Despite that, Levy said the match produced good outcomes for the company.

Turner and AT&T were able to use many of the newly combined companies’ assets and “show the power of what this new company can do,” Levy said.

Content about the match ran on Turner’s cable networks, HBO, Bleacher Report and was carried on the DirecTV and U-Verse platforms. AT&T was a sponsor.

"Having all those assets will make Turner and AT&T attractive as sports rights deals come up in the future,” he said.

The match also drove usage of the three-month-old Bleacher Report Live app, with more than 750,000 downloads.

The Match was “a winning format,” Levy said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a Match 2.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.