Former CBS Radio Executive Dan Mason is eager for next football season to start. The newly named Chairman of Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN) is looking forward to an August launch of a radio network featuring all the talent, numbers, and analytics that VSiN is known for on other platforms. Mason and VSiN Chief Operating Officer Bill Adee (pictured below) talked with Radio Ink about what they consider a new Sports Talk format.
Radio Ink: How did this new Sports Talk format come about?
Mason: We began to see research that showed that as the states were changing laws on sports betting, a younger audience was beginning to bet on sports and using analytics. Analytics is what VSiN does. It’s different from the typical XOXO sports type radio station that started to formulate out of the FMs about 10 to 15 years ago. It’s a different audience than what we’re used to.
Adee: This was started more than a few years ago when Brian Musburger, our CEO, heard Brent Musburger and one of the bookmakers in Las Vegas talking about sports. That conversation was so different than what he was normally hearing on Sports Talk radio; it was more analytics based and grounded in the numbers. How the money was coming in on this team or that team, things like that. We describe ourselves as the CNBC for sports betting news because we are not just arguing hypotheticals like who’s better, LeBron or Jordan. We talk about a game that’s going to be played, what do the numbers tell us, and what the money is telling us.
Radio Ink: Tell us about the audience you are reaching out to. What type of
demographic metrics are being considered?
Adee: It skews younger, mobile, it’s very diverse and affluent. By definition if they are interested in wagering a dollar or two on a game then they have disposable income. It’s a very desirable demographic.
Radio Ink: With last year’s Supreme Court ruling on sports betting and more states legalizing sports betting, was this format something that you had to wait on until those things happened?
Adee: We started VSiN before the Supreme Court ruling. We launched in February 2017. So when the ruling happened last year we did feel like the ruling would help us accelerate distribution.
Radio Ink: Hardcore bettors are really going to love this. How are you going to keep it interesting for those not that hooked on stats and numbers?
Mason: If you break down the actual percentage of content that our hosts are talking about, betting versus sports, there is all kinds of other information in there. It’s not all about analytics. You get all the good Sports Talk info and then on top of that we offer the analytical viewpoint.
Adee: A lot of these shows are already on Sirius 204. For instance our morning show hosts have talked about what it’s like to live in Las Vegas. You get sort of an aspirational lifestyle of what it’s like to live in Vegas. What it’s like to work in the middle of a casino and watch and bet sports all day. What we don’t do is sit around all day and say this team or another is going to win. We try to get behind the sports book, what goes in to the making of a line. We want to help people learn what sports betting is all about.
Radio Ink: How are stations going to be able to monetize this?
Mason: I don’t see this network entirely replacing another network that stations may use. It would a great part of a mix for radio stations in states where betting is legal. You could do a Sunday afternoon remote from a casino with this type of programming and insert local talent. This plays really well in that space.
Adee: Early reception to this has been tremendous because it gives them a new product to offer advertisers. In the states where sports betting has been legalized, you are going to have competition among those casinos that offer sports betting. That provides an entirely new vertical for radio stations. If you have the content that actually relates to the advertiser, it seems like a home run.
Radio Ink: Do you think this could become a significant ad category?
Mason: In states where sports betting is legal, several group heads have already said this is a significant category.
Radio Ink: What type of growth do you see?
Mason: I think the best time to grow a network like this is during football season. In the Sports Radio world and in the sports betting world, everything revolves around football. Our timing is perfect for an August launch. I think we will have a nice surge in August and September and then the shows will prove themselves from there. I think program directors will see the entertainment value in the shows and throughout football season the power and potential of these shows will play out.
Radio Ink: Gambling is an addiction for some people. How do you answer those critics who may say that radio is promoting this addiction?
Mason: One thing that needs to be understood about VSiN is that at no part do we ever take bets on anything or any business that we’re in. We only dispense information, that’s all we do. There are going to be states where legalized gambling will never happen. There are several states where radio stations will most likely never use our format. I totally understand that. It has to match a state’s thirst for legalized sports betting.
Radio Ink: Is this going to be a good bet?
Mason: (Laughing) We certainly hope so! We’re not just dreaming up a radio network, we are on cable, video, and newspapers with our content. Our biggest newspaper client is the New York Post. We provide two to three stories a day on sports betting. We are on fuboTV, Sling TV, and Game+ in Canada.
We launched our morning show, the one that will be on our radio network, on NESN (New England Sports Network) in Boston and the results have been phenomenal. We believe our content is fabulous and the radio network is going to be just another way to push our content out.
Even if you’re not in a state where you can bet legally yet, we feel like we offer an alternative type of Sports Talk product with our line-up.