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Sky introduces a limit to gambling advertising

Sky recently announced that from next August, they will restrict gambling adverts to one per commercial break. At present, multiple advertisers with different gambling products are allowed within one break, but this is all set to change from the start of the 2019/20 Premier League season.

Sky will also be adding the opportunity for AdSmartable households to block all forms of gambling advertising across the 140 channels available – this is planned to be functional from June 2020.

Whilst this has been a proactive move from Sky – who recently sold their SkyBet arm to PokerStars in a £3.4bn deal, whilst retaining a 20% stake – it has arrived on the back of several negative news stories around the industry and talk of increased regulation. In September, the deputy Labour party leader, Tom Watson, said that if they came to power, his party would ban all gambling advertising in live sport. At this very moment, there is a rebellion within the Conservative Party against the recent budget decision to delay a crackdown on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Sky’s aim is to give people more control over the advertising they see and show that the industry will take steps to self-regulate, as Chief Executive, Stephen van Rooyen explained: “Our customers are worried about gambling ads on TV – and we understand their concerns. That’s why we’ve committed to limiting the number of gambling ads on Sky and better protecting those vulnerable to problem gambling.”

So where does this leave the current marketplace? Based on Nielsen Ad Dynamix, the market looks set to hit an all-time high in advertising spend this year. The previous highest reported was 2016 with a total spend of £170m (across TV, press, OOH and radio) and at present, the market is tracking at over 80% of that level up to September. Sportsbook advertisers continue to dominate the sector and account for over 50% of that reported spend. For most segments of the market, TV spend accounts for the majority of investment – the only exception being the sportsbooks that also spend heavily in the press around the sports pages. With Sky currently taking over 43% of the total market’s TV impacts, these restrictions could leave a big impression.

All Response Media viewpoint
From a trading point of view, Sky is still in the process of assessing how the changes will impact their market and their approach to it. But what do we expect to happen?

  • It is the post-9pm market where this will be most keenly felt. Currently, only sportsbooks can access pre-9pm via live sports which is restricted to one per-break (other than for bookies that have merged)
  • With a tightening of supply, unfortunately, it’s hard to see beyond potential increases in cost per thousand (CPT) for gambling advertisers
  • This is likely to be accentuated by the dominance of sports bookies that are generally buying against more expensive audiences at lower discounts – they will either take priority or we will see inflation against the other sub-sectors

With this in mind, what should bet companies be considering for 2019?

  • Test and broaden media horizons. Whilst TV remains the dominant and most responsive medium, with inflation will come a higher cost per acquisition (CPA). Now is the time to test and learn to assess the viability of other channels.
  • With that, consider other routes to the broadcast market such as sponsorship
  • With the limitation on the physical number of spots available, longer second lengths could see an increase in popularity (currently 90% of impacts are against 30 seconds or less)
    • Test differing second lengths and even consider the possibility of a longer, multi-product execution
  • Brands and campaigns that can avoid the male-heavy stations favoured by the sports bookies should be able to mitigate some of the pressure on availability

All Response Media will keep all relevant clients updated as we get more official news on how changes will affect the market post-August 2019.

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