John Levy knows theScore.
The Toronto-based sports media company CEO is fully aware that people have no idea who he is or his company.
Now that theScore is live in the Colorado sports betting market; he’s out to change that.
TheScore is now the 12th online sports betting app to go live in Colorado since the launch of sports betting on May 1.
As Levy said to PlayColorado in an interview earlier this week:
“It’s kind of like our second coming-out party. This little company called theScore, which nobody’s heard of. The second-most popular digital media company in the US and nobody knows who the hell we are. And now we get into the betting business, and ‘Ah, you’re never going to launch in Jersey.’ Well, we launch in Jersey and we have a successful launch in Jersey … successful by our metrics. But we’ve done exactly what we want to do, and we’re building and it’s growing.”
What is theScore?
So who is Levy and theScore?
And why sports betting?
According to Levy:
“Is this a three-hour interview? Typically, when I get asked this question in financial meetings or anything, everybody around me starts rolling their eyes because they know they’re in for it, right? So I will not go into that long dissertation. The reality is that this is something that’s been on our roadmap and something that we’ve had a passion for — I got to tell you — forever. I love sports. I bet on sports. I’m a passionate sports fan.”
As Levy notes, theScore started as a TV network in Canada that launched in the mid-1990s.
Open and authentic
That’s where the words open and authentic started.
One thing is clear with Levy: He’s passionate about sports and sports betting, but he doesn’t partake in tricks.
Whether it was a TV show or his app, it’s all about the user. He says that’s why his hosts never wore dress shirts and ties.
For Levy, it’s all about openness and authenticity.
According to Levy:
“I always felt it was really hypocritical when I used to watch our version of ESPN in Canada like TSN. A guy kicks a field goal and takes it over an 18-point spread, and these guys are looking at each other like, ‘Um, that’s interesting.’ Our guys, on-air, were pulling their hair out because they probably just blew a $100 bet. And it was that open and authentic approach to sports, which was in our nature, it was in our DNA and betting was always there.
“The same attitude stayed true to form in the mobile network. And it grew and grew and grew. It’s the second-most popular app in North America. Upwards of 50% of everybody on our app bets on sports.”
Fall of PASPA
When the US Supreme Court struck down the federal law that prohibited sports betting in 2018, it was a natural progression for theScore to get into the sports wagering business. Levy said the company was hoping and praying for that decision because it made sense.
The court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the 1992 law that barred state-authorized sports gambling. The main exception: Nevada was the only state that allowed sports betting.
As Levy said, it was the culmination of what the company had been building forever:
“That was our a-ha moment. ‘OK, what are we going to do? Are we going to take the fast money? Just be this super-freaking affiliate. Do what we did in the poker days? What we did as a sports media company?’ What we did in the DFS days, which was just take all of these reams of money, which these guys want to spend by market share, let them sort of piggyback on our user base, which we spent millions and tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars building with a brand and just sort of rent ourselves out.
“Or we said, just no, goddamnit, we’re going to do the real thing. And that’s when we bit the bullet. We said, ‘Nope, we’re going to make this sports media company; we’re going to be the operator. We’re going to be the sports betting operator.’ That was the real a-ha moment.”
TheScore in Colorado
Once it became clear that Colorado would enter the world of sports betting, there was no doubt that theScore would find a way to get into the market.
It helps that Levy’s youngest son, Noah, is a Denver Broncos fan … or was, and they went to a Broncos game together for his 16th birthday.
“First off, it’s an amazing market. Colorado has a huge, passionate sports fanbase. Both on the pro side and on the collegiate side and the amateur side. I mean all across the board. Everybody in Colorado, if they’re not participating, they’re watching and they get to do both in Colorado, which is amazing. It’s all over, you guys. And it’s a huge business opportunity. As I’ve said, if people love sports, they’re going to bet on sports. If you look at some of the numbers. The July handle in Colorado is huge.”
Significant user base
As Levy noted earlier, the experience of launching in New Jersey is a “huge” benefit. TheScore knows what went well but also where it can improve.
The other “huge” benefit is the sheer amount of people who have and use theScore app.
The two big factors Levy focused on is theScore’s common wallet and account functionality.
“We were really anxious to launch with all of this enhanced learning and enhanced product in Colorado. When COVID hit, we were in the fortunate position that we didn’t have to shut down in any way. We didn’t have to furlough or lay off employees since we did a financing (report) before it hit. So, all of our guys have been working like beavers through the last three or four months enhancing the product. And it reflects in a couple of things. No. 1, the product itself and infusing betting into the media app, which is what we’re doing. But we also got to create this new multi-state approach to offering our service.”
Easy to use
Levy then puts all of this in the context of the user.
For him and theScore, that’s what it’s all about. When Levy says he wants to make it as “freaking” easy as possible for people in Colorado to use his app, he’s serious.
“If a guy happens to live in New Jersey and goes to Colorado, it’s very easy for him to continue as a ScoreBet bettor. You have to register in Colorado, of course, but once you do that, and we make that very easy, the wallet travels with you. Everything happens simultaneously. And it’s a huge edge.”
The phrase that comes to mind when you think about Levy and theScore is the famous quote from President Teddy Roosevelt: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
“We do all of these subtle things. We’re not sponsoring hot dog eating contests and stuff like that, which gets our name out. It really goes to how we’re building the business and how we’re building the brand. We’re trying to do it in a more authentic way, watching our cost of acquisition. And the reason we can do that is because, in Colorado, we know we have a huge user base. A real user base. And we know they bet on sports. I can see it. I read about it every day.
“Our guys in our chatrooms, what are they talking about? ‘What are the Broncos going to do? What happens if a guy gets hurt? Who are they trading? Are the Avalanche going to win? Are they not going to win? Who you got tonight? And then in game, it’s like, ‘Oh, s—, the guy scored. The odds are going to change. Do I lay off my bet?’ That’s all people talk about, and they’re doing it inside of our app. Then all we got to do is (say) to them, ‘Well, if you really think you know what you’re talking about, buddy, why don’t you make a bet?’ That’s not obviously what we say, but that’s basically how easy we try to make it.”
All about the customer
In the end, Levy and theScore are all about the user experience.
He’s hopeful that over time, the users in Colorado will know theScore.
“Everything we do is geared to one thing: What does the user want? How do we make it freaking easy for him? Whether it’s making a bet, setting up the account, moving from state to state; everything we do is geared with trying to scratch an itch that maybe the guy doesn’t even know is itchy. That’s what it’s about. That messaging takes a while to come out. It’s not the flashy, ‘Hey!’ It may take longer for people to recognize. We’re here for the long haul. We’re not here for today, tomorrow. Our goals are set to capture as good as market share in every state we go in as the big guys. It may take us a little while to get there, but we think we’re going to get there.”