When VSiN (Vegas Stats and Information Network) launched in February 2017, few knew what to expect from the upstart sports gambling brand. A channel on SiriusXM and the involvement of Brent Musburger created some curiosity, but generating mainstream awareness and providing a content source that provided value to established broadcast groups was still a pipe dream.
Then as the past eighteen months began to take shape, and the noise about sports betting becoming legalized increased, more industry people and businesses began to take a closer look. The company started to add more talent in front of the mic and behind the scenes, while forging partnerships with groups such as Cheddar and TVG. They even took their first step into the terrestrial radio space by partnering with 670 The Score in Chicago.
Perhaps their biggest relationship to date though, as far as terrestrial radio is concerned, was the announcement on Monday of former CBS Radio CEO and President, and current iHeartradio Senior Advisor Dan Mason joining the company as an Investor and Strategic Advisor.
What did Mason see in VSiN that convinced him it would be worth investing in? We spoke for a few minutes on Monday and it’s clear the longtime radio executive sees a very bright future for the company.
BSM: How did this partnership come about?
Mason: I started looking at it from a talent standpoint given my involvement in horse racing. Then as I got deeper into it I thought maybe I could apply some of my executive skills to help them. Brian and I got together and the more we talked the more that seemed to make more sense. As we talked thru it, it started to feel like I was visiting one of my old markets. You sit and go over numbers, opportunities, audiences and holes in the media business and as I processed everything it was pretty apparent to me that these guys were really on to something. The timing of it was also incredible because the Supreme Court overturned the betting law and it really was the perfect storm. Things were changing and unraveling pretty quick and these guys were well ahead of the curve.
BSM: What type of research did you do on the company before deciding to commit to them?
Mason: I did the basic due diligence on financials and who was participating in the company. Similar stuff you’d do if you were deciding to buy a radio station. A lot of conversations too with Brian Musburger, Todd Musburger and Bill Adee. A lot of this stuff is a leap of faith and you need to understand the people you’re dealing with. If you do an ounce of homework on Brian, Brent and the entire Musburger family you’ll quickly realize these are quality people and first class all the way. There’s very little risk on that side I believe.
BSM: How much time will you be committing to help them in growing the business?
Mason: I don’t want to wear out my welcome. I hope I don’t drive them crazy because I talk to them everyday, more than I even talked to CBS managers. It’s fun because we’re brainstorming and talking about ways to grow the business. When you have a hit on your hands it’s so much fun to watch it grow. These guys have been on the air for quite some time doing good work and it’s exciting to try and help them grow it into something even bigger.
BSM: Given your existing relationship with iHeartradio, will your involvement with VSiN affect that status?
Mason: Not at all. They’re unrelated. I spoke to Bob Pittman about this before the release went out and he was fully supportive of it. He said “this sound great, leave iHeart in the press release, we’re thrilled to have you working with us too.”
BSM: If the Supreme Court ruling hadn’t gone the way it did, would you still be diving into this opportunity?
Mason: That’s difficult to answer because the opportunities might not have been as strong. The product would still be incredibly good but the opportunity would probably not have been as good. I believe Delaware and New Jersey are on track to introduce legalized sports betting today and tomorrow, and West Virginia is close as well. Those present huge opportunities.
BSM: None of us have this answer, but we try to be Nostradamus and envision the future. How do you see the content process evolving with sports betting content on TV and radio?
Mason: This is the most fun for me to visualize, and I could be wrong, but I think with television, the sports purist won’t waste time with something like this. The sports betting fan though, will be watching the game live on TV, with an iPad or cell phone out, watching the VSiN app, listening to their people share thoughts and deciding whether or not to put a few dollars on the game based on the information they’re receiving. In radio, as an example, a station might carry a game on their FM station, the HD1 side. Their HD2 channel though might be carrying a VSiN feed which features the gambling part of it. That allows the listener to flip back and forth to see what’s going on with the game, and what the conversation is on the gambling side. It can add a fresh new dimension to the entire event, which is very exciting.
BSM: When you think about the future of sports television, can you see mainstream programs introducing this type of content?
Mason: I’m not sure that’s the right way to go. I think they should be separate. I believe their should be pure play by play and the shoulder programming that comes with it. I don’t think they should be co-mingled. I think that could hurt the game and turn people off who don’t want any part of sports betting.
BSM: The Score in Chicago recently signed on to partner with VSiN. A few others are expected to come on board very soon. What do you see as the upside for terrestrial operators should they consider partnering with the company?
Mason: VSiN has a few different features which are exciting. They’ve got the action minutes which are voiced by Brent Musburger and focus on the betting action in each market involving each cities local teams. It’s a daily feature, and it’ll especially be important during football season, because the NFL drives everything. My advice to sports stations is to get on the bandwagon now because you get a marquee name like Brent, and customized features geared towards your market in a space that’s rapidly growing.
BSM: Having done research on VSiN, what areas of their business do you believe have the biggest room for improvement?
Mason: I think their product curve is ahead of their ability to sell curve. That’s not uncommon of a product like this. It’s like a radio station that gets very hot on the ratings side but the sales department isn’t as developed. The challenge we have in front us is to increase the revenue.
BSM: What was it about VSiN that impressed you most?
Mason: Their content and talent are excellent. Their position is outstanding. They were the first in. They’ve come at it from a unique place. It’s like they were the first sports station to launch on FM.
BSM: Do you see this as a product that could play on terrestrial radio or is it best featured on SiriusXM?
Mason: It’s a national product so I think it has applications for both. If the CBS and NBC Sports Radio networks can broadcast as full-time products, I think they can too. It could also be seasonal, especially in the fall with football. Sirius has been a great partner so that relationship remains important. We’re really in uncharted territory with this product and that’s going to make it a lot of fun going forward.