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Five things about theScore: From ticker tape scores to a Nasdaq ticker

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Toronto, Canada - June 6, 2020: theScore sign at their headquarters in Toronto. Score Media and Gaming Inc. (formerly theScore, Inc.) is the company providing digital media and sports betting product
theScore sign at their headquarters in Toronto. Score Media and Gaming Inc. (formerly theScore, Inc.) is the company providing digital media and sports betting product

Score Media and Gaming (SCR.TO) is used to its fans placing bets using its apps and data, now it’s asking investors to take a flyer on its stock as it prepares for a public offering on the Nasdaq. TheScore, as it’s better known across Canada, has come a long way from its initial days issuing ticker-tape-style scores to cable television subscribers.

Its American market debut will turn more eyes toward its information rich technology, and the promise of readily accessible online gambling in Canada has already pushed its stock to new heights.

Here are five things to know about Canada’s newest digital export.

Humble beginnings

Sports fans have grown accustomed to scores, player data and historical information being only a click away, but it wasn’t that long ago that the only way to get an out-of-town score was to wait for the next day’s (printed) newspaper.

Chief executive officer John Levy started theScore in 1994, when he purchased a television station called Sportscope that displayed text-based sports data all day long. The service was popular enough that he sold his family’s Hamilton, Ont.-based cable business to focus on the channel full time, a few years after obtaining a proper broadcast licence from the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission.

That other sport station

There was a time when Rogers Communications and BCE Inc. didn’t own every sports channel in Canada. Levy set the company up as a viable third option offering a different kind of sports television, focused on second-tier live events (such as college basketball and pro wrestling) and top notch commentary around more popular but incredibly inexpensive games.

He moved away from the ticker tape and brought in a host of bloggers and opinion-makers to offer the insight and personality that was lacking from the mainstream options. Why pay for expensive rights when you could show highlights and provide a level of detail to the coverage that wasn’t widely available?

End of the beginning

With seven-million monthly households receiving the channel thanks to a sweet government broadcasting licence, the channel was in play as the big telecom companies looked to lock down sports rights.

Rogers stepped up to the plate and cut a cheque for almost $170-million in 2012 to buy theScore’s television licence. That left Levy with his fledgling digital business that produced an app that was No. 1 in the BlackBerry store, but still very much a work in progress.

At the time of the sale the company was shovelling money into app development - $2.9-million in the same quarter the deal was announced - but was losing $1.5 million over the same time.

Current history

Those losses seem quaint compared its most recent quarter, where it posted a net loss of $12.6-million. Ever the optimist, Levy says the company’s media revenue has never been stronger than it was in the last quarter at $10.6-million (a figure primarily driven by advertising sales in Canada and the US).

And as Canada’s sports market looks to open up betting, it hopes to monetize 3.9 million average users and their 458 million monthly user sessions. That’s a long way off from Facebook’s billions, but its users are rabidly loyal (it even has 3 million TikTok followers).

Place your bets

The company’s apps are already used to place bets in Colorado, New Jersey, Indiana and Iowa. Twenty-four other states are looking to ease their sports betting laws, thanks to a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that allowed bets to be placed on single events.

And Canada is inching closer to the same goal. Other companies want in on the action, of course. Bragg Gaming Group (BRAG.TO) and FansUnite Entertainment (FANS.CN) are two of the publicly listed Canadian competitors, and each have seen their shares surge to start the year on the promise of new markets. And then there are the American heavyweights - DraftKings, Flutter and Penn Gaming.

Steve Ladurantaye is an Ottawa-based journalist who has worked in newsrooms around the world including Canada's Globe and Mail and CBC, Scotland's STV PLC and Vietnam's VTV.

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