Catena Media won the Affiliate of the Year prize at the 2018 SBC Awards and ahead of the nominations deadline for the 2019 awards, SBC caught up with their Vice President, Sports Richard Gale to find out about the latest developments in the company’s offerings.
SBC: Catena Media won Affiliate of the Year at the 2018 SBC Awards; what is it that you do differently from the competition?
Richard Gale: I think the key thing that we do differently is to focus on two pillars. One of them is kick-ass products and the other is outstanding relationships. And certainly when we won Affiliate of the Year in 2018, it was really down to the way we focused on building those outstanding relationships.
We were one of the first in the industry to really realise that the operator market, certainly in the mature markets, was changing. A number of years ago it was all about quantity, but the industry has moved on and it’s now about quality. And we spent a lot of time with our partners not only looking at how we could help them in relation to the acquisition of quality players, but also how we could help them in the whole customer journey.
So now we do a huge amount of work with operators in relation to building up brand awareness and brand consideration because we believe, and the operators agree, that we can offer a much higher level of targeting than traditional media and that also the media that we can provide them for branding is contextually correct. So rather than going to traditional media sources where the context isn’t correct and the targeting there is going to be wasted, we can actually reverse that and give them people we know are interested in betting and that their brand messages are going to be delivered in a contextually relevant place.
And then in relation to the acquisition work that we did, we worked with them on changing from quantity to quality. We were able to adapt to that and really work with some of the tier 1s and tier 2s in particular to ensure that we were able to reduce the number of FTDs we were providing, but to increase the quality of them, and to really work with them on the extension of the LTV of those players provided.
Most of that was probably down to the third revenue stream that we created, which was our retention revenue stream. We worked with all of the operators on reactivation campaigns and how we can ensure that the players they have carry on depositing money with them through our sites.
SBC: How has your product and service offering developed over the last 12 months? And what have the highlights of Catena Media’s 2019 been?
RG: I think over the last 12 months, what we’ve done is used data a lot more, so we’ve been able to segment our audience a lot more. We’ve also massively, massively grown our social presence and it’s really on that social presence that we’ve been able to offer the branding services, especially through products like GG and Squawka where we’re now effectively running campaigns on a daily basis on long-term contracts for a number of operators. That’s been a huge highlight.
It’s also been a very product-centric year for us and one of the biggest developments is that we’ll be launching our integrated betting slip in October, which has got a lot of the operators very excited.
And we’re basically going through a full product portfolio refresh. Over the course of this year, we’ve relaunched SBAT.com, which has been totally rebuilt from the ground up. We’ve relaunched FootballTips.com and by the time of the SBC Awards, we’ll have relaunched RacingTips.com, BettingPro.com and LiveTennis.com. So we’ve invested a huge amount of money.
Where 2018 was very much about building outstanding relationships, 2019 has been about building outstanding products and by the end of the year nearly every single one of our sites will have been rebuilt from the ground up, so that they have better UX, they are offering the consumer much more relevant content, they’re faster and they’re mobile first. We believe that what we’re building now are services that are not only relevant for 2020, but will also stand us in good stead for the next couple of years.
SBC: What are the main challenges now facing affiliate businesses?
RG: It may be a boring answer, but it’s regulation. In 2019, we faced Sweden changing the regulatory framework in January. In April we saw France tightening up, through ARJEL, on their regulatory situation. Obviously we had the introduction of KYC in the UK in May, and in the middle of July we had the Italian regulations kick in. In nearly every month of H1 2019 we had a major European market changing its regulatory framework for igaming.
That obviously is challenging for the operators, but also for all affiliate businesses. We’ve had to change our sites and work with the operators to ensure that in each of those territories we are fully compliant with all the new regulations.
I think that will continue. We obviously can’t say what’s going to happen, but there are numerous rumours that Germany will further regulate in the near future and I think perhaps we’ll see some further regulation in the UK. I think more and more territories in the mature European markets will move to an Australian model, which will mean that on a very regular basis we will have to change and update the way we operate to keep in line with the regulations.
One of the keys when we talk about outstanding relationships with operators is the fact that Catena Media have a three-person compliance team within the business. We have three full-time employees and their only job is working with the marketing team on compliance in all the territories that we operate in. I certainly think that’s part of the reason we remain the affiliate of choice for many operators, because they know how seriously we take compliance and the investment we’ve made in compliance to help them continue running their businesses and protect them in these territories.
SBC: And what are the key opportunities?
RG: America is going to open up a huge amount of opportunities for the affiliate business. We’re still scratching the surface of what that market is worth, but through 2020 and 2021, we’ll get a much better indication.
Nearer to home, the Netherlands will open up again in 2020 and, historically, that used to be a very good market for many people. So I think that market opening up will be fantastic.
More generally, and especially for Europe, it’s Euro 2020. It’s the largest European Championships that has ever happened, involves the most countries, and I think that’s going to be a huge opportunity for everyone next year.
SBC: Why would you recommend entering and attending the SBC Awards?
RG: For me, entering is about benchmarking ourselves against the competition. It’s important that we always benchmark ourselves against the best in the industry and it’s also very important for the team. The team put in a huge amount of work throughout the year and while it’s fantastic that internally we recognise their hard work, one of the things I saw when we won last year was just how much it meant to the team when that recognition came from their peers. So it was a fantastic motivator for my team and a great indicator of the work that they’d done throughout the year.
And the SBC Awards is one of the best events of the year. I like the time of year that it takes place, it’s always a fantastic evening and is also a very relaxed environment. Quite often the industry meets up at conferences and people are busy running around and doing deals, but because this is a purely social event, it is really nice just to meet up with industry friends and share a beer in a more relaxed environment. For me, it’s a lovely way to round out the year.
The nominations deadline for the SBC Awards 2019 is 27 September 2019. View the full list of categories and find out how to enter.
The awards ceremony takes place at Battersea Evolution, London on 3 December 2019.