Fri, May 10, 11:15am by Kevin Pitstock
According to reports in the Australian Wagering Council, Australia’s online betting operators spent around $90 million to market their services in 2012. Tom Waterhouse, the controversial bookmaker, is a significant part of that $90 million cash influx of capital.
If recent reports about the problems Nine Entertainment and Ten Entertainment have had in making their existing major sport contracts profitable, that number is likely to have been met or exceeded in 2013.
The gambling revenues have been of growing importance to the network broadcasts, as more traditional advertisement deals have become less lucrative. With Nine and Foxtel paying in excess of $1 billion for 5 years of broadcast rights for the NRL alone, it’s no wonder Nine Entertainment made a broadcast deal with Tom Waterhouse.
Nine Entertainment was on the point of a financial collapse in 2012, when their broadcasts of the 2012 London Olympics became a financial disaster. The cost of broadcasting far exceeded the revenues gained from advertisers, pushing Nine Entertainment to the brink.
In light of those troubles, it’s no wonder Nine broadcasts featured Tom Waterhouse commercials. Where the line was crossed was the attempt to make the bookmaker a seamless part of the game broadcasts, instead of an overt commercial endorser.
Starting in round three of the season, Waterhouse was removed from interaction with broadcasters and instead featured in “discreet segments” where his branding was clearly shown and overt. It’s important to note no discussion of ending the sponsorship deal ever entered the picture.
According to Waterhouse, the 2013 sponsorship deal has been a success for both sides of the bargain. Nine Entertainment faced criticism but received an important source of revenue which has helped the company through its financial problems. The Tom Waterhouse marketing machine, despite many complaints, received a deluge of media attention, which only serves to draw more interest in his brand. Though official inquiries had to be faced, but that’s a small price to pay for greater attention.
Even the complaints received by Nine Network and Fox Sports is minimal, if one believes Nine’s head of regulatory affairs, Scott Briggs. Briggs said, “I think we received about 35 complaints. Given that we received only 16 the year before, we obviously took that to be a level of concern.” Still, in a country of 23 million people, 35 direct complaints are not many.
In fact, all sources agree that viewership hasn’t been affected by the scandal. Viewer ratings are higher across the board in 2013, compared to the numbers in 2012. If the sports audience of Australia is offended, they haven’t shown their disdain by turning off broadcasts.
If a price is to be paid, it’s going to come from the online gambling industry as a whole. While the population as a whole might not care so much about what Tom Waterhouse does on the television, public opinion is inflamed. With the media following every step of the scandal and politicians wanting to display they are sensitive to public demands, new policies which could affect the industry as a whole are likely to go into effect.
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