Hot copy: Stories that caught our eye this week from around the sector

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Sign of the Times

The New York Times broke a story about itself yesterday (6 January) as it announced it had reached an agreement to acquire online sports news outlet The Athletic in an all-cash $550m deal.

The acquisition is intended to drive the newspaper closer to its goal of 10 million subscriptions by 2025, and indeed The Athletic’s existing 1.2 million subscribers will mark a significant contribution to the paper’s current 8 million, despite the “relatively modest” overlap in readership.

NYT CEO Meredith Kopit Levien appears to have her eye on future revenue opportunities beyond the established subscription model, however, as she suggested collaboration with the gambling industry could generate greater returns somewhere down the line.

“We did not buy The Athletic to build a giant betting platform, but I don’t rule out that there will be ways that we work with gambling companies over time,” she said. 

The Athletic already has a content and media partnership in place with US operator BetMGM.

With New York’s online sports betting market going live tomorrow (8 January), perhaps it is divine timing that the state’s most ubiquitous media outlet is thinking about getting in on the action.

OpenSea valuation makes waves

Credit goes to The New York Times once again for this story, which detailed how NFT marketplace OpenSea had raised $300m in new venture capital this week, bringing the business’ total valuation to an eye-watering $13.3bn — just six months after raising $100m in funding at a total valuation of $1.5bn.

The rapid ascension of the blockchain start-up follows an explosion in popularity of non-fungible assets over the last year or so, with more than $3bn worth of private investment pouring into NFT businesses throughout 2021.

The technology has not waltzed onto the scene unscathed though, with blockchain evangelists facing their fair share of criticism over the nature and credibility of the NFT mania currently sweeping the globe.

Some claim the craze is nothing more than a fad, while further concerns around security have also been raised, with one OpenSea customer claiming $2.2m worth of NFTs had been stolen from their account. 

It appears then that OpenSea may have its fair share of pirates, and although the company was able to freeze the assets and prevent them from being traded on its site, it was ultimately powerless to return them to their rightful owner.

Clock ticking on UK crypto regulation

UK-based inews.co.uk also took a closer look at the world of cryptocurrency and NFTs this week as political editor Hugo Gye reported that UK government ministers are considering a regulatory crackdown on digital investments.

MPs and campaigners have apparently called upon the government to take action over the coming months, with some suggesting crypto platforms should be considered alongside gaming products in the upcoming review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is also keen to be involved with the process, it was reported, and will look to gain additional powers to investigate the sector.

Conservative MP Richard Holden gave his opinion on the matter. He said: “It is the Wild West, this grey area between highly leveraged financial investments on the one hand and these products which could quite easily and sensibly be considered to be gambling. There needs to be a clear differentiation there in order to protect people.”

Perhaps the UK should expect to witness a closer relationship between the government, Gambling Commission, and FCA on these matters in the near future. They don’t have a great track record of collaboration (see Football Index fiasco). 

It looks like the job of Andrew Rhodes — who The Guardian reported yesterday will be taking on the role of Gambling Commission chief executive on a permanent basis — won’t be getting any simpler any time soon.

ICE dates frozen once again

Industry magazine iGaming Business, which is owned by ICE London organiser Clarion Gaming, announced yesterday that the long-established trade show will now take place from 12 to 14 April, 2022.

Originally scheduled for its usual annual slot during the first week of February, plans for ICE and the co-located iGB Affiliate London started to melt late last year amid growing uncertainty caused by the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

A few key gaming industry shows were able to take place in 2021, not least iGaming NEXT Valletta, which clearly whet the market’s appetites to get back to face-to-face events as soon as possible. 

Under the strain of trying to welcome 700 exhibitors and upwards of 30,000 visitors to London in February, though, it seems the time-frame was too short for the ICE team to allay concerns over the Omicron variant in time for the show to go ahead in its original time slot. 

About the author

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Conor Mulheir

Conor entered the gaming industry in 2018 producing high-level live event content for audiences in London, Amsterdam and São Paulo. From 2020, he went on to report news and commission exclusive content for various gaming media brands before joining iGaming NEXT as editor in January 2022.

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