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Exclusive XLMedia Q&A: How to excel in sports betting media

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During the whirlwind of World Cup fever, XLMedia Director of Partnerships Cody Darwick discusses how American football remains supreme in US sports betting, among other topics.

How would you describe XLMedia in your own words?

We’re one of the largest publishers focused largely on sports betting at this point. In North America, we own a lot of sports media and we have a lot of sports betting-focused properties.

We partner with highly engaged publishers, whether they are focused on sports or the news side – obviously Newsweek falls into the latter. We operate with all the top regulated sportsbooks and drive high-value customers for them.

How is XLMedia preparing for the launch of Massachusetts sports betting at the start of next year?

We have a local media partnership there we’re quite excited about, we work with MassLive.com which is an Advance Local property. We work with Cleveland.com in Ohio; Ohio is launching on January 1, so we’re very much looking forward to that and MassLive is the second event-cycle property we’re working with.

Massachusetts is a rabid sports state, they have a number of storied franchises up there – the Boston Celtics, the Red Sox, the Patriots – we think the passion for sports there is almost unparalleled.

How do you think the partnership with Newsweek will benefit XLMedia?

We were excited to announce our exclusive sports betting partnership with Newsweek. Newsweek is a storied brand in terms of magazine publication – they’re a digital property that reaches about 50 million unique visitors across the US.

So we’re excited to provide the Newsweek team with our high-quality betting content. In terms of editorial focus, they have a very strong readership and we’re the first foray for them into this space. We don’t take that lightly, we’re looking forward to providing our high-quality content to their team and their audience, and introducing the top regulated sportsbook options that are in the market. We want it to be informative and educational for them.

With the US getting through to the Round of 16 in the World Cup, have you seen a rise in interest in soccer in the country?

NFL is the biggest driver of our business generally in the US, that’s no secret.

I think there has been a buzz, but it’s hard to know exactly what that means from a betting perspective. How to handle all the new player activations and that sort of thing, but obviously in the US getting through to the Round of 16 is a big win, and people are excited about that. The game against England on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving drew a lot of people, TV audience-wise.

People were very happy with making it to the knockout round so anything apart from that is just the cherry on top. I think a lot of it is building to the next World Cup four years from now – it’s a young team, so we’ll see.

Have you seen any major changes in content output regarding changing demographics in the past few years?

It all depends on seasonality, on what time of the year it is and what sporting event is live. I think the NFL is the biggest driver of our business generally in the US, that’s no secret. We have owned and operated properties based on college football with the Saturday Football brands.

There is a focus on the NCAA and the Big Ten – two of the biggest conferences – in the biggest states, like Ohio or Alabama, where they are essentially like professional teams in terms of their following and fanbase. We do a lot of content around football as you can imagine, and basketball as well – turning to the NBA, there’s March Madness. Then there’s baseball – we kind of do it all. The Phillies making the World Series was a big deal for Pennsylvania and we own a site there called Crossing Broad.

So it depends on the time of year. Our content team has years of experience in knowing what sports fans want to read – during a game, before a game and after a game. Then we look at the various angles to tap into that audience and fandom, that’s our specialty.

What are XLMedia’s plans for the next 12 months?

I can only speak to the North American sports sector. Over here, we’re looking forward to the Ohio launch on January 1 and Massachusetts thereafter. We’ll be continuing to grow our owned and operated properties, and work with our various media partnerships to help to be their partner in a sports betting space that’s vastly evolving and changing.

To read more about XLMedia’s partnership with Newsweek, check out our news coverage on Gaming America.

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