Barstool Sports Lands Exclusive Broadcasting Rights to Arizona Bowl via Sponsorship Deal

  • Dave Portnoy said “If you don’t see the significance of this, then you have a pea brain”
  • The Arizona Bowl will stream on December 31, 2020 through Barstool’s digital channels
  • The deal marks Barstool’s first TV sports rights buy-in and first college football game broadcast
  • Barstool’s CEO isn’t worried about a conflict between gambling and the move into college sports
  • Arizona is eyeing a September 9 go-live date for legal event betting in the state

Arizona Stadium
Barstool Sports will be streaming live college football from Arizona Stadium (pictured above) on New Year’s Eve after its was given exclusive broadcasting rights to the Arizona Bowl. [Image:]

The Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl

Barstool Sports is the new sponsor of the Tucson-based Arizona Bowl, which hands the digital media giant exclusive broadcasting rights to the college football postseason game.

A day after inking the multi-year deal on July 27, the edgy New York-based media firm spelled out its title sponsorship of the game — The Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl — via Twitter:

Seated atop the unicorn statue at the University of Arizona during one of his brand’s signature emergency press conferences shared on Twitter, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy trumpeted: “If you don’t see the significance of this, then you have a pea brain.”

One of the most obvious points of difference is Barstool Sports’ high profile when compared to previous sponsors, Nova Home Loans and Offerpad, which had the rights from 2015-19 and in 2020, respectively.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)-certified Arizona Bowl takes place at the University of Arizona’s stadium and typically features teams from the Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West Conference.

This year’s Arizona Bowl will, therefore, stream on December 31 through Barstool’s digital channels, instead of airing on its traditional CBS Sports platform.

Sportsbook clashes with college sports?

In a blog on the Barstool Sports site, Portnoy said the Arizona Bowl deal marked his company’s “first real foray into acquiring tv sports rights”. It’s also the first time Barstool will broadcast a college football game.

In January 2020, casino operator Penn National Gaming bought a 36% stake in Barstool for $163m, with the deal valuing the Barstool site at $450m. The site would later launch its Barstool-branded sportsbook, which made its US debut with its Pennsylvania app rollout in September.

The internet icon added the Arizona Bowl will get “the full Barstool treatment” with a week of “Barstool Bowl festivities in Tuscon leading up to the game.”

College athletics, however, traditionally demonizes sports betting. What to make then of Barstool Sport’s ties to Barstool Sportsbook, and how will the Arizona Department of Gaming react to having a major sports wagering firm connected to its college bowl, both in name and broadcast rights?

According to digital sports business content firm Sportico, Barstool CEO Erika Nardini “was not concerned about her company’s gambling ties” as it moves into college sports.

Barstool ready to rumble in Arizona

Barstool has access to the sports wagering market in Arizona via its partnership with Penn Interactive, which extended its alliance with NASCAR and partnered with the Phoenix Raceway last week. Barstool Sportsbook is Phoenix Raceway’s exclusive sportsbook.

Arizona is eyeing a September 9 go-live date for event wagering and opened a ten-day application window July 26. While neither Nardini nor Portnoy referred to sports betting in connection with the Arizona Bowl, it remains to be seen what, if anything, Barstool Sportsbook does in this space once Arizona goes legal.

Barstool’s ambition is “to own the moon”

In his blog piece on picking up the Arizona Bowl business, Portnoy said Barstool’s ambition is “to own the moon” and the deal was “a major breakthrough in that regard.”

Portnoy added: “We control everything. The bowl, the broadcast, the halftime show, the national anthem.”

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