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Disney Makes Big Bet on Fantasy Draft Website

The investment by Walt Disney Co. in fantasy sports betting startup DraftKings Inc. may not be huge, but it offers to attract the younger online demographic that most media companies and advertisers seek. The Burbank entertainment and media giant invested $250 million into DraftKings, in Boston, for about 27 percent of the company, according to media reports. DraftKings, founded in 2012, allows web gamblers to use real money to bet on fantasy sports teams they assemble for single games instead of full seasons. It features games in major sports including Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. DraftKings had drawn more than $70 million in prior investment rounds. The company has also made acquisitions of smaller rivals, such as DraftStreet, in New York, and StarStreet, also in Boston, both bought last year. Tuna N. Amobi, an equity analyst at S&P Capital IQ in New York, said that putting money in online ventures helps Disney add new content and build on existing franchises. “That is what guided them when they make an investment like this,” Amobi said. Disney’s most significant play in the online world was its $500 million acquisition last year of Maker Studios, a Culver City-based multi-channel network providing programming over YouTube. With programming aimed at young people and families with its gaming, fashion, celebrity, music and comedy content, Maker attracts a demographic that Disney likes. “Advertisers pay a premium for that audience and that is part of the motivation,” Amobi said. Speaking of advertising, it is expected that DraftKings will promote heavily on Disney’s ESPN cable network as part of the deal, according to the Wall Street Journal. That raises a complication in that Comcast Corp., the Philadelphia-based cable giant, has invested in rival FanDuel Inc., which is the biggest single-game fantasy sports platform. It also advertises on ESPN. DraftKings will now have premium positions on ESPN, though FanDuel will still be able to advertise there, the Journal reported. “I think ESPN can find something valuable in this because ESPN is about brand extensions and leveraging assets to reach as many people as possible,” Amobi said. Cavett Conversations Sherman Oaks documentary filmmaker John Scheinfeld found a good thing in the archives of talk show host Dick Cavett. Last summer Scheinfeld’s “Dick Cavett’s Watergate” aired on hundreds of PBS stations, drawing generous reviews from critics for its mixture of footage from Cavett’s show with modern day interviews on the hows and whys of the 1972 burglary at the offices of the Democratic National Committee that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. For a follow-up, Scheinfeld turned once again to Cavett but for a much different story – that of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam and how the war impacted the country. “His show became a place for both sides to discuss and debate the war,” Scheinfeld said. “Some shows he would have people on from both points of view and there would be a conversation going on.” Both “Watergate” and “Dick Cavett’s Vietnam” were made under the banner of Scheinfeld’s company, Crew Neck Productions in collaboration with Cavett and WNET, the sponsoring PBS station in New York. PBS picked up the budget for both films although Scheinfeld declined to give the cost. Crew Neck is made up of Scheinfeld and two other employees, plus others he hires as needed for projects. He considers his brand to be smart and entertaining documentaries and the Cavett films fit squarely into that. “‘Watergate’ got great press and reviews and it cements my name as a filmmaker,” Scheinfeld said. “When I am out selling new things they know who I am and what my work is.” “Dick Cavett’s Vietnam” airs April 27 at 10 p.m. on PBS stations. Lawsuit Dismissed Two weeks remain for attorneys to keep alive a lawsuit against Walt Disney Co., DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. and other media companies over allegations they conspired to not hire each other’s animators and visual effects artists in an attempt to keep down salaries. U.S. District Court Judge Lucy H. Koh dismissed on April 3 legal action against the companies for antitrust violations, but she will allow the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint. Koh based her dismissal on the basis that the statute of limitations had run out and that the plaintiffs made inadequate claims the media companies had actively hid the conspiracy. Attempts to reach attorneys for the plaintiffs were not successful. The case stems from three former workers who filed lawsuits separately late last year that were consolidated into a single case. It contends that the studios would notify each other when an employee applied for an open position at their company and would limit counteroffers in such situations. Additionally, it claiomed, permission was needed from one company before another company in the conspiracy could hire one of their employees. Staff Reporter Mark R. Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or mmadler@sfvbj.com

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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